Music for Dummies (a.k.a. Starting your music library)

Music for Dummies (a.k.a. Starting your music library)

Last week I was sitting at a high school football game with a longtime close friend and my husband.  At halftime, the dancers came out and started their routine to Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us.”  I remarked that I (still) love that song to my friend.  Her response (was I imagining a slightly accusatory tone?): “You need to write a blog on ‘Music for Dummies’.”  Huh, I guess she didn’t appreciate my Neko Case post or the fun facts about Ylvis.

To my surprise, my husband also chimed in: “Yeah, I have zero songs on my iPhone that I’ve had for six months.” (Apparently that is my fault?).  My friend then disclosed that the only thing she has on her phone is a Mamas & Papas album (note: my friend is not in her sixties)- very curious and troubling.

I took their thinly disguised hostility as a challenge.  How could someone with NO songs on their phone get at least a base of songs going?  What critical guidance could I provide?

Obviously neither my friend nor my husband is a hardcore “music” person.  Not to say they don’t like music, but if they were super into it they would not go months with nothing to show for it.  I got the feeling they both wanted me to just do the work for them, but I’m not willing to do that.  Music is personal, so they will both have to make some effort; I’ll just try to give them a step by step.

For my imaginary challenge, I decided that they would each have a budget of $20 to spend on iTunes.  This would give them a decent library.  Obviously for my challenge I am pretending that I will have to build this library for myself, just to make sure I’m not leading them astray.  With that as my framework, here are my suggestions:

One old nostalgic album.  iTunes has a decent selection of older albums for only $7.99.  Peruse that section and pick something that appeals to your sense of youth.  I chose Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits because I was a HUGE fan back in the day.  $7.99 got me 18 awesome songs.

A few older meaningful songs.  People who aren’t really into music like the safety of the songs that are familiar to them.  Think about some milestones in your life and songs that were associated with them.  A pump up song from high school basketball?  First song at your wedding? The song that was the theme at your senior prom? I chose Billy Joel’s “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” and Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.”  Total so far is $10.57.

Family favorites.  Ask your kids or other loves ones what their favorite song is.  My kids gave me theirs: “Summertime Sadness” (Lana Del Rey), “Wake Me Up” (Avicii) and “Out Like That” (Luke Bryan).  The fourth child (who is actually the first child) claimed to have six favorite songs and refused to choose.  Fine, that saves me $1.29 anyway (grrr). UPDATE: The fourth child sent me all six of her favorite songs the day after I made the request. Because I love her, I added all of them to my faux new library.

Top singles.  Go to the iTunes top singles and pick a couple that you either like or want to try.  I chose “Work Bitch” (Britney Spears) and “Berzerk” (Eminem) because I want to see what their latest songs sound like.  Oh, and did I mention that I’m 15?  Don’t worry, your music is YOUR business- you don’t have to justify why you’re listening to Brit Brit and Em (although I might experience a personal loss of credibility based on my public choices).  By the way, I’m up to $17.02.

Recommendations.  Okay, we have room for a couple more.  Ask a couple friends for a recommendation, hopefully something that is slightly outside the mainstream.  One of my friends recently recommended “Shake” (The Head and The Heart), which is why we’re friends.  My sister gave me “Royals” (Lorde) and my brother-in-law contributed “Death to All But Metal” (Steel Panther).  That last one was added reluctantly.  Be open minded!

Boom, there you have it!  I got 28 songs for less than $20.  Some are ones that are meaningful to me, some will stretch me (hopefully in a good way) and some I’ll associate with my kids.  I will impose this exercise on my friend and my husband, and I’m sure they will enjoy their music so much they will continue to add music without the guidance of a follow-up blog.  Yay!


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