Category Archives: music

let the music play

It’s funny how we’re sort of born with our personalities firmly rooted in place. Each morning my second grade teacher, Mrs. O’Keefe, would lead us in a rousing rendition of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical Oklahoma! as we marched single-file into the classroom. Each morning. Oh, how I despised this routine. The song was a lie, a despicable lie, for if everything was truly going my way, I would not have been at school in the first place. And it didn’t help that the line about the corn being as high as an elephant’s eye would usually haunt me for the rest of the day.

Yep. I was a cynic from the start.

Looking back, this seems ridiculous. “Lighten up,” I want to tell my second-grade self. “You are seven years old.” But even though I’m not quite the misanthrope I once was, I still sort of, well, am. All of which makes the hunt for wedding music that much more complex, because I am just all sorts of turned off by your typical love songs. I need only glance at The Knot’s 50 Classic First Dance Songs and I immediately feel a bit queasy.

It’s not just that I don’t generally listen to that type of music. It’s that the heartfelt descriptions of love contained therein don’t really apply to my relationship. I love my partner, but I’m sorry, our love does not lift us up where we belong (where the eagles cry, on a mountain high). I am not everything I am because you loved me (uh, codependent much?). It all goes straight back to my second-grade aversion to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”: I don’t like being told what to feel, and when to feel it. My love isn’t contrived. It’s not something that fits off the rack, or straight out of the box. And maybe it’s just that old subversive, stubborn side of me coming out, but it so follows that I don’t think that songs played at weddings are required be 100% about fluffy, buttery love.* After all, in the immortal words of Etta James, “At last, my love has come along / If only you wouldn’t leave your clothes strewn all over the goddamned floor / And I really can’t stand that noise you make when you chew.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it would be fitting to throw some plodding, melancholia-inducing music on at the wedding and commence with the collective navel-gazing. But I know plenty of happy, uptempo tunes that aren’t necessarily about falling in or being in love. That and I love too many wonderful songs that, if you listen closely, are about breakups or hardships or not even necessarily about love at all. Why should I ban these from my wedding because they don’t follow a particular script? Huh?

So, yeah. Wedding songs. I have been thinking about them.

I’ve been pondering those infernal first dance songs the most, because let’s face it. The first dance — should you choose to have one — between you and your beloved is a statement. It’s like putting up a giant billboard in the middle of your wedding that reads: WE ARE TOTALLY IN LOVE. HERE, LET US SHOW YOU. So it’s gotta be good.

To that end, our choice has currently come down to two songs.

Option #1 is Arcade Fire’s “Haiti.” It was penned as an ode to Arcade Fire member Régine Chassagne’s cousins murdered by the Tonton Macoute militia during the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti. Um, whoa. Sounds like automatic wedding happiness fail, right? AND YET! It sounds so pretty and danceable.

Bonus points: Much of the song is sung in French, which means that most of our guests won’t have the capacity to even understand what the damned thing is about. Also, I started listening to Arcade Fire shortly after meeting the beau, and we have a poster from their June 2, 2007 show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley hanging on the wall opposite the foot of our bed. It was a good show.

Option #2 is… you’re going to laugh. Or at least snicker. No, seriously. Because Option #2 is “The Promise” by When In Rome. The actual video for the song frightened me,** so I am putting in the video clip for the ending of Napoleon Dynamite. Now, OK, this song is actually — GASP — about love. I know! After I just went off on a paragraphs-long rant against love songs! But these lyrics aren’t smarmy. They are simple, sincere, and non-threatening — even a little awkwardly endearing! “I’m sorry but I’m just thinking of the right words to say / I know they don’t sound the way I planned them to be.” That sounds like MY ENTIRE LIFE.

Bonus points: NAPOLEON DYNAMITE CONNECTION. That’s all I have to say about that.

EXTRA EXTRA BONUS POINTS: To my knowledge, none of the members of Arcade Fire nor When In Rome have been convicted or accused of raping or killing anybody!***

So, what do you think? Do you love songs about love? Do you hate songs about love? Are you planning on having a first dance? Did you already have one? What songs did you/will you play? Will I ever stop asking questions?****

Tell me everything!


* What? Your love isn’t all fluffy and buttery? Huh.

