The holidays will look very different for most people this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t show joy and love and cheer. Like last year, my December has been almost completely crushed by the stress of law school exams (on top of everything else going on in the world). But a tiny piece of Christmas spirit has been ingrained in me for decades. There’s a running joke among performers that Christmas starts in October, as singers, dancers, etc. start rehearsing for the biggest performance season of the year. I’ve literally given up years of my life to this holiday, so even if I’m stuck in my room studying, there’s still a part of my soul that is ready to celebrate. Seems like everyone these days could use some peace on earth, goodwill toward men. Here’s some music to provide just that. Listen below or on my Spotify page. For more holiday tunes, check out previous December playlists here, here and here.
My dad has always been one of the most influential people in my life, including my musical sensibility. I often imagine him as a young boy in a small Korean town in the ’60s and ’70s, inspired by music to learn English and dream of a better life somewhere far away. At the time, Korea was practically the opposite of the economic and cultural powerhouse it is now. And the Korean government has an ongoing history of heavily regulating and censoring music. My dad was lucky to have access to a lot of “outside” music, partly because he was fortunate enough to come from a family of relative status, but mostly due to his own ambition, curiosity, and love of music. In the ’80s, that combination of qualities found him traveling all over the world (and attending lots of concerts and festivals), before he settled down at a small university in Ohio.
The other day I asked my dad what his favorite songs were, and he could only think of 13 by different artists. (To be fair, I would have a difficult time narrowing down favorites, too.) But I filled in the rest of his list with songs I heard a lot in my youth, thanks to him.
A couple notes about this playlist: First, it only includes Dad’s favorite English-language songs, mainly folk and rock music from his younger years. If he had to make a list including Korean songs, instrumental music, newer favorites, or musicals, we’d never see the end. Secondly, I included “Swanee River” because my dad listed it as his favorite, but I understand it’s problematic. Both of my parents learned this song as kids at their separate schools in Korea, with no clue about the nuances of American history. Many controversial Stephen Foster songs were popular in Korea (and across the globe) when they were growing up. After my dad realized how close we lived to Bardstown, Kentucky (four hours away…), my family even saw the musical The Stephen Foster Story three separate times. The simplest way to put this is that Stephen Foster is a part of my family’s story, but I obviously support those who want Florida to adopt a new state song.
Maybe over the holidays I’ll ask my dad to think of his favorite classical or jazz songs. But the following playlist feels pretty good for autumn. Listen below or on my Spotify page.
Parties should probably be canceled this year. And if a trick-or-treater touches my doorbell tonight I will throw a fit. But Halloween is still a mood. And candy, horror movies, and spooky vibes can always be enjoyed at home. Get into the ghostly spirit with this playlist of creepy, haunting tunes. Listen below or on my Spotify page.
These are just random songs I’ve been listening to a lot lately. No theme. I binged all three seasons of YellowStone a couple weeks ago, so if anything I’ve probably been playing more western country music than usual. Listen below or on my Spotify page. For more fall-themed tunes, check out previous September playlists here, here, and here.
Back in 2009, before this blog existed, I loved listening to celebrity playlists–a feature on iTunes at the time. Each celebrity would write some thoughts or memories about the songs on their playlist, which made the music more meaningful. I thought it would be fun to make a “celebrity” playlist myself and posted it on a Facebook note (which most of you probably didn’t even know was an option). I recently came across the note and it made me laugh, as does every nostalgic memory from that era of my life. Even though it’s been 11 years, most of the songs still hold up! Listen below or on my Spotify page. Read the commentary below for insight into 21-year-old me (with commentary from present me). For more summer-appropriate tunes, check out previous July playlists here and here.
December 29, 2009
I wish I was a celebrity just so I could have a celebrity playlist on iTunes.
So as I was reorganizing my music into new playlists, I decided to try and select my favorites. Out of the 16,305 songs that I own, it was really easy to narrow that list down to… 200. In the end, I realized it’s probably a good thing I’m not a celebrity after all, but here’s the shortest list of personally hand-picked songs I could come up with. Enjoy!
1. “Sunrise” – Norah Jones: Norah Jones’s voice is perfectly soothing. This song puts a smile on my face, and I love listening to it in the morning on my way to class. [I still play this song in the morning while getting ready or on my commute.]
2. “Californication” – Red Hot Chili Peppers: This one reminds me of driving my very first car (R.I.P.) in high school with the windows down and the sunroof open. [Laughing because I once put this song on a mix CD for my ballet teacher, expecting him to… Choreograph a ballet with it?]
3. “Fold Your Hands Child” – Cobra Starship: I seriously love these guys! Their personalities are crazy and fun, which shows in their music. I imagine that this song is what they consider to be more serious and meant to exhibit another dimension of their style. [Not sure why I was so obsessed with these guys, but they performed on the South Oval at OSU and I remember being incredibly pumped.]
