On in the Background

I didn't mean to have two music-oriented posts in a row, but because of poor planning, that's where we are. And where we are is here, today, on the first day of the Back to Blogging Non-challenge Challenge! Before I dive into the first prompt, I want to take a moment to say thanks for your awesome response. Whether you're joining me for one prompt, a handful, or all 10, I'm glad you're here. (And if you have no clue what I'm talking about, click here!)
When I came up with the first prompt, "Three (or however many you choose) songs that define your life and why," I had one song in mind for myself. But after thinking about it a bit more, it ended up not making the cut. If I think about it, what I really wanted to talk about is the soundtrack to my life. The songs that were on in the background or that I was singing along to in my life's defining moments. And while I'm the type of person who has never heard a song she couldn't relate to a personal relationship or experience, as soon as I sat down, a few songs emerged as stand-outs.

Music has always been important to me. I'm a person preoccupied with words (you're shocked, I can tell) and I've found solace a million more times than I can count in the lyrics written by others. When my own words failed, or when they were sticky or graceless or fumbling lazily around my brain, I have always clung to song lyrics and quotes. I remember songs by the moments they've illustrated, either in reality or in my mind.

To list my favorite songs would be an exercise in exhaustion. Instead, I'm writing the soundtrack to my life.

Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life"

When I was little, maybe about 5, I watched Dirty Dancing for the first time in the back room at my aunt's house with my two cousins. I remember my mother being less than happy with them for letting me watch the movie during that sleepover—the damage was done. I was in love with Patrick Swayze, and I had to watch that movie any chance I could. I had been in ballet lessons since I was 2, so that love was already there too. Every age and stage of my life from then on has been punctuated by this movie and the goosebump-inducing "Now I've...." that starts this iconic song: practicing The Lift with my dad or brother at the pool, squealing over a shared love of Dirty Dancing with new friends as I got older, countless viewings on the couch with mom whenever we happened to flip through the channels and find it on cable, tearing up every dance floor at every Sweet 16 or wedding (including my cousin's this past spring, where she leapt into the arms of the photographer and sent them both tumbling to the floor), and revisiting this movie I love so much every time my heart or soul needs a pick-me-up.

Eminem, "The Real Slim Shady"

I was way too young when this song came out to understand half of what was being talked about, but not too young to learn and repeat every single lyric as if I was in a contest with myself. I've loved Eminem ever since. I don't think it's strange that my love of language led to my love of some hip hop and rap, because lyrical gymnastics are so much fun. This song hit the scene around a time when I was desperate to be considered cool by my older brother and an older family friend, not to mention my peers. I have a distinct memory of the fifth grade end-of-year pool party, which for some reason featured a DJ who played this song and randomly stuck his mic into faces of kids standing in the front "row" of this weird little barricade thing, my face included, to see if we were as cool as Marshall Mathers. No, seriously you guys, spitting those lyrics was one of the coolest things I did in the year 2000. Now, years later, a friend and I still regularly engage in rap battles, and I continue to insist everyone STFU when an Eminem song comes on.

Story of the Year, "Until the Day I Die" 

Until somewhere in my freshman year of high school, I was that weird little pale girl who only listened to R&B and hip hop, for some reason. It was partly out of a misguided attempt to be ~ different ~ from the girls in my grade, partly because that's what my older brother listened to, partly because I liked music that made my hips just move (this one is still true). Anyway, cut to Dierdre: She was one of my closest friends in high school, and a few years older than me, meaning she drove before I did. And on those car rides, she introduced me to the bands that ended up becoming part of my identity as a high-schooler and college student. I will never forget how the conversion was triggered: One day when we were doing our usual take-turns approach to music, this song was on and I shut up and listen. The second verse goes "Should I bite my tongue / until blood soaks my shirt / we'll never fall apart / tell me why this hurts so much / My hands are at your throat / and I think I hate you / But still we'll say 'remember when' / Just like we always do." And I was in. Story of the Year became my lifeline. Their lyrics still hit me right in the gut, and write worlds I thought I was the only person living in. I wrote a college paper about a few of their songs. I've run to their albums more times than I can count. One day back in freshman year of high school, when the mix CD was e.ve.ry.thing, I skipped over an Eminem song to land on "Until the Day I Die," and Dierdre's work was done. I still love this band so, so much and am forever grateful to them for putting words and tunes and so much feeling onto experiences I would have sworn I lived in alone.

