Heartbreak Songs

October 26, 2006

On my quest to listen to all of my music alphabetically, I'm up to the songs that start with "Heart." You might not be surprised to hear that there's a lot of country music in this section. Lots of country music writers out there with heartache.

So how do I make sure that I listen to all of the songs?

I have a playlist on my ipod that gives me all of the songs that I haven't rated. They're sorted alphabetically, and I just start playing at the start of the list when I'm in the mood to make progress on this little project. As I hear a song, I select a rating for them. This gives me the added benefit of having ratings associated with songs, which I can then use to build other playlists (for example, "Give me all of the songs by Shaggy with 4 stars or better." or "Give me all of the one star songs, except for those by Barbara Striesand or Bette Midler.")

For the sake of full disclosure, I have both Barbara Striesand and Bette Midler in my music library. I keep them off of the actual ipod. They got there because Mrs. theskinnyonbenny borrowed the entire CD library from our friend Stacie, and ripped them all to disk with no censorship at all. This action accounts for 75% of what I would generously refer to as "crap" in my music collection.

Thank the Lord, "Heartbeat" by Wham! just completed playing as I was typing this. I force myself to have the discipline to listen to each song all the way through. It is very very very likely that I will never listen to this song all the way through ever again.

I use the following guidelines for my ratings.

* One star is reserved for the truly God-awful. A song has to be almost comically bad to be rated as one star. The Wham! song referred to above is the first song that I've rated as one star in a long, long time. I also use this for non-songs, like the little spoken interludes that rappers are so fond of sticking into their albums.
** This one is reserved for the generally bad. It's a pretty big category. Neil Diamond is currently singing his rendition of Heartbreak Hotel in my ears. This one will get a two.
*** This is a big category reserved for generally good songs. It's probably the largest category of them all. When I get to Elvis's Heartbreak Hotel, it will probably go here.
**** This is for really really good songs. My guideline is that if it's a song that makes you reach to turn up the volume or rewind when it's done so you can hear it again, then it should get a four. Willie Nelson's version of Heartbreak Hotel didn't quite make the cut. The most recent 4-star song I hit was "Heart In a Cage" by The Strokes. I had to give that some consideration, because I couldn't decide if it was legitimately a 4-star song, or if it just seemed like one because it followed Olivia Newton-John's "Heart Attack."
***** Five star songs are the best of the best. I can't remember the last time that I used up a five on a song. I don't need to provide examples here. You all know what music gets you going -- the songs that you immediately crank up when you're alone and in a bad mood, the songs that gave you chills the first times you heard them, the ones that make you remember awesome times when you were young and free, or the ones that you've listened to at your desk 50,000 times. Of course everybody's five-star list would be different, and everybody's list is correct -- for them. Unless they put Bette Midler in there. Then they're just a fools. I will give you one five-star tidbit from my library: any time I get any new sound equipment, be it a pair of headphones, a new stereo, a new car, or whatever, U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" is always the first tune that gets played. That's my little ritual.