Thursday, April 29, 2010

NBR: Pop Music IQ

I just took a quiz on Sporcle that asks you to listen to a series of short clips and then identify the song.  The songs are #1 hits in the US between 1958 and 2009.  They're in chronological order and offered a nice glimpse of my pop music IQ.  Here are the songs.  The ones I got right are in bold/italics:

  1. Volare
  2. Mack the Knife
  3. The Twist
  4. The Lion Sleeps Tonight
  5. Monster Mash
  6. My Boyfriend's Back
  7. I Wanna Hold Your Hand
  8. I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)
  9. Respect
  10. Mrs. Robinson
  11. Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In
  12. The Tears of a Clown
  13. Joy to the World
  14. American Pie
  15. Crocodile Rock
  16. Nothing from Nothing
  17. Shining Star
  18. Silly Love Songs
  19. You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
  20. If I Can't Have You
  21. Heartache Tonight
  22. It's Still Rock and Roll to Me
  23. Jessie's Girl
  24. Centerfold
  25. Flashdance
  26. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
  27. St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)
  28. Invisible Touch
  29. I Wanna Dance with Somebody
  30. Red Red Wine
  31. Like a Prayer
  32. It Must Have Been Love
  33. Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)
  34.  Baby Got Back
  35. I Would Do Anything for Love
  36. The Sign
  37. Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman
  38. Because You Loved Me
  39. MMMBop
  40. I Don't Want to Miss a Thing
  41. Believe
  42. It's Gonna Be Me
  43. It Wasn't Me
  44. Ain't It Funny
  45. In Da Club
  46. Yeah!
  47. Hollaback Girl
  48. Sexy Back
  49. Hey There Delilah
  50. Bleeding Love
  51. Down
You may have noticed a pattern there.  Here's how it breaks down:  I got 14 of the first 16 (60's) and then missed the next 6 (70's).  Then I got 11 of the next 14 (80's and early 90's) before missing the last 16.  That's streaky, but it's a good read on my pop music IQ -- I've got it down from Volare through Respect, go blank between Crocodile Rock and Jessie's Girl, pick up the 80's and then get lost after I Would Do Anything For Love.
That's actually a pretty accurate read of my musical interests.  Granted, this represents the mainstream, especially as the years went on and musical genres became more fragmented.  Also, as a child of the late 80's and early 90's, the mammoth number of bands and musical styles that are now easily accessible to anyone is overwhelming.  It seems like there's about 5000 bands out there that seem pretty standard for my generation, and they've all got bizarre names like Death Cab for Cutie.
It's no wonder, then, that I've spent the past 15 years retreating backwards, first to the showtunes and big band music of the pre-war era, and then catching up on the classic rock/hard rock of the 70's and 80's.  I've never bothered to catch up on Green Day, Sublime, Jason Mraz or any other band that I know nothing of beyond the name.

Speaking of big band, I'd do pretty well if this quiz went back to the 30's and 40's.  Heck, I've even brushed up on the 20's, including the vaudeville songs of the era.  (I wonder how a girl would react if we got in my car and I started pumping "Some of These Days" or "The Darktown Strutter's Ball."  There's a serious learning curve for anyone who wants to date me.)
I first got interested in big band by watching old movies.  I was particularly impressed by the Andrews Sisters, who I saw in several Abbott & Costello movies.  Once I got involved, of course, I fell in love with Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington.  It wasn't long before I started moving ever backward into the glorious world of the Gershwins, and eventually even into some ragtime.  I actually bought the soundtrack to the film The Aviator not because I liked the film (it was OK), but rather because I loved the soundtrack.  There was a great recording of the Ink Spots' "Do I Worry?" (which is in an Abbott & Costello film, but I'd never found it on CD).  And there are some great songs from the post-ragtime era, such as "Shake That Thing" and "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise," nailed as it is by Rufus Wainwright.

