As the years have passed, more and more music has cropped up that I simply never hear, but once upon a time I was as on top of it as a radio-listening 90s teen could be. As such, I often get a few questions from friends who have known me for a while. The first is always “what are you listening to?” A bit of everything, but rarely something that hits the sweet spot of “new” and “easily recommendable” that people are looking for. Next comes “what do you think of…?” Probably I dislike it. It’s like when people would learn where I graduated from and ask if I knew so-and-so. Invariably they would choose someone whose guts I hated, and invariably I’d resort to “eh, yeah, I didn’t know that person well though.” It’s awkward, telling someone that something they think might be a common link is really something you despise. Tends to drive people away.
The one that is the most fun for me, however, is “What’s that song that goes like…?” It’s a puzzle, trying to pull a tiny snippet of sound or lyrics out of context and fit it into its appropriate home. Sometimes you can hear it, but can’t recall the title for some reason. Sometimes it’s a question of whether it’s this band or that one. The best times are when the bit foments, then grows like a seed as you start attaching small clues to it, until you’ve solved it. This is a scenario I’ve sought out. I used to be on an email list where song snippets would come in and I would try to guess them in the 10 or so seconds available. I once pulled Dishwalla’s “Counting Blue Cars” out of almost zero information. It’s a skill I’m pretty decent at. And yet, each time I’m asked, I am tempted to respond, with immediacy and seriousness, “Dramarama – ‘Work for Food.’”
You see, part and parcel to the song-guessing puzzle, I used to spend a lot of time in an old AOL chat with a continual “guess song by lyrics” game being played. I actually made a number of friends through this avenue, through shared musical tastes, concurrent chatter, and often impressing people with the breadth of my knowledge. Not to toot my own horn, but apparently teens aren’t supposed to know a wide range of classic music. Who knew?
While it was always fun to see the flurry of lyrics fly amidst conversation, or rack up the “points” on weekends, when Jamo (a character we regularly debated the actual humanity of, so regimented were his actions) would swing by to host a more organized game, there was also a set of issues. The biggest was, being a mostly unmoderated realm, any old person would drop in:
XXGREENDAYXX1990: GUESS THIS SONG DONT WANT TO BE AN AMERICAN IDIOT
Alex_Soundtrack: Green Day… American Idiot.
XXGREENDAYXX1990: WOW UR GOOD
Other times, however, people would stop in trying to figure out a song they did not know. Sometimes we’d help, sometimes we wouldn’t or couldn’t, but there was one regular denizen that turned every such question into a sort of Candid Camera moment:
JuLiePrInCeSz14: DO U GUYZ KNO THIS SONG? BABY I LOVE U, U KNOW I’LL DO IT ALL 4 U, BABY LETS LOVE LIKE LOVERS YEAH YEAH
Chat Guy: Dramarama – Work for Food
JuLiePrInCeSz14: OMG REALLY?
Chat Guy: Yes.JuLiePrInCeSz14: THANK U SO MUCH
JuLiePrInCeSz14: THAT WASNT IT
Cruel, really. And yet, no matter how incredulous the person, no matter how unlikely it was that the lyrics belonged to a song by that name, he hooked more suckers than he lost. All this was in aid of some sort of strange promotion for the band. The internet is amazing in that you can find uber-fans of even the most obscure things, and for this particular web denizen, exposing the world to Dramarama was his raison d’etre.
Now, generally, the more emphatically and incessantly I am recommended something, the more I refuse it, and yet curiosity left me unable to avoid seeking the song out eventually. It was an earnest promotion, if overbearing, and the band fit in my wheelhouse, so I gave it a shot. Perhaps I’m the only person he sent to the song who ended up enjoying it. It’s the sort of 90s ephemera that probably couldn’t exist today, as the singer takes the point of view of a cart-pushing bum, oversimplifying the plight of his character, but nevertheless willing to tackle that character study. It’s straightforward rock, it’s catchy songwriting… it might not be the song plenty of people were looking for, but y’know what? Maybe they’re at a loss because of it. Every now and then, persuasion pays off for everyone.
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