Monday, January 28, 2008

If You Don't Know Me by Now

Last week I started rating all of the songs on my iPod. This obsessive behavior was inspired by my friend Joe who has rated all but 150 of his roughly 800,000 iTunes songs. He has also memorized all of his credit card numbers and is, frankly, my hero. Considering my love for organizing things it is surprising that it has taken me 3+ years of iPod ownership to get around to ratings but now that I’m here I cannot express how excited the act of assign stars makes me. Or, more accurately, how happy the idea of having every song successfully categorized and filed away makes me. I can't help but fantasize that this little act combined with the ambitious closet reorganization campaign that I kicked off in October will right all of the wrongs in my life.

It is very difficult for me to give any song a rating of less than 3 out of 5 stars. At the thought of a 2 I end up feeling guilty as if the artist will find out and be irreparably hurt by this affront to their masterpiece and often I just bail out by skipping the song entirely. Conversely, if I love a song it becomes super easy to assign 4 or 5 stars to it and I am pathetically predictable when it comes to certain bands. When I review my top rated tunes it appears that Rhett Miller could record himself farting and burping on a loop for 45 minutes and I’d slap a 4 on it while thinking, “Hmmm maybe this is a 5, I mean that second toot really spoke to me and also someday Rhett might see this list and be so flattered that he’ll have no choice but to sleep with me and probably fall in love and leave his wife which will be a little sad for him but all happy for me.” I am also somewhat concerned by the gender disparity in my elite 4/5 group. Much as I feel a little embarrassed for liking Obama better than Hilary I can’t quite come to terms with consistently loving John Darnielle more than Lucinda Williams. On the plus side, my grandparents can probably put to rest all concerns about my sexuality.

I am tempted to claim that rating all of my music has made me more aware of what I listen to but that would mostly be a lie. I constantly micromanage my shuffle because deep down I am a part of the generation (or likely, generations since I think this applies to everyone who came of age post 1960) that believes that my preference for Rilo Kiley over Wilco is somehow indicative of a greater truth. Despite all my left brained “I heart logic” bravado I am a huge believer in the mix tape school of love. While I get a little geeky jolt upon placing any old stuff into categories and have many times considered projects like alphabetizing my refrigerator contents and color coding my underwear drawer the true, embarrassing, teen angst-y goal of rating all of my music is to put myself into a category and hopefully by doing this somehow communicate who this self is. I am in the "adores tough guys singing about broken love” category, the “finds it endearing when white boys pretend to be all gangsta” category, the “enjoys a good war anthem” category. All of the song categorization is really just preparation for show and tell. I feel a need to quantify which songs I like best so that friends and, most importantly, boys who I have a crush on can take a look at my top rated tunes and make sense of who I am so that, hopefully, I don’t have to explain anything. They can look at my shoe collection too if that’ll help, I find the blue flats with the miss-matched yellow spirals on them to be particularly revealing. It probably seems very twenty first century American of me to hope for my material purchases to add up to who I am (my shrink would have had a field day if I hadn’t dumped her expensive ass when she just didn’t get me and didn’t seem at all interested in forgoing our sessions in favor of a playlist), but in actuality I feel like I have no more accurate place to turn. I like to think I excel at explaining how web applications and cookie dough and reality television should work but I feel almost completely at a loss when it comes to explaining me. There is obviously much irony in the fact that someone with a desire to be known without explanation has devoted years to a writing project all about herself.

Yesterday the same friend who inspired my song categorization and will soon have me doing credit card memory drills in the shower told me that there exists a piece of software which can use the built in web cam on your standard issue Mac Hipster Machine to read the ISBN from your books and categorize them on a virtual shelf. This alone might be reason enough for me to convert to the cult of Apple because I very much want my book collection categorized and searchable. I want to point to one place and say “THIS is what I read and this is what’s important to me so if you care at all about getting in my pants you best BONE UP.” (also please ignore the disproportionate number of Dave Barry books – it was a phase.). Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of this unconventional approach to communication is that I feel that if only I could get some floppy haired boy to really look at my collection he'd be all but disarmed. It seems obvious that no one could see my “Dad’s Who Really Love Their Daughters” songs or the small menagerie of “Food-centric History" books on my shelf and not fall in love with me.

In my iTunes library there are currently 24 5s out of 142 rated songs out of 2924 files(I have a lot of work ahead of me), for those of you looking to take on the challenge of unraveling this riddle here they are (unsurprisingly, in alphabetical order by artist and then by album).

Everything I Love – Alan Jackson
Someday - Alan Jackson
Evening Gown – Alejandro Escovedo
Rocking the Suburbs – Ben Folds
The Luckiest – Ben Folds
Falling Down Blue - Blue Rodeo
Red Right Ankle – The Decemberists
Chips Ahoy – The Hold Steady
You Can Make Him Like You – The Hold Steady
Texas Trilogy: Bosque County Romance -- Lyle Lovett
Fruits of My Labor – Lucinda Williams
Pink and Blue – The Mountain Goats
Color in Your Cheeks - The Mountain Goats
Have to Explode – The Mountain Goats
Melt Show - The Old 97s
Lonely Holiday – The Old 97s
Salome – The Old 97s
Rollerskate Skinny – The Old 97s
Making Love with You– The Old 97s
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes – Paul Simon
Under African Skys - Paul Simon
The Deep South – The Promise Ring
If I Could -- Storyhill
The Great Divide - Storyhill


Taras said...

When you're done with your iPod, can you rate the songs on my iPod?

Lisa said...

For the past 3 years (since I got my computer) I have obsessively made sure that my play counts were accurate. I pause it when I go to the bathroom, so that the song doesn't get an extra play count even though I didn't actually LISTEN to it. If I'm 10 seconds away from the end of a song but have to run to class, I fast forward because that is close enough to count for a tally.
Then one day, late in December, all my playcounts inexplicably reset. I don't know why. But I cried. SO MUCH DATA... it REPRESENTED me. Gone. I cried a couple times, actually.
Also I don't think I know that Mountain Goats stuff... I only have Get Lonely (the album).

wolf said...

So... based on your post title, do you have "If You Don't Know Me By Now" by Simply Red on your iPod? What have rating have you given it?

Inquiring minds wanna know!

Deutlich said...

I've been trying super hard to get organized w/the iTunes... somehow, I just can't get with it.

Back2Good said...

Ha! I loved this. I'm the same way. The vast majority of my rated stuff is 5s. Some 4s. If it's less than that I just don't rate it. And if I somehow forget to rate one song on an album I love and it comes up on my iPod, I immediately feel bad, like the artist is going to wonder why I don't like that one. So irrational.

Brianna said...

tara: I appreciate your confidence in my taste so sure!

lisa: that is SO SAD it's like you lost your life database :(

wolf: good job getting my out of date song reference! sadly i have no simply red on my ipod but if i did that sound would likely get a 4 because i enjoy the cheese.

deutlich: oh god it's do fun you really must try it out.

Back2Good: Sometimes you have to hand out the bad news when a song is subpar and it always sucks.

alia said...

Did I ever mention that I ushered at a Simply Red set of concerts in London? ...Their fan club was scary... and had very high heels... that hurt me...