My interest in the "oldies" music of the 50's and 60's comes primarily from my Dad.  This was the music of his childhood, and I developed a very early appreciation for The Everly Brothers and the Beach Boys.  This was supplemented a bit later with the music of Motown, coming mainly from the soundtrack from The Big Chill.  In fact, a lot of my musical education has happened in connection with movies, especially on soundtracks.  In fact, if you wanted an introduction to this era, you could do no better than to pick up the soundtrack from American Graffiti.
My love for the oldies was only intensified by the great resurgence it enjoyed in the 80's.  The Beach Boys reappeared in Teen Wolf (it's the only scene I actually remember from the movie) and then recorded the fabulous "Kokomo."  The Monkees made a comeback, thanks in no small part to the reruns being shown on Nick at Nite (Then & Now: The Best of the Monkees, is the first tape I actually remember buying, in 1986).  Truth be told, I learned most everything I know about classic TV from Nick and Nite.  Such is probably true for most of my generation. 
My parents weren't into classic rock quite as much, even in the ubiquitous Beatles and Stones.  I didn't really get into this music until I was much older.  Even now, I'm only familiar with the Beatles' really big hits, and there are maybe 5 Stones songs I can name.
But I do still enjoy the late 60's-early 70's classic rock period, even if I'm not entirely familiar with it.  Really, how much Jimi Hendrix do you have to hear to realize how good it is?

The first tape of contemporary music I really remember is Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet, which my brother got as a birthday present.  The true awesomeness of this album has held up remarkably over time.  And much as people love "Livin' on a Prayer," I'm actually partial to "You Give Love a Bad Name."
But we (my brother and I) really didn't get into hard rock quite so much.  It wasn't until my teens that I gave Poison, Kiss and Guns n' Roses a serious listen.  We were more likely to enjoy more of the "soft rock" that my parents listened to, particularly Billy Joel.  And we, like every other member of our generation, had a Thriller LP.
But I kept in touch with popular music roughly through middle school in the mid-90's.  It was no coincidence that the mid-90's also saw the explosion in popularity of the grunge/alternative genre.  I hated it.  I hated hated hated hated it.  Even day, whenever I see someone with a Kurt Cobain t-shirt -- as if the Nirvana singer were a modern-day Gandhi -- I want to punch them in the throat.  I despise people playing acoustic guitar and screaming.  Or, even worse, playing acoustic guitar and singing those bullshit ballads.  As Family Guy cleverly pointed out, douchebags have ruined the guitar.

As if that weren't bad enough, hard rock and metal generally deteriorated into death metal.  I may be making a somewhat arbitrary distinction between Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson, but it seems pretty huge to me.  And I was never big on the more hardcore satanic metal of Ozzy Osbourne and the like.  And there was no refuge in pop music, except to listen to the still-potent music of Billy Joel or Elton John.
Sure, I got caught up in some of the crazes.  I was certainly big into the white-boy rap of Vanilla Ice and (to a lesser extent) MC Hammer.  But I do not now, nor have I ever, owned a Marky Mark tape.
The swing revival of the mid-90's was great for me.  I was, as I said, retreating fully into the 30's and 40's in my musical taste, and the fact that I could now say so openly was amazing.  It didn't last long, although I still enjoy listening to Brian Setzer and the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  Biased thought I may be, I think the trouble started with the bullshit ex-ska (and I f***ing HATE the word "ska") bands like the Cherry Poppin' Daddies.

It was about the same time that I parted ways with country music.  I still enjoyed the classics -- Johnny Cash, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Statler Brothers, Hank Williams and the like -- but the past 20 years have been, in my opinion, a wasteland.  I loved Garth Brooks -- and still do -- but I hate what he caused, which was the blended country-pop movement that still plagues us.  If I ever again have to listen to Faith Hill talk about "This MotherF***ing Kiss" I'm going to perforate my eardrums with some chopsticks.
Just as I did with mainstream music, I worked my way back in history to discover more classic country.  Bluegrass and Gospel also caught my attention, thanks to my bluegrass- and gospel- loving Dad.

And so I'm left with an iTunes full of Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Meat Loaf, Billy Joel and Kiss.  I have maybe 1/2 dozen rap/r&b songs from the past 15 years out of 4000+ songs.  I sometimes wonder whether, if my iTunes were accidentally switched with someone else my age, they would break down and weep.  God knows I would if I had to listen to Nelly.

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