Dave Matthews Band, "You Might Die Trying" (Live Trax Vol. 13 version)

Y'all, I gotta get real specific and real dorky on this one. You probably know that now I'm a Dave Matthews Fan; every year I see them for DMB Weekend in June. But until 2009, I was not only NOT a fan, I was a hater. Mostly because I had friends who were SUPERfans that made the band feel really overrated and just not special enough to warrant shushing in the middle of a BBQ. Until this song was on during a quiet drive, this live recording, and my sax-loving ears perked up at 4:23 when LeRoi dropped in for his jam. I was changed. I wanted more, and ever since then, DMB has been the background noise to so many amazing times with friends, emotional moments on my own, and everything in between. It's brought me closer to people and the music has been there for me when no one else has. This list would not be complete without a DMB song, and this is the one that started it all for me.

Sia, "Alive" 

Today, this is my fight song.

Whether you're linking up today, maybe writing this one in the next couple weeks, or never joining at all, I'm still curious how other people measure their life in music. Do you have a few that describe your life perfectly, or that just seem to punctuate your timeline so well? Please share! And if you're interested in linking up today or any day over the next couple weeks, you can find all the deets right here.


  1. My rocker girl heart enjoys Until the Day I Die.
    One of my close friends had sex with Dave Matthews years ago.
    I really enjoyed this and plan a similar post because I love music, and I enjoy hearing music lovers describe songs that are important to them.

  2. I love Sia's song Alive - I belt that one out EVERY SINGLE time!! I also really love fight song - for some reason it really pumps me up that and one of eminem's songs from 8 Mile...forgetting the name but if it's 8 mile I feel silly LOL! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

  3. Time of my life!!! brings back memories. I saw dirty dancing in the theaters with my aunt when I was 12 and loved it (still do!)

  4. LOVE Sia, and it's perfect for a fight song. The Time of My Life is one of my favorites too, but I heard it on the radio way before I ever knew it was in a movie (and also hadn't seen Dirty Dancing until much later) #shelteredchild. I had completely forgotten about that Story of the Year song! I need to find some of my old mixtapes/CDs. I always love learning about what songs move people and why. I did one of these back in March and am debating whether to link that up or create a newer, different one.

  5. I absolutely love all of your songs! The Time Of My Life and Dirty Dancing is something I surely remember from childhood. I cant tell you how many times I watched that movie and wanted to recreate the lift scene!! And Slim Shady reminds me of my sister because she was OBSESSED with Eminem for so many years. Sia is the perfect fight song. I just love this prompt! I am having a hard time narrowing down songs for my post. It is going to take me forever! But I am up for the challenge!

  6. Music always says what I can't.

    My favorite part of this post is that I actually know some of the songs you listed! I know. I'm in shock, too.

    I have my post for this topic planned for next week. I know that maybe it was supposed to be this week but I have trouble following directions.

  7. Ah, Dirty Dancing. I LOVED this movie as a child - a child who did NOT understand what was happening half the time (the whole abortion thing? way over my head). I loved the cast, I loved the music, I OBVIOUSLY loved the dancing. The crazy thing is, this movie oddly holds up and I love it to this day; not just for nostalgia reasons...it's actually just an INCREDIBLE movie. I watched it on the beach this summer (my town does movie nights literally on the beach outside) and I was the happiest human alive.

  8. Obviously the Dirty Dancing “theme” needs no explanation from me. I love that entire soundtrack. I agree with you on Eminem. Being able to rap that entire song made you kind of cool when it was out. “Until the Day I Die” is a HUGE emo fave of mine. 100000% yes on DMB. Hated the superfans in high school. I never “got it”. And then I went to a show and I never looked back. With you on “Alive” as well. My list is going up this week (I think)!

  9. There is literally a Dave song (or a version of a Dave song) for everything. I'm glad you came around! I wasn't much of a fan until around 2009, either (something about the entire Groo Grux album grabbed me and made me want more). I think the way you feel about Dirty Dancing, I felt about Grease. I love your take on this so, so much and it makes me totally reevaluate what I would do with a similar post.

  10. i hadn't heard that sia alive song but i just googled the lyrics and talk about goosebump inducing. i know zero dmb songs, but i know plenty of people who are huge fans. i've had the time of my life is always a goodie, and nothing is the same as hearing the start of that song.. i love reading the stories behind songs, the soundtrack to peoples lives, even if i don't know the songs.

  11. Story of the Year brings back so many memories- I haven't thought about that song in such a long time and I know it was on a mix tape of mine at one point too. I love that you wrote a college paper about their music.


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