Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gym Songs, Karaoke Songs

If not for Planet Fitness and karaoke at Powell's Pub, I would not know these songs. Sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes I regret that my healthy and happy habits have made me cross paths with these moments in popular music.

"Picture" by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow

I've averaged at least one night of karaoke a week over this past year and this is, without a doubt, the song I've heard most often (yup, even more than "Don't Stop Believing"). It offers a couple of advantages. One, it isn't difficult to sing. Two, redneck girls can actually convince their drunk boyfriends to get up and sing this one, because what local redneck guy doesn't want to be just like Kid Rock? It isn't a terrible song, but it's long and sort of boring and the chorus sounds just like a snail pace version of "We're an American Band". I can't help groaning every time I see the title pop up on the monitor. Still, the results are usually less painful than "Don't Stop Believing".

I wonder if this song isn't quite as popular in places that don't call Kid Rock their homeboy, yes?... Please?

"Our Song" by Taylor Swift

Of all the songs I've discovered by way of Planet Fitness, this is one of the most "not bad". It has definitely improved my opinion of Ms. Swift. I was aware of who she was before I heard any of her songs, because of that humiliating Kanye West incident at the VMAs, as well as some other award show appearances. Every single time I saw her, the first words out of her mouth were "I'm a country musician," usually followed by something along the lines of, "You like me. You really like me!"

"I'm a country musician."

"I'm a country musician."

"I'm a country musician."

Clearly some A&R dude convinced her that this talking point would give her a devoted country audience despite the fact that songs like this are just overproduced pop. I think that scheme has worked. Several months ago, I met a newly engaged woman who described to me her fiancee's proposal. "He skated me to the middle of the rink and popped the question in the middle of my favorite Taylor Swift song! Have you heard of her? She's a country musician." Oh, boy.

Anyway, I like this song. I wish it were more stripped down, with more banjo, more actual country sound. But the lyrics are sweet and I admit, it gives me a little boost on the elliptical. Also, I appreciate that she wrote it, when she was very young, no less. I was disappointed by this oh-so-precious video. I like the one in my head better. It looks like the low-budget videos they used to show on The Nashville Network, with cornfields and cut-off shorts and the like.

"Who Knew" by Pink

Yeah, this is my JAM! For the record, I do realize that this song (and all the other ones, for that matter) is years old. I've been out of touch with new music for most of the last 10 years. I never listen to Top 40 radio stations so I don't know anything until it becomes Planet Fitness or Powell's-worthy, which seems to take 3-4 years. Oh, well.

Anyway, I think this song rocks. It's catchy throughout with a great chorus and it's fun to sing. I rather like this video, too. It's pleasantly simple and forgettable, which is great if you just want to get into the song. Plus, her hair looks cool and all that carousel madness at the end reminds me of the awesome, violent finale from "Strangers on a Train". Aces, Pink! I am always happy to hear this while I'm working out, or see the title appear on the old karaoke monitor.

"The Sweet Escape" by Gwen Stefani

I HATE this song. I actually heard it quite a bit when it came out. The line "I know I've been a real bad girl," was enough to seal my sense of loathing, but hearing it almost every time I go to Planet Fitness makes me angry to the point of wanting to bludgeon Gwen Stefani with her hair. You know, I might not hate it at all if it were just 2 1/2 minutes long, but it's 4. I've timed it on the gym machines. I suppose I can credit it for some pretty hardcore workouts - "If I pedal faster will this song be over sooner?"

Fortunately, no one sings this at karaoke, which is curious because chicks with good voices love Gwen Stefani. "Don't Speak" is a show-off jam, and "I'm Just a Girl" and "Hollaback Girl" are also popular standards (though I like a good "Spiderwebs" best - the idea of "screening phone calls" is now so quaint!). But no one seems to want anything to do with this song. I'd like to believe this is a rare example of common good taste, like when they banned that OJ book a few years back.

"Fancy" by Reba McEntire

Though it's really old, I first heard this song when my friend L - a high falutin' academic super nerd - sang it at Powell's about a year ago. She's from Missouri. Thank Jeebus for Powell's and my pals who grew up with country music, or I would be completely unprepared for my imminent move to Tennessee. And what a video! Those sunglasses, that acting, and how about that twist ending! It's so effin' sad and I love it. I think I've actually heard this at the gym because I remember Dan and I getting really excited about it. I like it more each time I hear it and I notice that women who sing it tend to do it really well. It's almost sacred. No one has the nerve to fuck up "Fancy".


I used to rip on Planet Fitness's music selection but I'll be sad if our Chattanooga gym doesn't play music. I don't like wearing headphones while I'm sweating and beside that, it's my one chance to be forced into a meeting with pop music. I have so many opportunities to choose the songs I hear. I like surrendering control sometimes, as long as I don't have to listen to any commercials.

As for karaoke in Chattanooga, I just hope to avoid this auto tune business. It just isn't karaoke if everyone sounds good. How can we distinguish the rare triumphs from the more common mediocrity? If everyone can sing really well, will anyone bother with "Picture" or will they all turn to Journey? I fear for the lack of variety...

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