4. “You Know I’m No Good” – Amy Winehouse: Amy Winehouse has such a unique voice, and I like the amusingly mischievous quality in this song. It’s ironic and unfortunate that the self-destructive habits she sings about to entertain listeners are actually destroying her life. [R.I.P.]
5. “Boondocks” – Little Big Town: I love the great harmonies and rustic lyrics in this song. It almost convinces me to abandon my life and move somewhere rural, which is a feat in itself! [Currently living half of the year on an actual farm in the middle of nowhere, so this was weirdly foretelling…]
6. “Duet” – Rachael Yamagata with Ray LaMontagne: Oh God, this song is simply heartbreaking. Both voices are so fragile, they’re practically whispers as they sing longingly. You seriously have to hear how unbelievably beautiful they are together. [I got to hear Rachael Yamagata perform this with Joshua Radin a few years ago at Sixth & I Synagogue and it was lovlier than I imagined.]
7. “Black & Gold” – Sam Sparro: Though I’ve been listening to this song since its release over a year ago, I just found out that Sam Sparro is white, not black, which is hard to believe because his voice is so amazingly rich! This is probably my favorite electronic song. [Hmm, probably could’ve described this in a less racist way. Also, cute how I categorized this as “electronic.”]
8. “You Can’t Hurry Love” – The Supremes: Diana Ross’s voice is so comforting, yet powerful. I love any song by The Supremes, but I chose this particular one because I wish more people I knew would take its advice… [This was a “subtle” burn towards half of my sorority.]
9. “Flake” – Jack Johnson: All of Jack Johnson’s songs quickly put my mind at ease. This is the first of his songs I ever listened to, and what drew me in were his soft voice and the smooth sound of steel drums. [Possibly the whitest artist on this list, but honestly this song still slaps.]
10. “Pavane” – Regina Carter: The original orchestral composition by Fauré is beautiful, but I really like when artists take classical music and put a jazz twist on it. Regina Carter’s playing is lyrically elegant and sultry, and the added bells and whistles are so innovative. [A really good use of this song is in the Sex and the City episode where Charlotte is depressed after having a miscarriage, until she watches a documentary on Liz Taylor, which inspires her to get overly dressed up and go out for Miranda’s baby’s birthday party.]
11. “Everything I Can’t Have” – Robin Thicke: Robin Thicke is one of the sexiest men alive, with a sexy voice to match! A Spanish flare also contributes to the fun vibe of this song. [To be fair, this was well before “Blurred Lines” was released and it was revealed that Robin Thicke is a creep.]
12. “Mama Who Bore Me” – Lea Michele: If you like the character Rachel on the show Glee, you should hear her as the star in the original production of Spring Awakening. I think Lea Michele has the perfect voice for Broadway, and this opening song is so pretty. The reprise is also amazing. [Again, this was over a decade before we found out that Lea Michele is apparently the rudest person in Hollywood and on Broadway. But she still has an amazing voice, and Spring Awakening is still an amazing show. Saw it twice in college.]
13. “Starlight” – Muse: This is an awesome band, and this song is so precious. [Not that big of a Muse fan anymore, but I still like this song, mostly for the mems.]
14. “The Fear You Won’t Fall” – Joshua Radin feat. Priscilla Ahn: The combination of the strings and the sweet words make this duet adorable. [Can’t quite remember where I first heard this song, but it might’ve been on a celebrity playlist. Not available on Spotify.]
15. “Stop Me” – Mark Ronson feat. Daniel Merriweather: Not only is this a cool remake of the original, but I also love how it creatively includes a line from The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”. [First heard this song on Nip/Tuck, one of the most formative shows of my TV-consuming life. The surgeons used a Bang & Olufsen stereo in the operating room, so you know they were serious about music.]
16. “Gifted” – N.A.S.A. feat. Kanye West, Santigold & Lykke Li: Each of these artists are geniuses in their respective genres, and together, they’re hot! [This song is a bop, but I no longer refer to Kanye West as a genius.]
17. “Love Will Come Through” – Travis: This is one of my favorite songs of all time. Just listen to it, and you’ll understand. [You actually might not understand.]
18. “Down To The River To Pray” – Alison Krauss: If I had to imagine the voice of an angel, this would be it. Alison Krauss’s delivery is pure, flawless, and exquisite, and she was probably what first sparked my interest in bluegrass. This song is from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and is the epitome of perfection. [Can confirm Alison Krauss is still flawless.]
19. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – Canadian Brass: Brass groups that are actually talented and consistently in tune are hard to come by these days, but this one never disappoints! This song makes me think of my dad, who used to wake me up on Sunday mornings by blaring the Canadian Brass Christmas album throughout the entire house, and is beautifully haunting. [Dad still does this whenever I’m home.]
