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Does My Coverage Come With the MP3? September 28, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Music, Pop Culture Rants.
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I don’t know if it speaks to my taste in music or in a sudden uptick in intelligent people working in formerly “smart-barren” areas, but recently I am finding my music in the strangest of places.

Allow me to take you into my Wayback Machine first (I got it on E-bay from somebody named Peabody for a simple price of several cases of Milk Bones and nude photos of Tinkerbell I got from NastyDoggs.com). It is the late 80’s, when I was first given a CD player of my own. It was roughly the size of a small Ford F-150 and it required all my pre-pubescent strength just to move it across the room. It sputtered, it chunked and it’s LCD display was straight from the set of Doctor Who (The old one, which made 5th grade school plays look like a U2 stage show). But it was mine and the music I chose for it came from one of two locations: my friends during recess who would fill me in on the “risqué” songs their older brothers let them listen to and my uncle, who at that time was going through his awkward “ripped jean-jacket, mullet in training, moustache that looks more like food on his upper lip” phase. But I listened to it all on my UNIVAC CD player. Unfortunately that meant my music horizons were limited to 2 Live Crew imports and Dokken Cds. Not exactly a strong base to build on. Hell, I can admit that to this day whenever I hear a Dokken song, I immediately find myself checking my skin for acne, almost Pavlovian in nature.

Fast forward the machine to college. My CD player had shrunk into a CD walkman which was the holder of the latest in “Shock-Proof” Technology, which is fancy speak for a few rolls of toilet paper wrapped around it to prevent it from suffering an early death when I would drop it on the tile floor on a daily basis. (So sue me….I have poor motor skills*). And I needed a more refined collegiate place than the sand pit near the monkey bars and a dirty old Toyota truck that smelled like patchouli and Aqua Net. So I found my music on college radio. Sure, it was as dependable as a Yugo or the Mets’ pitching staff, but every once in a while, I found joy. I was one of the first on the swing bandwagon that overtook this country in the 90’s and burned out faster that a step-ball change. I even was a champion of the second grunge movement, that included Folk Implosion and Matthew Sweet, who had everything the first movement had, save the important thing that is “lasting talent.” My college radio station even let me peek in on the evolving gangsta rap scene, though it was at midnight on Saturdays, when the University powers that be were hung over from that afternoon’s “ripping good” football scrimmage. I was building my repartee and honing my abilities when it comes to discussing all things musical. Heck, I still freak out people when I, currently competing for the title of Whitest man on the Planet with Joey (sorry) Joseph Lawrence and Ben Stein, can still hold a meaningful and thought provoking conversation on 2Pac’s “All Eyez on Me” LP.

So the machine brings us back to today. And for a while, I was lost. Living in NYC, I have no access to good alternative radio and trying to find MTV2 (which I hear is trying its’ best to keep music tastes liberal) on my cable dial is an undertaking akin to solving the riddle of the Sphinx (Yeah, I know, the answer is man…It’s a metaphor…Here, have a Snickers). I’ve tried Top 40 stations, but don’t like being yelled at with crazy sound effects and ads for cars I’ll never afford. I also don’t like the TRLs of the world because it pains me to watch Vjs that remind me of the obnoxious girl who beat me out for “most spirited” in high school (Face paint shall never beat out the guy in the mascot uniform, neither here nor in a court of law.) I even try to ask bartenders in clubs what song is playing over the system, but am usually met with an expression that makes me wonder if I’m speaking Farsi. Nothing was working and I was slowly becoming that guy: The one whose music tastes peaked in college and is secretly praying for The Pixies to release a new album.

But then, as I began this post, the strangest thing occurred, I found my music in a place I never thought to look. I began finding my new list of favorite songs in commercials and as undertones to the dramatic moments on my television.

There was a time when ambient music on television was composed by disgruntled composers who never could get that big record deals. Commercial jingles were written by Barry Manilow and while, as addictive as crack, wouldn’t sound good coming out of my Ipod. (Though the Sasha and Digweed remix of “I’m stuck on Band-Aid and in a K-Hole” is currently number one in Sweden). And the only songs behind commercials were massive seventies rock hits that were chosen because of their ironical relationship to the project (Start Me Up for Windows…seriously, that took you how much money to think up? I’d have come up with that one for a Value Meal at Subway and two pints of Guiness). Yet at some point early this decade, they took the song choices out of the hands of ignoramuses and put it squarely in the palms of people who knew their music.

Now, when I see a commercial and the tune really touches my hammer, anvil and stirrup, I can shoot to my best friend, Mr. Google, and find out the artist, name of the song and have it on my Ipod before the show resumes. I no longer stay tuned for the “coming attractions” after my shows, but wait for the inevitable “Tonight’s show featured music by this guy who just a week ago was playing to half-sold bars and being paid in beer tickets and half-off wings.” And how has HBO, with every one of its’ touching “Really, seriously watch us this season” promos that feature its’ characters interacting poetically, managed to have in its’ possession a kick-ass music library?

I don’t care how it happened. I just hope it still does. Sure, I’m not buying or watching or doing anythinghttps://i1.wp.com/www.glurp.com/ecwebstuff/hem.jpg the ads are telling me to do, but I am validating the artists who feel they’ve sold out by championing their music to anyone who will listen. Take the TIAA-Cref commercial. They might be an insurance company. Or something with stocks. Or maybe a group that’s sponsoring a Pay It Forward PSA. I don’t care. The commercial itself is depressing in nature (The people you help will do nothing good in their lives, but sorry souls who witness your kindness may just let you pull out in front of them in traffic.) But the song that accompanies it, which is Hem’s “Half Acre,” is amazing. It’s just a lilting sweet voice over what may be a banjo singing about life and loss. Now, I will probably never afford insurance and will never let a car pull out in front of me, but this song is now in permanent rotation on my I-pod. And I got it from a commercial.

Two years ago, it was HBO, who in advertising their Empire Falls movie, chose to score the pictures to Snow Patrol’s “Run.” Now, I’ll admit I didn’t have eight hours of my life to commit to a film that featured Ed Harris not drunk and evil and Paul Newman’s swan song role that looked strangely like the guy who roams my neighborhood always asking for “an extra Newport.” But the song is amazing. Those Brits sure know how to do haunting and depressing all wrapped up in something that sounds vaguely uplifting. And now Snow Patrol is everywhere…well, at least everywhere currently not inundated with Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco.

And it’s everywhere now. I am constantly purchasing I-tunes tracks that I find interesting and enchanting over a 30-second clip of people smiling because they’ve taken an anti-impotence pill or strange rubber people dancing in Gap clothes. My college radio station may have fuzzed out and my uncle is now trying to rock a strange Vin Diesel/ Tony Soprano hybrid. But I don’t need them anymore. I have nuggets of joy between “Head-On: Apply Directly to the Forehead” and promos for “Dancing, Singing, and Doing Laundry With the Stars All While Going to Starbucks in a Prius.”

So don’t turn away from promos and commercials because your new favorite song may be propping up the ad wizards at Apple or Cheetos. Okay, maybe not Cheetos. That cheetah seems to be doing fine.

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