We are now less than two weeks away from the launch of PARTIALS! I’m having two big signings to kick everything off:
February 28, 7pm
Sam Weller’s in SLC
*please note that the event is at 7pm, not 6pm as originally posted*
February 29, 6pm
Barnes & Noble in Orem
The characters in PARTIALS live in the ruins of the world you and I leave behind, eleven years after a devastating plague wipes out 99.9% of the human race. They scavenge through the old, empty stores and houses to find things they need, like clothes and canned food, and one of the characters, a girl named Xochi, collects music players—iPods, Zunes, and so on. This is one of my favorite little quirks of the novel, because a music player is so much more than a song or an album: it’s a record of who you are, reflected through your music. It’s a little piece of your personality that survives the plague and reaches out to future generations.
So this got me thinking: if somebody found my music player in the wreckage of the old world, what would it say about me? I’d love to just plop my entire iPod up here for you to listen to, but it’s several gigs and way too big. What I can do, though, is create a little mini musical portrait of myself—a representative playlist to show you who I am and what I’m about. I’ve painfully narrowed it down to 15 songs, and here they are.
Everlong, by the Foo Fighters
We might a well start at the top: “Everlong” is my very favorite song. I’ve included both the standard version and the acoustic; the acoustic video includes clips of an anime called FLCL, and I watched it every day while writing I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER.
The acoustic version, with FLCL
Tu, by Shakira
Before she came to the US and got all big and flashy, Shakira was a simple Columbian singer writing beautiful, personal, confessional songs about life and love. I discovered her back when I lived in Mexico, and over the years her second album, “Donde Estan Los Ladrones?” has become my favorite album of my collection. “Tu” is sweet and sad, a love song with an almost Country-like sound. I love it.
A Day in the Life, by The Beatles
Now you know my favorite song and my favorite album, so how about my favorite group? It’s The Beatles, hands down, and this is one of their best songs—though not, I admit, their most accessible song. “A Day in the Life” is about living in a world that’s too fast, and too disconnected, and too artificial. I respond to it very strongly.
The song predates music videos, but here’s the music
Common Reactor, by Silversun Pickups
My other favorite group (hey, I’m allowed to have two) is the Silversun Pickups, and holy crap was it hard to pick just one of their songs to put on this list. I eventually went with “Common Reactor” because it’s the most-played song in my iPod, and it’s a great choice. Nobody does a delayed resolution like these guys.
They never made a video, but here’s the music
Gimme Shelter, by The Rolling Stones
I write apocalyptic, dystopian fiction, so there’s got to be at least one raging protest song on here, right? My pick goes right back to the source, the seething anthem of social unrest: “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones. Bonus PARTIALS connection: the woman singing backup sang so hard she miscarried the next day.
There’s plenty of live versions on youtube, but the studio version has the best sound quality
Over the Confluence of Giants, by DJ Earworm
I’m a huge fan of musical mashups—taking two or more songs and splicing them together to make a new one. A lot of mashups are just “the music from one song and the words from another,” and I love those too, but “Over the Confluence of Giants” is the song that convinced me the art form could go so much further. DJ Earworm took five or six different songs and created something entirely new and amazing.
There’s no iTunes link because it’s free. Here’s a direct link to the file on DJ Earworm’s website
Sabotage, by the Beastie Boys
I’m kind of a metalhead, and this is my pick to represent that vast portion of my music collection. Whenever I needed to write a big action scene for PARTIALS (and there are several), I always listened to “Sabotage” to get me in the mood.
One of the best music videos ever made
At Seventeen, by Janis Ian
One of the things I love about art is the ability to make your audience feel two different emotions at once: love and fear, or joy and sadness. The dissonance in those contradictions is a powerful experience. “At Seventeen” is a gorgeous 70s pop song about a girl who thinks she’s ugly and nobody likes her. It’s beautiful and heart-wrenching, and that combination is one of my favorite things in the world.
No video, but here’s the music
Me and Bobby McGee, by Janis Joplin
While we’re in the 70s, let’s listen to the opposite end of the spectrum, a woman so raw and powerful she helped define an entire era. When I set out to write Kira Walker, the main character of PARTIALS, I used a lot of Janis Joplin for inspiration: the strength, the refusal to compromise, and just a touch of the apocalyptic abandon in the chorus of “Me and Bobby McGee”: “Freedom’s just another word for ‘nothing left to lose.’”
None of the youtube versions have very good sound quality, but this is the best
The Finale of Swan Lake. Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky
I love classical music, and more specifically the Romantic era with it’s intense, emotional waves of sound. Swan Lake is, yes, a ballet about swans, which makes it sound like the non-manliest thing ever created, but listen to the finale. There’s a beauty and a power in here that moves me every time.
A clip from the American Ballet Theater
You Can Call Me Al, by Paul Simon
Being a writer, I like to pay special attention to the lyrics of a song—good music is good music, but if it also has amazing words I will love it forever. Paul Simon is one of the best songwriters in the business, and Graceland is one of my favorite albums: simple yet experimental, light yet clever, and lyrically brilliant. “You Can Call Me Al” never fails to make me smile.
The official music video was improvised with Chevy Chase on the set of SNL
Seria Feliz (Nortec Remix), by Julietta Venegas and Bostich
This is the weirdest song on my list, and not coincidentally the one that probably represents me the most directly. It’s techno, but it samples mariachi instead of traditional electronica; it’s a mashup; it’s in Spanish. I believe that art can come from anywhere, regardless of genre or convention or medium, and “Seria Feliz,” remixed by Bostich, demonstrates that more clearly than anything in my collection.
Make sure you’re ready for a face full of awesome
Houston, by Visqueen
This song is here to represent two giant chunks of my iPod: the chick rock section and the kind of hipstery “you’ve probably never heard of them” indie rock section. Visqueen’s biggest song was “Blue,” and that’s the one that got me to check them out, but “Houston” is my favorite. Why? Because sometimes you don’t need a reason to love something.
No video, just music
Helena, by My Chemical Romance
Another representative selection, this time showcasing my goth rock tendencies. My Chemical Romance does incredible videos, especially for “Helena” and “I’m Not OK.” “Helena” in particular is not only goth but a screaming mix of punk and emo. So many people hate goth, and emo even more so, but you know what? Be who you are.
If I ever go goth, this video will be why
And why not, here’s “I’m Not OK,” because linking to stuff is easy
Fake Plastic Trees, by Radiohead
And Radiohead brings us home, returning to the sentiments of The Beatles “A Day in the Life”: we live in a world that’s artificial and disconnected, where we try so hard to fit in, to look different, to be something we’re not, that we lose ourselves completely. Do you say things because they’re true, or because other people expect to hear them? Are you real, or are you a fake plastic version of yourself? “Fake Plastic Trees” is epic and tragic and a perfect cap to my playlist.
The official video
So there you go: If you found those songs in the rubble of some lost, forgotten house, I think you’d get a pretty good idea of who I am, and what I value, and what makes me tick. How about you? What does your music say about who you are? Which songs will reflect your personality to the rest of the world?