20. “Precious” – Depeche Mode: Depeche Mode is such a cool band, and I love the sentimental meaning behind this song. It also reminds me of a jazz class, in which I danced to this song. [Some unusual music choices in this particular jazz class. Pretty sure we danced to Evanescence at one point.]
21. “It’s All About The Benjamins (Remix)” – Puff Daddy feat. The Notorious B.I.G., The Lox & Lil’ Kim: Basically, this song is B.A.M.F. [Haha “B.A.M.F.”… Another sign of the times.]
22. “Black Balloon” – Goo Goo Dolls: Unfortunately, many bands today sound a lot worse live than they do on their albums. The Goo Goo Dolls are not one of them. Also, I’ve just always loved this song. [Goo Goo Dolls was one of my first concerts… I’ll always have a soft spot for them.]
23. “Wine Red” – The Hush Sound: The best thing about working at Hollister in high school, other than the discount, was listening to some really cool music. This indie rock band has a unique style, and I particularly like their female vocals and use of the piano. I chose this song because I constantly find myself contemplating the meaning behind it. [I cannot stress enough how much Hollister shaped my musicality. So many great bands on its computerized jukebox, which anyone–employees and customers–could choose from. I also saw The Hush Sound at U Street Music Hall a few years ago during their reunion tour and it was truly magical.]
24. “Cinema Paradiso Suite” – Dave Koz: Dave Koz is an amazing saxophonist, and his rendition of this beautiful song is simply mesmerizing. [R.I.P. Ennio Morricone, original composer of this song and many other masterful film scores.]
25. “Chariot” – Gavin DeGraw: I don’t know why I like this song, but I’ve always considered it to be a classic. [For some reason I frequently hear this at places like Walgreens.]
26. “Golden” – Jill Scott: I frequently use this song as a pick-me-up. [Definitely one of the best pick-me-up songs.]
27. “Crash Into Me” – Dave Matthews Band: Slightly creepy intentions are hidden in this graceful, delicate song. I also remember dancing to it in a lyrical class. [Still remember the choreography from that lyrical combination. Also the movie Ladybird perfectly captured what this song meant to every teenage girl in the late 90s and early 2000s.
28. “Daughters” – John Mayer: John Mayer is a such a talented musician, and I always wonder what he experienced that compelled him to write this song. [Can’t remember if John Mayer had really gone off the deep end yet. He’s insane, but still a talented musician.
29. “Juicy” – Better Than Ezra: This song has swagger written all over it. [Did I think listening to this song gave me swagger? Probably.]
30. “She Don’t Wanna Man” – Asher Roth feat. Keri Hilson: I chose this song just for fun. It’s great to dance to, and the lyrics, as well as the music video, are really funny! [Still fun!]
31. “9 Crimes” – Damien Rice feat. Lisa Hannigan: Another depressingly somber, but stunning duet. [Still stunning.]
32. “Bach: Concerto In D Minor For 2 Violins, BWV 1043 – 1. Vivace” – Hilary Hahn: The Bach double was one of my favorite pieces to play when I was still taking violin lessons, and it can be pictured as a conversation between two violinists. I chose Hilary Hahn’s rendition because she adds the right amount of energy, intensity, and expression. [Hilary Hahn is a violin goddess. She likely also has the biggest Instagram following out of all violinists (298,000 followers).]
33. “I Know What I Am” – Band Of Skulls: I like to spontaneously rock out to this song. [Back when I would “spontaneously rock out.”]
34. “I Get Around” – Dragonette: I wish they’d play this one at the clubs/bars. [I never did hear this at a club or bar, unfortunately.]
35. “Son’s Gonna Rise” – Citizen Cope feat. Carlos Santana: This song is the jam. [Sure.]
36. “Time Of The Season” – The Zombies: This song was the jam 40 years ago and makes me feel like a drugged out hippie. [No comment.]
37. “High Of 75” – Relient K: There’s nothing like the combination of punk rock, Christian roots, and optimistic lyrics to lift your spirit! [What a combo! Relient K was my first concert in high school, and I have no regrets. Another Hollister favorite.]
38. “I Told You So” – Keith Urban: The lyrics in this song are so sweet, and I love the Celtic influences. [Think this is the only Keith Urban song I know.]
39. “New World In My View” – King Britt: If you don’t know who she is, look up Sister Gertrude Morgan, and this song will become even more fascinating. [I first heard this song during the end credits of an episode of True Blood (another show with a fantastic soundtrack). And I recently heard it again in the movie Selma. Probably wouldn’t add it to a playlist today, but it works well in films and on TV.]
40. “Vienna” – Billy Joel: Out of the multiple wise ideas in this song, my favorite is the overall message that life will turn out alright in the end. [An increasingly important message in today’s economy.]