Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy #WorldPoetryDay and a Musical Flashback to 1993

Today is World Poetry Day. You can find a list of some of my all-time favorite poems here. I think one of the nicest ways you could possibly celebrate World Poetry Day is to choose and buy a chapbook from a contemporary poet to support living poets working today. Then maybe give it a review to show the poet you appreciate his or her work.

Music and poetry are virtually the same thing...conjoined twins...incestuously close siblings. Perhaps it's appropriate today that I stumbled across Natalie Blair's post "Sorry If This Makes You Feel Totally Ancient." Its subject is albums that were released in 1993 and would, therefore, now be 20 years old. I got completely wrapped up in this post because some of these are my very favorites ever.

Natalie, in turn, was inspired by "This Song Reminds Me of You, or Were You in High School in 1993?" by Vanessa, the author of the Little Gray Pixel blog. (In a gigantic domino effect, Vanessa took her inspiration from "29 Albums That Are Now 20" by Matthew Perpetua of Buzzfeed.)

Natalie's a few years younger than me; she was not yet a high school student in 1993, but it seems that Vanessa was. I started out 1993 as a sophomore and finished it a junior. Vanessa chose some of the albums from the Buzzfeed list that most reminded her of high school; many of them happen to have been my favorites as well.

She opens her post by embedding "Shoop" by Salt N Pepa (which I wrote about here when discussing Tina Turner and the Ikettes - you guys remember that "Shoop" contains an Ikettes sample, right?). I had that album, Very Necessary. After borrowing it from the library once or twice, I finally got a Tracks (that was the name of a local music store - remember music stores?) gift certificate from my aunt for Christmas and bought it. I still know all the words to "None of Your Business." I still, occasionally, think of "Sexy Noises Turn Me On" when I'm writing erotica.

My brother had In Utero by Nirvana. I believe he bought it at Target. The first time I ever heard "Heart Shaped Box" (which I believe was the first single), I was in the back of my mom's car, on the way home from a cousin's birthday party. Therefore, I associate it was the taste of birthday cake as well as the video with the Oz poppy field and the creepy kid in the KKK outfit.

I never had the Bjork album Debut, but I remember the video for "Human Behaviour." My brother and I shared a copy of the Radiohead album Pablo Honey on tape. "Creep" was the only song I ever listened to on it. I was so excited when the Scala cover of "Creep" was used on The Simpsons.

As I've mentioned before, Janet by Janet Jackson was the first album I ever bought on CD. My favorite was "If," but I liked a lot of songs on that one: "That's the Way Love Goes," "This Time" (featuring opera singer Kathleen Battle - before she got fired from The Met), "What'll I Do" and "Again." The summer in between my sophomore and junior years, I spent way too much time listening to it while playing Sonic the Hedgehog on my Sega Genesis.

I never owned Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? by the Cranberries because, at the time, I did not care much for "Linger." A friend of mine worked at Target, and once when I saw her there, she was singing "Linger" in her checkout lane. At the time, I thought, "Ew, lame song." It grew on me gradually, but now I can look back and see that the romantic song appealed to her because she was madly in love, while I had not a romantic bone in my body at that age. (At 17, when first confronted with Wuthering Heights, I could not understand a single one of the emotions Emily Bronte wrote about. My understanding of the human heart would come with time and heartbreak.)

But of Vanessa's sub-list of the Buzzfeed list, the two most important albums to me were Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins and Last Splash by the Breeders. Everything was the Smashing Pumpkins and the Breeders (and the Pixies, and the other bands that Tanya Donnelly was in - Belly and Throwing Muses), especially during junior year. I wanted to dress like Darcy, throw attitude like Kelly Deal and relate to words in the non-literal, poetic sorts of ways that Billy Corgan and Kim Deal did. Siamese Dream and Last Splash were two of the very few albums I could ever listen to front to back. They're very much emblematic of the early 1990s for me.

Why does James Iha wear a dress in the video for "Today?" Because fuck gender norms and expectations. '90s alternative rock is very androgynous, and this is a good thing. For Midwestern kids like me, confined to Catholic high schools with very rigid gender expectations, alternative music showed us there was an artspace where gender mattered very little, and we could do anything. 

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