When Love Don’t Really Love You: My End-of-Summer 2015 Mix-Tape

I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb, and I know I’m not blonde. (Dolly Parton)
July 31, 2015

I’ve said before, as I’m sure have many others, that I think summer is the best season for pop music. A certain kind of pop music. We could call it “danceable” or “party” pop — I certainly wish I had more opportunities to play this sort of music at parties. Really for me it’s walking-down-the-street music, but to put me in a certain kind of mood. What kind of mood? A dangerous one, but the fun kind.

What you should know about me is that I’m obsessed with glamour and style in a personal way. Glamour and style is a fun thing to be obsessed with because there’s endless literature on the topic but most of it just comes down to the writer throwing up his or her hands and saying, je ne sais quoi. “It”.

My personal conception of glamour is pinned to a few things: the 1980 style-manual classic Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson; the moment in John Patrick Shanley’s Moonstruck where post-makeover Cher meets Nicolas Cage outside the opera and he says, doofishly, “Your hair!”; Alicia Silverstone in Clueless; Cybill Shepherd in Taxi Driver; Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally; Gugu Mbatha-Raw post-natural-transformation in Beyond the Lights; Christina Aguilera in Burlesque; Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story; Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday; Audrey Hepburn in Charade; Helen Gurley Brown’s eternally-surprising 1962 advice manual Sex and the Single Girl; and, it must be said, Carrie Bradshaw. (And I’ll fight you for it.)

If my taste in glamorous music were a person she’d be the slightly-older, on-and-off-again girlfriend of “yacht rock”. More off than on. She has a job that she takes seriously but she makes herself go out on Friday nights. Diet Coke, through a straw, with lemon and occasionally with vodka. When she’s sad or having relationship problems she listens to Simply Red’s version of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, drinks mid-range wine from a jar, and in a really dire situation watches Fiddler on the Roof or Singin’ in the Rain. She believes in astrology. The most expensive thing she’s wearing on any given day is her perfume. She loves the Muppets. She knows more than anyone should about homemade beauty treatments, uses for coconut oil, and occasionally she wears knee-high socks to bed.

I made you this playlist. You can listen to it here. It’s supposed to be fun-summer-glam-sparkle-happy-dancey-sexy. If you want to know why I chose each of these five songs, read on!

Felix Jaehn ft Freddy Verano and Linying, “Shine”

Felix Jaehn and Freddy Verano are Germans (always the best at electronic), Linying the vocalist is from Singapore. The 90s girl in me loves this light female vocal particularly when she says, “Come on darling” — it takes me right back to that, irreplaceable, feeling of listening to Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” with my soccer teammates when I was too young to do anything but love that song.

Plus, there’s saxophone AND flute so I can only hope that my music taste’s yacht-rock boyfriend will enjoy this too.

Ciara and Missy Elliott, “1, 2 Step”

Music trends are cyclical and ever-speeding-up as the industry starts trying to chase its own tail. Hence, possibly too soon or maybe just at the right time, the hip-hop-ruled pop music of 2004–2006 is coming for YOU.

Now I’m really old enough to remember this the first time around, like really remember, like have a lot of associations, like danced to it at my prom, like occasionally felt way too un-cool and un-sexy and white to understand it and thus occasionally feared and distrusted it, remember this the first time around.

In all seriousness, although I have a lot of respect for this pop music moment (which after all, gave us Beyonce and Rihanna and was a great era for Mariah Carey), the outright violent and over-sexualized misogyny of many of its hits (“Get Low”, “Crank That [Soulja Boy]”) does stick in my craw. My politics come with me on to the dance floor and they don’t like being poked.

So, this one, which is as pure a dance jam as they come. Producer Jazze Pha said he wanted to make this song “roller-skating music”. And so it is!

Starship, “Nothing’s Going To Stop Us Now”

This is a time-sensitive hit that I missed the first time, because we were both made in 1987. But I just learned that its success made Grace Slick the oldest woman to have a number-one single in the US (until her record was broken by Cher as we should all be honored to have our records broken). So that fact makes me love it.

But really what this song conjures for me is Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader’s delightful lip-sync of it in the 2014 film The Skeleton Twins, and when I say delightful I mean delightful.

Laura Welsh, “Undiscovered”

Laura Welsh is a British singer associated with, among others, Dev Hynes a.k.a Blood Orange. And this song is from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack!

I watched Fifty Shades of Grey from the balcony of the Regal Cinemas in Union Square accompanied by two lady friends and a snuck-in bottle of Jameson and I have no regrets. You should know that the film was directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, a British artist and filmmaker whose husband, no big deal, is a mere 23 years her junior. I suspect she may be too fabulous for words. The movie is way, way, way, way better than the book — not to say it’s “good”, but what does that really mean anyway?

This song I love for its chorus combining the edge of being “undiscovered” (which many of us know all too well) with the phrase “I can’t get next to you”. For a fan of classic R&B like myself this is a pleasant reminder of a song originally sung by the Temptations and covered by Al Green, which also gave us one of my favorite album titles of all time: Al Green Gets Next To You. Anytime!

Candi Staton, “Young Hearts Run Free”

But this is what it’s really all about. This song pushes every button I have in just the right way.

I think to truly love disco you have to be a dancing person and you have to be able to put yourself on the dance floor in your mind even if in physical reality you’re on the Q54 bus down Metropolitan Ave as I myself so often am. In that I understand why disco is repetitive, because in a dance-floor moment with a great refrain I do just want to hear it over and over for approximately seven, or even twelve, minutes. I also love the twist of darkness that doesn’t seem to realize how dark it is.

This song taps into the side of me that loves Tina Turner, that loves Cher, that loves late-stage Aretha Franklin; the side of me that yearns for an older woman who will pause just long enough from her own glamorous life to tell me, “you’re on the right track, honey”. Sheer stockings and chilled white wine and body glitter and short shorts and high heels with pointed toes and backless dresses and velvet scrunchies and hoop earrings and blush and silk robes — the glamorous woman doesn’t care which of these you love but knows what she loves.

This is the playlist I made for you. You can listen to it here.

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