Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ten Albums that Define My Life

I love the self-expression that a person can achieve through music, which is why I really don't hate any one specific musical genre. Country, rap, jazz, classical, pop... it's all trying to do the same thing. Send a message. Whether it be a person's sadness over a lost dog, a lost lover, or a lost religion, a song can really evoke what mere words cannot. And I can find something worthwhile in any piece of music created. I'm not that picky.

HOWEVER... I am perfetly aware that not all songs are created equal. I definitely show my share of favoritism in regards to music. If you take a look at my iPod or my Grooveshark account, you will definitely see a few patterns. I, personally, am more prone to the pop/rock/easy listening styles. There's stuff I grew up with -- Hanson, the Beach Boys, certain Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals -- that holds a special place in my heart. I particularly like my symphonic metal and female-fronted rock groups. I always crave Rob Thomas, Barenaked Ladies, and of course the Gaga. I like classical music, but I'd much rather listen to classical music from the 1800s than that minimalist stuff of the twentieth century. I like country, but I prefer female country voices to male. I like jazz, but vocal rather than instrumental. You'll also notice that I'm not a very deep music-lover. I like what's on the radio, the singles, the popular bands. I am in no way "indie" or "fringe."

Really, though, I'm not ashamed of the music I listen to. I think the music I cherish is the music that defines me best, and I shouldn't be ashamed of who I am.

All this is supposed to culminate to something, isn't it? Ah, yes! My top ten albums that define my life. The following is a list of the albums that mean the most to me, personally. I'm not saying they're the first things I want to listen to NOW. In fact, some of these CD's have been overplayed in my life to the point of nausea and now I can hardly stand them. But they each have some degree of importance to me. These are the CDs that epitomize who I am. These are the CDs that I've spent a great deal of time with. They're the kinds of CDs that have gotten me with every song, not just one or two tracks. They're CDs with meaning, with history, with stories behind them. These are the albums that have not just been music to me, but a lifestyle.

1.) Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster.

I should point out as well that this list is not in any particular order, but I supposed I should start out with the one that has impacted my life most recently first. You already know that I am a HUGE Lady Gaga fan. I love her fashion, her panache, her ferocious rebellion against all things normal and conventional. But why The Fame Monster for one of those life-changing CD's? I mean, it's all meaningless pop and dance music about sex and alcohol. Why did I not even choose her debut album, The Fame? Well, ladies and gentlemen, I think the answer to these questions lies in how well her music corresponds with her performance, fashion, and panache that exists outside the music. Lady Gaga is a master of making her music and her performances go hand in hand. Take, for example, her incredible performance of "Telephone" and "Dance in the Dark" at the BRITS last year. Or her performance of "Speechless" with Elton John at the Grammys? Her performances during the Monster Ball of "So Happy I Could Die" and "Teeth" are unforgettable as well. What I've learned from this album is that every song, every track, has a meaning for Gaga. She planned every little detail of the album, down to the last sound effect. She's made art out of pop, and that's inspired me to do the same.

2. Rob Thomas: Cradlesong

The reason why this one is on the list is because it's a CD I simply cannot get tired of. There's a song for every mood, every emotion, every situation I could ever be in. If I feel like a relationship isn't going anywhere, I listen to "Snowblind." If I need a pick-me-up in the morning when I'm going to another dreaded day of work, I pop in "Real World '09." If I'm in a reminiscing mood, "Cradlesong's" the one for me. I also am in love with "Fire on the Mountain" and "Give me the Meltdown." Every song on this CD is so catchy and amazing. I don't think it will ever get old for me.

3. My Chemical Romance: The Black Parade

This song was my anthem for sophomore year of High School. It represented the angst, the drama, the disillusionment that I was feeling at the time. I was obsessed with the concept of the album, the dreamy quality of it. "Welcome to the Black Parade" is definitely the best song. But I also totally dig "Famous Last Words," "The Sharpest Lives," "Teenagers," and "Disenchanted." This whole CD just reminds me of my preteen life. The friends I had, the doodles I drew in the margins, the clothes I wore. This album is an important piece of me.

4. Clay Aiken: Measure of a Man

I'll never forget when I got this CD for Easter when I was fifteen. I listened to it over and over again. I also will never forget when I got to see him front row at the Minnesota State Fair that same year. That stirred the obsession that caused an entire half of a wall to be covered with his picture. I don't like Clay as much as I did then, of course. But the CD still is with me. His voice is still great. The songs are still good. The nostalgia when I listen to "No More Sad Songs" or "I Survived You." Man, I love that guy.

