Help Change My Life (At Least Musically)

Most everyone in my age bracket saw Garden State last year. It was heaped with praise such as “It’s like a perfect pop song — that thing that makes you smile and tear up at the same time,” and “Garden State is nothing short of genius, as moving as it is hilarious.” Who could resist what might be the defining movie of a generation?

Those who have had the unfortunate experience of being with me at the movies will not be surprised that I found it a tad overrated. On the whole I liked the movie – I thought Zach Braff has a good eye as a director and as an actor – but there were bits of writing that murdered my sense of logic. The scene that stood out the farthest was when Zach Braff’s character first meets Natalie Portman’s character, and after some casual chit-chat, Portman forces headphones onto Braff, swearing this song will change your life. The song is New Slang by The Shins, and no matter how many times I’ve tried to listen to it, I don’t feel my life getting changed. Even with the lyrics in front of me, I can’t feel anything for this song.
Perhaps part of my problem is that the writers didn’t give any reason why it should/would change our lives. We sit, staring at Zach Braff’s face, trying to read the appropriate emotional response out of him and the song – and I just can’t. I need to be handed those reasons, or at least pointed down the path with something more than a facial expression.

My trip to San Francisco last week, combined with the vacation the week before, gave me a lot of time to reflect on life. Perhaps it has a bit to do with turning 25 – although on a conscious level I’m not really feeling any different. Still, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a lot out there that I’d still like to try; people I want to get to know better; places I want to go; things I want to see; et cetera.

So where is this going? Here’s a total swerve: over the last week, I have received two gift cards to the iTunes Music Store, totaling $30 in credit. While there are a handful of songs I plan on picking up (assorted singles I’ve been meaning to grab for a while), there is plenty of credit that I don’t have any plans for, and I’d like to remove the temptation to browse the store endlessly for music I don’t want.

This is where you come in, dear friends: I want you to force your headphones onto me and play that one song that changed your life – and I want you to tell me why.

The “rules”, if you want to call them that, are very simple:

  • You really need to pick a song that’s available on the iTunes Music Store. Despite some magic powers, I am unable to buy songs using this credit that are not there.
  • There is no limitation to who can make suggestions, but preference will be given to people I know, as is human nature. One suggestion per person, please.
  • You can submit your song and reason one of four ways: a comment on my blog proper, a comment on the LiveJournal syndicated version of the post, an email to me (remy AT the domain of my blog), or via IM if you’re so inclined. Use email or IM if your story is of a very personal nature and you’re worried about the Googlebot picking it up for all eternity.
  • No musical genre or artist is off limits, so long as you justify it.
  • Anyone who successfully tells me why a song changed their life stands a good chance of having the song enter my purchase list. Bonus points will be given if you can explain why it’ll change my life.
  • I reserve the right to politely refuse songs for whatever reason I see fit. This is an unlikely proposition as I’m trying to buy stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise, but always leave yourself an out.
  • All songs purchased will be listed and strung together as a playlist in a future day-long radio session.

I look forward to your responses.

  • Sakurina

    As much as “I Was The One (80s EUROBEAT STYLE)” or “Pandora” both from IIDX changed my life, you already have them and well, it isn’t going to help you spend that money… Hm.
    I’d have to say Scars by Papa Roach is my “uber-emotional” song of sorts, since it made me realize that you learn from your mistakes and you can only improve once you’ve made them. It came in handy for all kinds of mistakes: from deadly coding mistakes, to installing 10.3.9 accidentally, to love. It’s just a general song about past mistakes and improving.
    I’m drowning in this song right now as tomorrow’s the last day I see the girl of my dreams before summer break and then I change school. I’m going to have to take a chance and make a smart mistake to talk to her and tell her how I really feel.
    (This truly sounds like emo teen stuff, but heh, that’s what I am)

  • Awesome question Dan. I love it. One of the things friends and I have been trying to do is all compile our top 10 songs of all time lists (with explanations for each song) and then burning CDs for everyone with everyone elses songs. As for me, there aren’t all that many songs that have changed my life, lots that have defined moments of it though. Songs like November Rain by Guns N’ Roses and Definition by Blackstar define musical eras of my life. However, there is one song that comes to mind when you’re talking about life changing (although it hasn’t necessarily changed mine, but I know people who it has and it seems appropriate for this).
    That song is Better Son/Daughter by Rilo Kiley. In it, Jenny Lewis begins at a near-whisper over a marching band-esque drum beat sing/speaking:
    Sometimes in the morning I am petrified and can’t move
    Awake but cannot open my eyes
    And the weight is crushing down on my lungs
    I know I can’t breathe
    And hope someone will save me this time
    Then, later she finally pulls out of the whisper, coming in with a scream as she sings:
    And sometimes when you’re on
    You’re really fucking on
    And your friends they sing along
    And they love you
    It’s amazing and one of those songs I can listen to over and over again (Rilo Kiley is great in general).
    Also, and I know I’m getting a bit long-winded at this point, Carla Bruni’s “Quelqu’un m’a dit” is a beautiful French song that does nothing but give me a smile, it’s truly magical (life changing in different ways though, and I’m sticking with Rilo as my choice for you). Hope you enjoy it. (And let me know if you’re looking for some free music, here’s my list of top 50 albums from last year with legal downloads for almost all of them:

  • flargh

    Anything off Simple Things by Zero 7, one of my favorite chillout albums of all time. Specifically, Polaris and Destiny are the ones that iTunes marks as the highest playcounts for me, so that tells you which my favorites are. But there isn’t a bad track off of it.
    Zero 7 got slammed when they debuted for being the “British Air.” There’s definitely some correlation; both bands like really atmospheric grooves that are heavily dependent on fat analog synth sounds, but they’re very different, imo. Zero 7 has a much more soulful sound, imo.

  • curby

    in defense of garden state, i have to say that what i think they were going for there was not “new slang will change your life”, but that natalie’s character was a spaz and given to hyperbole…
    that having been said…
    one song you should get is “born” from over the rhine’s new album “drunkard’s prayer” … changed my life and will change yours just because it is achingly beautiful, but particularly when you know the story behind it… karin bergquist and linford detweiler (collectively over the rhine) have been married for about 8 years or so, but touring for their last album almost broke them up. they cancelled the tour halfway through and went home to work things out… the songs of “drunkards prayer” are the result, and “born” is the best of them, about facing problems with honestly and courage…

  • The Dismemberment Plan – The Other Side from “Change”
    This is one of the songs that gets me most pumped for anything. This song was also one of the driving things keeping me up after being dumped after a very long relationship.
    The manic drumming and soaring distortion just make me melt, and the lyrics are fucking awesome.

  • Jen

    This is a list I made 2 years ago of my top 20 songs (these songs are in reverse order, so my fave song is #20). I’m a sentimentalist, not really a music snob, and I love a lot of pop songs that are just sweet. I would have to say there albums that have hit me more than songs, per se. Albums that I love love love (and you can tell I’m not totally in touch with current music) are:
    – Perfect from Now on (group – Built to Spill)
    – If You’re Feeling Sinister (Belle & Sebastian)
    – Stone Roses (self-titled)
    – Different Class (Pulp)
    – Grace (Jeff Buckley)
    – Central Reservation (Beth Orton)