I just finished reading Courteny E Smith's soon-to-be-released "Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd, One Album at a Time," in which former MTV programmer Smith attempt to insert a female voice into the overwhelmingly dude-ish world of music criticism and writing.
Full disclosure: I am not a music nerd. I love music, although not as much as I love books, movies and television. But when it comes to full-on nerdery, I opted out around the time I realized boys stopped paying attention to girls when there was a guitar in the room.
Courtney Smith, on the other hand, got competitive.
This results in a book written by a true Nick Hornby-style music snob who refers to "soccer mom music" and upholds the tired old "guilty pleasure" with sentences like this one:
In my world, if you choose to proclaim an admiration for the Black Eyed Peas, someone will scoff," How embarassing for you." As a matter of fact, that sounds like something I would say."
In addition to the fact that I would punch someone in the face if they said that to me, I guess I want to think of that kind of cultural elitism and musical snobbery as an irritating guy thing, and I want Courteney Smith to be offering an antidote. And she does, sometimes, like in the chapter on men who like The Smiths too much, or when she points out that the "voices of men have dominated music writing," resulting in the fact that "Van Halen's guitar chops are treated with a level of seriousness on par with the return of Christ" while "Madonna's evolution as a songwriter goes unexamined."
Then she turns around and calls The Pussycat Dolls "slutty."(She later critcizes Madonna for trading on her sexuality; in fact she seems pretty uncomfortable with sexuality in female musicians at all.)
It all results in a book that feels like its written less for a female music fan than for a male one Smith is trying to impress.
Still, it's refreshing to have a female voice in this arena, and women can be any kind of fans they want. Maybe I'm the one being sexist for wanting Smith to like music less "like a guy."
"Record Collecting for Girls" is an enjoyable read that's worth picking up, and I loved the chapter on top 5 lists so much I was inspired to create my own, in front of God and everybody. The rules, as defined by Smith are as follows:
Rule #1: You must own all the full-length albums releaed by any artist in your top 5.
Rule #2: Artists can not be in your top 5 of all time if they've only released one album.
Rule #3: Update your top 5 list often.
Rule #4: Diversify your top 5 with artists from several decades.
Rule #5: Always be prepared to defend your list.
1) The Flaming Lips
My favorite band since I was 16 and digging their albums out of the "local music" bin in Norman, Oklahoma. Wayne Coyne is a magic carnival man who spreads joy and light everywhere he goes. Every time I see the Lips live, I end up weeping. Go buy like 6 of their albums if you don't already have them.
2) The Hold Steady
All their songs seem to be about small-town addiction, singer Craig Finn is my kind of hot (he kind of makes me sweat) and I love their whole anti-irony, positive vibe. People have the best time at their shows, dancing and jumping and generally not trying to be cool.
3) Loretta Lynn
Ever since I first saw "Coal Miner's Daughter" as a child, I have loved Loretta Lynn and her sassy, scrappy brand of country. She'd be one of the greatest songwriters of all time even if she only ever wrote "Fist City." But she also wrote a ton of other amazing songs like "You Aint Woman Enough to Take My Man" and "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' With Lovin' On Your Mind" and "One's on the Way." I like to sing her stuff at karaoke.
4) Dolly Parton
You guys know about me and Dolly.
4) Neil Diamond
Have you ever seen Neil Diamond in concert? The man is a consummate professional. And his new stuff with Rick Rubin is as good as the old stuff. Except "Brother Love Traveling Salvation Show." Nothing is as good as that. Come to think of it, Neil kind of makes me sweat, too.
That was hard! Whose in your top 5? And I didn't cheat and list more than 5 even though I wanted to, so you can't either.