5. Evanescence: Fallen. Probably the soundtrack of my entire life. The epitome of who I am. This CD made me love music. It made me play the piano. It made me dress the way I do. Sing the way I do. Ben Moody and Amy Lee have successfully combined my two favorite genres --classical vocals and orchestration with heavy metal -- in a way I have never heard before and have never yet heard since. I love every single song on this album. I can't choose a favorite. This does not happen often. I seriously can't pick one over the other. Even the lesser-known ones. To top it off, there's no swearing, no sex, no nothing. Just raw music. Raw amazingness. I will never forget this CD. This was the first CD I listened to where I liked EVERY SINGLE SONG ON THE ALBUM EQUALLY.  This is huge.  You know how on an album, you really like the first couple of songs, all the singles, and maybe the last song which is a big finale?  Well Ev -- no.  Every song.  Every time.  Even now -- years and years and years later -- I listen to every single song on that album, never skipping.  This was the album that got me into my rock obsession, my gothy clothing style, and my love of piano.  This album changed my life.  Not EEEVEN JOKING.  Amy Lee became a goddess.  Evanescence is a path to musical nirvana.  It's a shame the band died so soon after it was born.  Two CD's later, and they have bored me.

6. Billy Gilman: Dare to Dream

This CD still gets to me. I grew up with Billy Gilman and this was definitely his high point. It was also at a high point in my life. Sixth grade. I had everything going for me. And this was just good "in the mood" music for me at the time. I think back on those times when I tried to close myself off from the world with that giant portable CD player and tracks like "She's Everything You Want," "Some things I Know," and "You Don't You Won't." I wish both Billy and I could have stayed twelve forever.

7. Charlotte Church: Prelude: The Best of Charlotte Church.

Another childhood favorite. Charlotte Church gave me a voice. Going to see her with Mary back when I was eleven was such an inspiration for me. It made me think of the history I could make for myself with my voice. I remember practicing upstairs in my room with the door closed, trying to hit all the same notes, pronounce all those hard italian lyrics, just like Charlotte. Of course, she is in no way the best singer in the world, but she was almost my age at the time, someone I could aspire to be like. I picked her Best of CD because it's a nice conglomerate of all the things I loved about her.

8. Hanson: Middle of Nowhere

I promise this is the last album that takes a trip down Hannah's memory lane. Hanson is the first artist/group of artists I can remember ever really liking. This was truly the first time I ever consciously thought to myself, "Hey, I like this song. I want to hear more." This was back in, say, third grade. Maybe even earlier. I remember borrowing this CD from the library and listening to it over and over again downstairs in what was then the unfinished basement. I'd listen to it with friends, most of the time. But I remember reading through the lyric book, trying to memorize every word but having trouble hearing them with their funny high voices. I bought the CD for good last summer and I still love it. Sure, the lyrics are a little passe, but they were twelve-year-old boys for goodness' sake! That's talent!! I'll never disregard true talent!

9.  Lady Gaga: Born this Way

Yes, I must include another Lady Gaga album in here.  While a lot of these albums I've described have epitomized a certain part of my angsty and dramatic childhood, I must include the album that defines my current life here at college.  I am now a Senior at BYU, and many things have changed.  My opinion of myself has shrunk significantly.  I am definitely a small fish, surrounded by people who are smarter, prettier, and more talented than I am.  Sometimes that has prevented me from getting things that I want.  And when that happens, I sometimes really look down on myself for trying in the first place.  It's sad, but oh so true.  But there is no need to worry about me.  I have some amazing role models in my life, and one of them is this powerful woman named Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta -- Lady Gaga.  Words cannot express the power that woman has -- the ability she has to change the heart of an individual from one of hate and discouragement to one of love and a bright hope for the future.  It's phenomenal.  Born this Way is the album for the rejects, the album for the losers, and -- in my case -- the album for the heartbroken.  Sometimes I wonder if this album wasn't actually written with me -- Hannah -- in mind.  The clash of "Heavy Metal Lover" with "Black Jesus + Amen Fashion" brings out the runway model in me.  The jazzy lull of "You and I" -- oh, I can't describe the feelings I get when I hear that song.  The song "Judas" expresses the confusion you feel when falling in love with someone you shouldn't ever love.  There are the powerful messages of acceptance and diversity in "Born this Way" and "Americano."  But above all, this album is the home of the one song that -- to date -- reigns champion as my favorite song of all time:  "Hair."

10. Nightwish: Once.

The high point of my symphonic metal stage. I needed to include this stage because it was an important shift in my love of music from what others thought I should like and what I thought was good music myself. I especially am caught up in "Ghost Love Score." That is just an incredible song that I wish others appreciated as much as I did. This whole album is like a puzzle that I enjoy taking apart and putting back together in different ways. You gotta love that about nightwish. It's pleasantly confusing.

So there you have it. The top ten albums of my life. I hope it's a pleasant mix of country, rock, alternative, classical... Geez, looking at that list makes me feel like a well-rounded person. I feel fantastic!!

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