I went to a beautiful wedding this weekend. The music during the reception was a great mix of styles, genres, and time periods. They played the Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald duet “A Fine Romance.”
That got me thinking about irony in music. No, not that Alanis Morisette song that showed very little understanding of what irony is. Actual irony in which what is said is opposite of what is meant.
One of my favorite ironic songs is No Doubt’s “Just a Girl.” I remember a friend in high school, knowing my feminist bent, told me I would hate the song. When I heard it, I wondered how he could totally miss the meaning of the song — she’s not happy that she’s being boxed in by being a girl. This is a classic protest song, and Gwen Stefani uses irony brilliantly. I loved it then, and I love it now. You can watch the video here.
I’m a writer, not a musician. So why do I do Music Mondays? Because music is a key part of my writing, especially Secrets of Truth & Beauty. In particular, Cass Elliot is key.
In retrospect, Cass seems like the perfect person for Dara to emulate, but it actually took me a long time to figure that out. I was fixated on it being a country star, and thought about Patsy Cline or Dolly Parton. Dolly Parton is an amazing woman, and, like Cass Elliot was misjudged because of her appearance. But really, Cass was the right choice.
So then I started doing research. I read Dream a Little Dream of Me by Eddi Figel and used the Official Cass Elliot Website, maintained by her daughter. As I did my research, some interesting coincidences came up. For example, Dara’s last name is Cohen, and so was Cass’s originally. And Cass’s daughter is named Owen, just like one of my leading characters.
After I chose Cass, I had to pick one of her songs, and that was an easy choice. “Make Your Own Kind of Music” expresses themes of the book almost perfectly. But my favorite song of hers is “Dream a Little Dream.” So here it is from the Smother Brothers:
Here’s a quick one that I’m sneaking in at the end of the work day.
“The Great Defector” by Bell X1 sounds a lot like the Talking Heads — joyful, poppy, and the singer sounds eerily like David Byrne. Plus there are references to Steinbeck — can’t get much cooler than that.
Put it on, pump it up, and dance — that’s what I’m doing.
I’m a little bit embarrassed about how much I love “Gives You Hell.” It is so great for turning up the volume and singing along with in the car. There’s even that sing-along part to get you in the mood.
But this is not just about my guilty-pleasure love for the song. No, I have an anecdote! So the other day my husband and I were driving and this song came on, and he said, “I wonder who this song is about?” Before I could say, “Well, duh, it’s about some ex-girlfriend” he said, “Maybe it’s about an ex-band member.”
Wouldn’t that be a much more interesting story? An ex-band member, or an old friend who was like, “You are never going to make it.” And by and large the lyrics can support it (the only line that at all indicates it’s a romantic relationship is “When you find a man that’s worth a damn and treats you well . . .”) For me this just opened the song right up. I always like finding new possibilities in seemingly simple things.
Anyway, if you click the link, you too will be singing this song for the rest of the day. You’re welcome!
I am so in love with the song “Little Bribes” by Death Cab for Cutie.
In addition to the great melody, it has one of my favorite lyrics ever: “You were like a walking condiment, tall in stature and exceptionally red.” How great of a simile is that? Except, um, I guess the lyric is actually “You were like a walking compliment, tall in stature and exceptionally read.” Now I’m a little disappointed, but I still love the song.