** Long flowing 80s dude hair! Pianos! Leaning against/forlornly looking out of windows! Tight butt jeans! Continuous camera pan! AUGH!

*** Thanks, Robin, for the ethical reminder.

**** Yes. Right about… now.

music make me lose control

You know what I hate? I hate when I am listening to ridiculous pop hip-hop music, trying to shake it so hard I dislodge my fillings, and then they have to go and break the beat for several measures while the artist — the chicas are particularly egregious offenders — swoops into this ridiculous WAY-OHHH-WAYYY-EEEEIIIIII-OHHHH-YEAHHHHH singsongy thing, kind of like they are trying to perform a pop hip-hop opera, and so I stand there awkwardly for a minute like: I don’t know how to dance to this. I don’t care about your vocal range. Give me the fucking BASS BACK.

I can’t dance, by the way. I like to think I can, especially when I am fortified with vitamins.* But then I catch sight of myself in a mirror and my arm is doing some wonky thing and I’m biting my lip, yes, biting my lip, even though I know that is quickest way to out yourself as the ultimate white girl dance dork. That still doesn’t stop me, though. What I lack in skill I make up for in enthusiasm.

Then I go directly home and put on some Joy Division. Because I can only stand so many lyrics like:

“T, to the A, to the S-T-E-Y / girl you tasty” **

Before my brain starts to wither.

Oh yeah, weddings. How does all this pertain to weddings? I don’t know. I’m sorry, OK? I am not a professional blogger. I am just a chick with a keyboard and a WordPress account and unrestricted internet access. These are dangerous things in the wrong hands.***

Dancing. Weddings. Dancing at weddings. See? I had a topic the entire time.

The beau, in what I suppose can be classified as a reversal of gender stereotypes, wants to take dancing lessons before the wedding. Me, I am like, eh? Whatever. Because while the tiny sliver of myself that secretly wants to be a star wishes we could pull off some ridiculously campy choreographed performance, the reality of the situation is that we can get away with doing the classic prom shuffle-sway for our first dance and no one will notice or even care. In fact, they will probably be too engaged in conversation with their tablemates or too preoccupied taking shots to even watch us most of the time. This is a little truth nugget I’m going to carry with me like a precious gem, for those times I get all squirmy and hand-wringy about ohmigod center-of-attention-anxiety.

Slight aside: The fact that the beau wants to take dancing lessons at all suggests that he doesn’t recall that one time when we took a free basic salsa class and proceeded to step all over each others’ feet. I was always a half measure behind, and in misdirected frustration I hissed that maybe his arms were too short,**** and he didn’t seem to want to dance with me after that. I know, I can’t figure out why either. But if he wants to give it another go-round, I’m totally game.

Still. Lessons or no, I imagine we probably won’t get much farther than the basic shuffle for the first dance. This matters to me naught. For soon we will reach the vitamin-enhanced, put-on-your-crazy-face part of the wedding celebration. I’m definitely not making any guarantees on the quality of dancing during this portion of the evening.

But you can bet your sweet bippy that in every damn picture I’ll be biting my lip.

Are you doing a first dance? Are you dancing at all? Talk to me.


* Read: Alcohol.

** Yeah, I’ve stopped trying to figure out that one out, too.

*** Read: Mine.

**** Uh, whut?

bringing down the house

Ah yes! It’s the old iPod versus DJ debate. It’s almost a right of passage for engaged couples now. I have read so many pro/con lists that I feel like it’s all been said.

But I’m going to say it anyway.

For a long, long while I was convinced I’d go iPod all the way. Music is extraordinarily important to me and I the last thing I want at the wedding* is some schlocky DJ sporting excessively gelled hair cavorting around the audio booth, spewing forth cheesy aphorisms in a pop radio-ready voice and playing jams so lousy that guests are congregating in the corners for fear of being spotted within several feet of the empty dance floor.**

I even spent hours developing an ultimate master playlist of songs that flowed from lounge-like to progressively dancier.*** I took into account our guests’ varied musical interests; frontloading the list with older, softer tunes ranging from Patsy Cline to Velvet Underground to early DJ Shadow and saving the Lyrics Born, Beastie Boys, and Gogol Bordello for the wilder, alcohol-induced, grandparents-have-gone-to-bed part of the evening. Yep, this way we’d hear what meant the most to us and our guests. Plus, we’d save a ton of money! The iPod was clearly the superior choice.

