A few weeks ago, I received the wonderful news that my first novel, The Carnival at Bray, is being published by Elephant Rock Books in the fall. In the novel, the main character is a teenager growing up in the early 90’s who falls in love with music after her uncle takes her to see a Smashing Pumpkins show. After I found out the book was being published, it occurred to me that my readers might reasonably expect me to have great taste in music, seeing as how my main character does. But the truth is, for every “cool” song in my iTunes library, there is also a shockingly bad one—a song that I, in a state of total sobriety, actually purchased with my own money. So in the interest of full disclosure, and perhaps as an act of cleansing, I present to you my ten worst iTunes purchases of all time:
I’ve experienced a great deal of inner turmoil because of the Ke$ha paradox: how is it that I find her very existence—the obsession with glitter, the dead-eyed stare, the stupid dollar sign—loathesome, and yet I find her beats infectious? And this song represents the extremeties of this paradox. Here is the brain-dead chorus:
D-I-N-O-S-A, you are a dinosaur
D-I-N-O-S-A, you are a dinosaur
An O-L-D man, you're just an old man
Hitting on me, what? You need a CAT scan
And yet, whenever I play the song (always in secrecy, of course), I find myself happily singing along to it—even when I know that the dinosaur she refers to in the song is probably about my own age.
2. “Into You”--Fabolous feat Tamia
The lyrics are pervy enough as it is, but Fabolous’s voice sounds like that of an old man you might see masturbating on a bus. I bought this song during a period where I was really into rap duets, but I should have known better than to put it in the same category as Ja Rule’s “Put it On Me.”
3. “We No Speak Americano”-- Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP
I bought this song in 2011 after spending the summer in Florence, Italy, where it played nearly every night in the discos. It’s kind of a fun song when you’re half drunk on chianti and flavored vodka and living in a medieval city in the height of summer, but when you get home to Chicago and play it in your car while stuck in traffic on the Kennedy Expressway, you realize that it’s essentially a repetition of the same fake saxophone sound over and over for four and half minutes, and that the only reason European club kids liked it is because it soothed them while they were coming down off their highs from bad Molly made in a Chinese laboratory.
4. “High Enough”—Damn Yankees/ “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”—Cinderella (TIE)
This all started when I began writing a short story about a classically trained pianist who tries to make ends meet by playing power ballads with an 80’s hair metal cover band. I abandoned the story shortly after downloading these songs; I think I was just looking for an excuse to add them to my iTunes library.
5. “C’Mon n’ Ride It (The Train)”—Quad City DJ’s
I liked this song when it came out in 1996, so in a moment of nostalgia, I bought it. But as soon as I listened to it, I remembered the person I was in 1996: a fifteen-year-old who smoked Virginia Slim Luxury Light 120’s, wore Sketchers, and liked boys with frosted tips and mild Ritalin addictions.
6. Conga—Gloria Estefan
I bought this song because of one line and one line only: “Come-uh-shake-ya-bodybaby-do that congo-I know you can’t control yourself any longer-blahsjfhaksjdhfjashdfj BEAT!”
7. “Leave (Get Out)”-- Jo Jo
Remember back in 2004 when Jo Jo was going to be the next Britney? That’s why I had no qualms about downloading an empowering breakup sung by a thirteen-year-old.
8. “Give me all your Luvin’”—Madonna
I bought this after Madonna’s performance at the 2012 Superbowl. Those of us who are over 30 always refer to Madge as proof that pop music just isn’t what it used to be, and downloading this single was sort of a knee-jerk support of her supremacy over the Gagas and Mileys of the world. But “Like a Prayer” it ain’t.
9. “I Dreamed a Dream”
I’d never read Les Miserables or seen the musical when I downloaded this track in 2009. But I sure as hell got on that Susan Boyle train.
10. “What Would You Do?”—City High
Remember this epically long lyric: “What would you do if your son was at home, crying all alone on his bedroom floor cuz he’s hungry, and the only way to feed him was to sleep with a man for a little bit of money, and his daddy’s gone somewhere smokin’ rock now in and outta lock down I ain’t got a job now, so for you this is a just a good time but for me this is what I call life”? I like songs that tell a story, and when I first heard it in 2001, this song about a stripper with a heart of gold and a propensity for run-on sentences really struck me a strong statement about women’s issues. I must have heard it again several years later, because it popped into my head and I downloaded it in 2012. Now it occurs to me that maybe 2001 was a particularly illiterate year for me.
“Where Does My Heart Beat Now?”—Celine Dion
“Ready, Set, Don’t Go”—Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus
“Shots”—LMFAO and Lil Jon
“Make me Lose Control”-Eric Karmen
“Blurred Lines”—Robin Thicke
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