A professor I had once told our class that the sign of adulthood was “having a significant number of regrets.” I thought for a long time that I was stunted because I had few, if any, regrets. Then I began to realize that maybe it was this professor who was stunted. I believe the true sign of growing up is not having regrets, but learning from experiences that could have easily been regretted. The difference, in my opinion, is everything.
I should have my fair share of regrets. Actually, I should have more than my fair share. But I think I’ve also done more than my fair share of contemplation about said regrets, and in the end, I’m not bitter. I’m thankful. One area that could have been particularly regrettable is my love life. Lord knows (and so do my parents) that I’ve had a few crazy ex-boyfriends along the way, but I’ve also had loves and friendships that have changed my life forever, in the best ways imaginable.
So instead of being regretful or even sentimental about past loves, I will be thankful. In particular, I’m going to be thankful for the music that I never would have heard or appreciated had I not met those people. In crafting this list of ex-boyfriend-inspired music, I had to lay down some ground rules:
1. The entry does not necessarily have to be inspired by an ex-boyfriend. But I am narrowing it to being inspired by a boy with whom I had a significant relationship (romantic or otherwise) at some point in my life.
2. The music must have been introduced to me by this person, or my appreciation of the music must have been greatly affected by him. The list can’t include songs I just liked to jam out to with my middle school boyfriend. Unless he first showed me the songs or I wouldn’t have liked them without knowing him. Make sense?
3. Exes shall remain anonymous. Though why anyone would not want to claim me as an ex-girlfriend is beyond me. ;)
Behold, the tracklist for the mixtape entitled “Stolen from an Old Love”:
1. “Bombs over Baghdad” by Outkast. My appreciation for Outkast, along with many other hip-hop and R&B artists, stems largely in part from my first boyfriend. Those who know me now, with my indie glasses and fondness for cardigans, might not realize that my musical history is rooted in hip-hop. In middle school, my friends and I would be on three-way calling while listening to Hot 103 Jamz’s Top 7 at 7. Or 8 at 8. Can’t quite remember. Anyway, when you date a guy for three years with “Outkast” in his AIM screen name, chances are you will become well-acquainted with the band. Thanks to this boy, I have been a fan of Outkast since middle school, know more Ginuwine songs than I should probably admit, and I think I can hold my own in a discussion of who’s better: Biggie or Tupac? (Tupac, duh.)
2. “The Widow” by The Mars Volta. One of the first conversations I had with a person who would come to play a huge part in my life started with him asking me, “Did you know this song is about an old man selling cigarettes to underage kids?” From that point on, The Mars Volta and this boy were on constant rotation in my life. My relationship with the boy was turbulent, but my relationship with The Mars Volta has been steady ever since.
3. “Sunday Morning” by The Velvet Underground. I can honestly say I never would have loved The Velvet Underground without having met a certain boy. A particular point in my life seemed to have The Velvet Underground and Nico as a constant soundtrack, my burned copy rarely leaving the CD player of my first car. While there might have been songs that better defined my life at that point–“I’m Waiting for the Man” or “White Light/White Heat,” for example–I chose “Sunday Morning” for this playlist because it reminds me of reflecting on a particular point in one’s life.
4. “The Scientist” by Coldplay. This song will forever remind me of a boy I loved, and who loved me also, but never at the same time. I don’t remember now how this became our song in the first place, but I do remember the mix CD the boy made for me that included the song. This boy made a beautiful booklet with pictures drawn in pencil, explanations for why he chose each song written in his tiny scrawl. Though we don’t talk anymore, I owe my awesome mixtape-making skills to this boy.
5. “Heart Cooks Brain” by Modest Mouse. Before I knew this certain boy, I felt about Modest Mouse the way I felt about Coldplay: if they came on the radio, I probably wouldn’t change it, but I wouldn’t listen to the bands in my free time, either. Then we spent the summer after I graduated high school driving around the dark backroads of my hometown, listening to Modest Mouse, finding the best places to see fireflies, and talking about life. It was a beautiful time nestled between all the drama of high school and the uncertainty of going away to college. I lost touch with the boy and haven’t driven the backroads in years, but every time I hear Modest Mouse I remember that summer, that boy, and that town and I smile.
6. “I’ll Believe in Anything” by Wolf Parade. The next three songs are by bands introduced to me by a very dear friend of mine. He took my computer and uploaded music he thought I should like, and lo and behold, I did. “I’ll Believe in Anything” holds a special place in my memory because of the time this boy and I sat in his car listening to this song while he explained how the sounds shifted back and forth between speakers. Having poor hearing and no musical inclination to speak of, I had always just listened to music straightforwardly, waiting for the catchy chorus to come on. But listening to this song while the boy spoke so eloquently about the individual sounds completely changed the way I hear music. And if that’s not a lasting legacy of a boy I loved, I don’t know what is.
