Have you seen the 30-day song challenge going around Instagram and Twitter? There’s one popular version, but Grace Spelman made one that I think is better.
(Grace Spelman is a verified music enjoyer — she has her own side Twitter to ramble about songs she feels passionate about! She used to have a music newsletter that I enjoyed very much.)
I’m going to include a little bit of context for each song so you can decide which ones you want to click on. I’ve never done a “challenge”-type post before, so let me know what you think about it!
1. a song you like with a color in the title
*Spotify lists “Too Late - Instrumental” as the closing track, but realheads know that that was a hidden track on the CD and not actually part of the album.
2. a song you like with a number in the title
What a blissful love song this is, even with the sparse Joel Little production of Pure Heroine. The simple “And I like you!” repetitions are just perfect. The beginning of a relationship makes everything feel magically happy, even buying orange juice.
3. your favorite post-breakup song
Okay, this won’t be all No Doubt songs, I promise! But I’ve never heard a better depiction of a post-breakup anxiety spiral than “Panic.”
4. a song you like with a location in the title
Gosh, I love this song. I didn’t care for Cage the Elephant after this album, when they went more psychedelic, but this is directly in my rock sweet spot — the distortion and vocals definitely have a Pixies influence and the melody is so catchy.
(Do yourself a favor and do not watch the music video, which is the most sadistically sad piece of claymation I have ever endured.)
5. a song you like that uses a sample
I LOVE the way that “Bad Liar” incorporates the sample of “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads. Sometimes a sample is used so extensively that it doesn’t transform the original material, but here that dangerous bassline is isolated and surrounded by handclaps to bring it into a completely different soundscape.
6. a song your family played around the house
We listened to a LOT of INXS when I was a kid. It wasn’t until high school, when I casually said, “Oh, INXS is my mom’s favorite band!” to a friend and got a shocked reaction, that I realized that that was odd. This was the music that would blare on Saturdays when we were cleaning the house.
I feel like INXS isn’t as generally well-known among younger people as their contemporary acts. But Dua Lipa just sampled this exact song for her latest single, so maybe I’m wrong!
7. a song that makes you feel energized
I could fight 1,000 men to this song, maybe more. Her “Song Exploder” episode about it is fantastic and I highly recommend it. The best thing about this song is that it turns into a different, better song every 10 seconds.
8. a song you like that’s in a movie
The Drinking Buddies soundtrack is excellent, top to bottom. It’s great for putting on at night when you’re unwinding and cooking dinner. I love this weird upbeat track with its pitch-shifted hook especially.
Note: the version on Spotify includes dialogue (fuck that!! I never want that!!) but does not include the heartbreaking “Tonight” by Sibylle Baier, which plays at a critical part in the film. I made the soundtrack into a playlist for those reasons.
9. a song that makes you want to h*ve s*x
This song is goofy on purpose and it works!
10. a song you like that tells a story
Michael Angelakos got a lot more direct with his lyrics for his second album as Passion Pit. Gossamer is an album about a relationship trying to survive one partner’s mental illness and addiction, and the woozy, slow “Constant Conversations” is the best example of that.
11. a song that makes you cry
This song is too beautiful, too fragile! “At once I knew / I was not magnificent” just brings a catch to my throat every time. WE ARE ALL SO SMALL AND INSIGNIFICANT, THAT’S THE WHOLE THING ABOUT EXISTENCE!!
12. a song you like to sing at karaoke
I’ve only done karaoke once! But I love to impersonate Tom DeLonge.
13. a song you like from the 60s/70s/80s
Let’s do all three!
From the 60s, we’re going full Wall of Sound with a Phil Spector joint for his wife Ronnie:
I don’t listen to a lot of music from the 70s! I had to pick my brain, but “Mr. Blue Sky” definitely came out in the 70s and I definitely love it.
I listen to SO much music from the 80s, but this wasn’t a hard choice. “The Promise” is a perfect song. I could listen to it every day for the rest of my life.
14. a song you like that uses an unconventional instrument
This prompt was really hard, but once I thought about devised sounds a clipping. song seemed like the obvious choice — their music is all made of found and devised sounds. The beat here, for instance, is made from hitting a metal thermos, a can of compressed air whooshing, scraping a cinder block, and crumpling a beer can.
BIZARRELY, I knew clipping. as a music project long before I ever realized that Daveed Diggs is also an actor! A Broadway one! He was in the OBC for Hamilton! Here I was just thinking he was a dextrous rapper for a very cool project.
15. a song you like that’s a cover
My first subscribers-only post for this newsletter was, in fact, a list of my favorite covers. So I’m going to try to find a completely different one for this. Let’s go with Kacey Musgraves doing Gnarls Barkley with a Morricone vibe!
16. a song that’s fun to scream along to
I mean… is there any other option here?