What convinced me I might be wrong after all?

I started reading**** accounts of others’ experience with DJs. I started to see how they could be vital to establishing a flow, reading a crowd, and elevating spirits. As an added bonus, neither the beau and I nor any of our friends would have to be distracted from the evening’s festivities by rushing over to the iPod to change playlists or add new music on the fly.


I warmed to the DJ idea pretty much immediately. And it didn’t hurt that one of my brigadiers has a cousin whose husband***** is in the music biz in L.A. We plan to try to make contact with some potential “underground” DJs (a.k.a., they don’t typically do weddings) via this tiny network. If that dead-ends, I figure we can toss up a Craigslist post and try to find someone cool that way.

But. There is always a but.

Our venue is going to kick us out at 10:00pm. Well, we’re actually supposed to be mostly gone by then, so I guess the party will start switching gears around 9:30pm. To put it bluntly, this kinda jacks the flow. 9:30pm is generally the wedding witching hour when the guests have a few drinks in them and their blood sugar levels are spiking from dessert. But instead of kicking things into high gear, we’ll be herding people onto the street. Boo.

I’m not saying this will ruin the whole evening, of course. But it’ll definitely be a real interruption. Not everyone will choose to continue with us to the after-party, so we’ll have to say some goodbyes a tad prematurely, and that will be kinda sad.

The after-party. We haven’t officially secured it yet, but we’re 98% sure that the second floor of a bar on State St. is going to be all ours. We’re not allowed to use our own iPod in there, nor bring in our own DJ (not to mention that would be complicated), so that means we’ll be subject to whatever the DJ downstairs chooses to play that night. Which will probably be your average pop/rap beats. This can be fun sometimes. But I’ve really been looking forward to having a massive dance party at some point during the evening, with some of the music I don’t usually hear in the average bar or club. And I’m kinda afraid that our luck will run out and we’ll get a downstairs DJ who is really into playing, I don’t know, Julio Iglesias Jr. and Ciara remixes, and so nobody will be in the mood to bust a move.

This also brings up another issue I’m grappling with: we are having an outdoor wedding that will start shutting down at 9:30pm. Do we really wanna hire a DJ when we won’t even be able to utilize him during the part of the night that’s most danceable? Is it really worth it just to hire somebody to play music during the cocktail hour and dinner?

As always, there are some options:

  1. Hire the DJ but move the ceremony start time back to 3:30 so that we have an earlier dinner and maybe an extra hour or so of dancing and talking with everyone before the party moves on to another location. At the after-party, deal with whatever random DJ is working the bar.
  2. Use an iPod during the ceremony and reception. Try to find somebody cheap who will agree to wrangle it on our behalf, plus act as psuedo-MC. At the after-party, deal with whatever random DJ is working the bar.
  3. Hire a local band during the ceremony and reception (ka-ching!). Look for a different place to have the after-party where we might be able to bring in our own DJ (ka-ching! ka-ching!)
  4. Various other combinations of all of the above that I don’t care to write out here lest you be rendered so bored and sleepy that you pass out and faceplant into your keyboard, and the “U” key gets kind of stuck into your forehead, and you don’t realize this until later when you wake up and you are clicking through the archives of your favorite web comic and the key falls off and plops into your mug of coffee and the coffee splatters on your new favorite sweater, and you’re like, goddamnit, I just washed this stupid sweater.
  5. Call off the wedding and stay home eating cookies.

Yeah. I’m liking #5.


* Besides a brawl to suddenly break out between my family and the beau’s, that is.

** Let me derail for a moment with a side story: I went to a wedding once where the DJ played only one song I wanted to dance to. The entire night. The rest of the songs made me want to pull a Monty Python and run away, run away! Dude, nobody should be expected to listen to — let alone get down to — Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.” That DJ was an utter disgrace. I can’t even postulate that he was skewing the songs towards the bride’s individual tastes, because I think I saw her on the floor a grand total of once during the evening. I can only hope that she wasn’t in a bathroom sobbing, “Oh God, somebody please make him turn off ‘Barbie Girl.'”

*** I started building this before we even got engaged, because wow, I’m super obsessive-compulsive awesome rad.

**** Reading. It’ll get you in trouble all the time.

***** You following this?