7. “Wild Mountain Nation” by Blitzen Trapper. When I first heard this song, I texted the boy who put it on my computer, “I am in love with Blitzen Trapper. They are so good!” His response? “I know.”
8. “The Gardener” by The Tallest Man on Earth. Another artist I came to call one of my favorites, originally given to me by my friend.
9. “Lucky Clover Coin” by Rocky Votolato. “I want to spend more time with you, because you make me happy.” Rocky Votolato is my favorite musician of all time, and my love for him was developed and strengthened by my favorite boy of all time. Listening to Rocky reminds me of driving through small towns in Idaho, watching the sun set and holding the hand of my love. It reminds me of the living room show in Kansas City, sitting on the floor next to the sweetest boy I ever met, listening to the sweetest songs I ever heard. It reminds me of planning a future with this boy and telling my family we would name our first boy Rocky, after Votolato and Horror, of course. Rocky just released his latest album, and the day it came out, this boy called me to ask what I thought of it. “It’s not bad, but it’s different,” he said. “I think I might like the old stuff better.” I still haven’t listened to the CD, but I think I would agree. I like the old stuff better.
10. “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” by the Avett Brothers. I have the tendency to be very stubborn, and probably no one knows this better than the boy I shared a home with. One area in which I am particularly stubborn is music. This boy would play music he thought I would like, but for whatever reason, I was too stuck on my own music to give it a chance. Then, like two years later I would realize how fantastic the music was and be all about it long ofter this boy had gotten into it. This happened with Jose Gonzalez, Mumford & Sons, and the Avett Brothers. Now I absolutely love all of these musicians, but the Avett Brothers are in my top five favorite artists. This summer I will be seeing them at Red Rocks, and I’m doing my best to bribe the boy to fly out here and see them with me.
11. “Dark Fantasy” by Kanye West. Kanye is another artist I dismissed before I really listened to him. However, the last CD this boy and I listened to before we arrived home from our autumn road trip was Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It is a fantastic album and I appreciated for the first time how clever and intelligent Kanye West really is. Now this boy and I text Kanye lyrics back and forth whenever we are bored. A particularly intelligent Kanye line: “The same people that try to black ball me forgot about two things–my black balls!” You would be surprised at how often I use this quote.
12. “Rise” by Eddie Vedder. I wouldn’t have loved Eddie Vedder’s Into the Wild soundtrack had my boyfriend not played it incessantly after he first saw the movie. Now I consider it to be one of the best albums of the decade.
13. “Watching Birds” by Stornoway. I wouldn’t have heard of Stornoway, let alone love them, without a certain boy who always woke up earlier than me and softly played music until I woke up, too. From the first listen, I thought Stornoway was a great and catchy band, and I shared this boy’s appreciation of them. Whenever we are together, we often listen to Stornoway and use their song lyrics to talk about life and love and all kinds of good things.
14. “Sweet Disposition” by the Temper Trap. I was first introduced to the Temper Trap by a boy I studied with in Amsterdam, and I saw them in concert with other boys I studied abroad with. The Temper Trap will always remind me of that time in my life, and I remember those boys and the times we had quite fondly.
15. “Nice to Know You” by Incubus. The original inspiration for this post came from a certain boy who just generally turned out to be a pain in the ass, but who I couldn’t entirely despise since without him, I would not have learned to like Incubus. Prior to knowing this boy, I thought Incubus was an annoying band that I only seemed to like while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. After this boy convinced me to listen to them again, I found that I actually really liked Incubus. I especially like their latest CD, which is fitting since every other Incubus fan likes their old stuff better and “can’t really get into this one.” It just goes to show that you should always keep an open mind in case the things you once disliked turn out to be really great. Or, on the other hand, the things (or people) you once thought were really great could turn out to be kinda shitty. I chose the song, “Nice to Know You” because the lyrics pretty much sum up how I feel about this certain boy: “Nice to know you..(P.S. thanks for introducing me to Incubus)…Goodbye!” I might have added a few of my own lyrics there, but you get the idea.
16. “Let’s be Friends, Miss Missouri” by Roger Kim. Here I will break my own rules and name names. Had I not met Roger Kim at AmeriCorps orientation, I would never have known the music of Roger Kim. Roger is a lovely jazz musician who so graciously signed a copy of his CD, First Day, for me, and agreed that I could be his merch girl. And just this week I got a letter in the mail, and enclosed was a song that Roger wrote called, “Let’s be Friends, Miss Missouri.” I have no idea how it is supposed to sound, because when I say he wrote the song, I mean he actually wrote it. On sheet music, with notes and stuff. My goal is to find someone who can play it for me so I know how it sounds. In the meantime, Roger said I could write lyrics to it if I wanted, but I’m not really good with poetry or songwriting, so I think I’ll stick to blogging.
So that’s that. Through the ups and downs of my love life, I’ve managed to accumulate quite a wonderful music collection. And I wouldn’t change a thing.