17. a song from your pre-teen years
This song was on the soundtrack for the LiLo-starring DCOM “Get a Clue” and I adored it. This melody…. still slaps, right?
18. a song from the year you were born
1991 was a very weird transitional year for music, so I’m going to take this excuse to talk about Cathy Dennis! She released her debut solo album in December of 1990, and this song, a cover of an old disco song, was released as a single and charted in ’91.
But guys! Guess what she did later! She was a super successful behind-the-scenes songwriter! She co-wrote the American Idol theme song and its first hit, “A Moment Like This,” plus “I Can’t Get You Out of My Head” for Kylie Minogue and “I Kissed a Girl” for Katy Perry.
Most importantly, though… SHE WROTE “TOXIC,” Y’ALL. AND DID THE BACKING VOCALS. AUTOMATIC LEGEND STATUS.
19. a song you’d play for your haters
I don’t know if I have haters, but if I did, I would tell them this: “you little stupid-ass bitch, I ain’t fuckin’ with you.” This song is so fucking stupid on purpose. I love it.
20. a song everyone loves that you can’t stand
I’m sorry. I don’t understand the love for Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and I never will. It was so beloved that there’s an SNL sketch about how no one can resist this song. And yet “Shake It Off” and “Bad Blood” both trigger absolute nails-on-a-chalkboard reaction from me. I want to claw at my ears when I encounter them, and I cannot even embed “Shake It Off” here because I don’t want to accidentally click on it and hear it.
The production is cacophonous, with the FARTIEST horns I have ever heard. I already have a limited tolerance for her higher register, but her vocals here are the shriekiest they’ve ever been. The cheerleader breakdown is fully insufferable. I hate the lyrics, which, like so many of Swift’s singles, serve more as press release than art. She doesn’t CARE about the haters, guys! Their snake emojis would never lead her to an entire snake-themed album cycle! (Also, a vast improvement, in my opinion, would be to re-write the “And that’s what they don’t see!” verse to be about her own insecurities that she is able to also shake off. That could be more relatable. But no, it’s just a celebration of how awesome she actually is. She’s the only one of her, baby, that’s the fun of her.)
And somehow this was the lead single announcing her 80s-themed pop album! Where are the 80s? Where are you hiding them, Taylor Swift?
One time, several years ago, my ex and I were out dancing and the DJ played “22” and I was like… I don’t like this but I’ll suffer through it, but then he played “Shake It Off” directly afterward!! I simply couldn’t stand it. I chugged my entire drink so we could leave immediately, which led to me almost throwing up on the sidewalk. Here is a picture of me suffering as I tried to contain my nausea, refusing to regret my actions. I hate “Shake It Off.”
21. a song you like with a person’s name in the title
The Alvways original is so good, but I love this beautiful, worshipful cover.
22. the song you’d play at your wedding
I want to dance to “Grown Woman” at my wedding. A wedding is a rite of passage, and I would love to mark that rite of passage in a wedding gown singing “I’m a grown woman! I can do whatever I want!”
23. a song you love that’s an opening track to an album
Laura Mvula makes such lovely music, and this cinematic album opener is a great introduction if you’re not already on board.
24. a song you with lyrics you love
I genuinely don’t think we as a society appreciate the lyrics that Cardi blessed us with on “Money.”
I got a baby, I need some money, yeah / I need cheese for my egg
“I NEED CHEESE FOR MY EGG”
Bitch, I will pop on your pops / Bitch, I will pop on whoever / You know who pop the most shit? / The people whose shit not together / You’da bet Cardi a freak / All my pajamas is leather
and my personal favorite:
Cardi at the tip-top, bitch / Kiss the ring and kick rocks, sis
“Kick rocks!” In the year 2018! A 1950s-ass insult perfectly modernized. I love her.
20. a song you love but would be embarrassed if it started playing loudly from your laptop in a coffee shop
26. a song that makes you want to fall in love
This song sounds like falling in love feels. It’s transcendent.
27. a song that calms you down
This song makes me want to unwind with friends under string lights on a warm summer night.
28. a song with great vocals
Brandon Flowers worked with a vocal coach to strengthen his voice before the Killers’ fourth album, Battle Born, and boy does it show. This album is perfect driving music, and this country jam from the back end is a joy to sing along to.
29. a song you believe is a genuinely good one-hit wonder
I enjoy this whole album! This song reached number 8 on the Billboard Top 100 but that was it for them.
30. a song you’d listen to while wistfully looking out the window of a bus
This nostalgic pull at the heartstrings is great…
…but for wistful bus-staring, I’d opt for the acoustic version.
Was this interesting? Did anyone find any new songs they liked from it? This was an experiment, so we’ll see how it goes. (Unfortunately, I planned this post before realizing it would be published on Fiona Apple Day. Just listen to the new Fiona, guys. You can bookmark these for later.)