I was recently on a date and was asked the most embarrassing thing about myself I would admit to the world. I told her my favorite song, and let me tell you. But first…
My favorite musical artist is They Might Be Giants, and has been since the early 2000s. The circumstances around being exposed to TMBG involved a person and family I want nothing to do with these days (and don’t want to go into here), but suffice it to say the enjoyment in the music itself endured.
I have nearly every album, including oddities such as Flood: Live in Australia. I could probably recite all the lyrics to Flood itself. I play When Will You Die from the album Join Us whenever a prominent Terrible Person dies. (♫ School children stay at home (yeah!) and all the banks will close (yeah!), each year will mark the date on which we celebrate ♪).
I’ve been to several concerts, including arguably the best experience: They opened for themselves in San Francisco as a TMBG cover band, Sapphire Bullets (“the only They Might Be Giants tribute band that matters”). They performed Flood start to finish, left the stage, came back as TMBG and played their main set.
I have a payphone in my kitchen which (besides being fully functional) is programmed to play a random TMBG song when you dial (718) 387-6962, the old Dial-a-Song line.
And yet my favorite song is not a They Might Be Giants song.
There are a number of other artists and albums I enjoy. The Flaming Lips. Joan Jett. Blue Man Group’s studio albums. I have all the albums by Boris the Sprinkler, a relatively obscure punk rock band from Green Bay. (There’s actually a few entertaining stories involving coincidences and them, but that’s for another time.)
I have a thing for female singer-songwriters, usually one-hit wonders who I later discover have other really good content. Sara Bareilles. Dido. Colbie Caillat. My current fling is KT Tunstall.
Often I’ll find an artist and discover an album, get really into it, start looking at their other albums and discover I don’t like their other stuff as much. Architecture in Helsinki and In Case We Die. Björk and Post. Spoon and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
But my favorite song is not by any of the artists I’ve mentioned so far.
Many years ago, I read a series of short stories by a woman named Ali Davis, True Porn Clerk Stories. These were originally a series of blog posts which are no longer available; she later compiled them into a book. Ali worked at one of those “Family Video”-style stores which ostensibly looked like a normal video rental store, but had a large back section for porn rentals which comprised most of their business. The stories are both hilarious and sad, in a similar style to Acts of Gord, which chronicles the adventures in managing a video game store. I definitely recommend reading both.
In one of Ali’s stories, she describes her 7AM opening routine, and her love for Aqua’s 1997 album Aquarium.
What keeps me awake is Aquarium, by Aqua. You may remember Aqua - they were a Danish-Norwegian technopop group that won both worldwide fame and my heart by pissing off Mattel with the song “Barbie Girl”. […] And that’s when I discovered that I love Aquarium. It’s the very finest in Scandinavian synth-pop dance music. It’s incredibly chipper, in a modern Abbaesque sort of way.
She would play Aquarium every morning, from start to finish. The first song is Happy Boys and Girls, and, fittingly for her employment, is about how sex is fun. Needless to say, this album annoyed the customers and pissed off the employees. But it made her happy.
After reading that, I bought the album myself, and grew to love it. And Happy Boys and Girls epitomizes the album as a whole. It’s driving and unabashedly upbeat and happy. I have a few other favorites on the album (I’ll often loop Doctor Jones when running, as the driving tempo lines up well), but Happy Boys and Girls has grown to be my favorite song.
(Before you ask, in my opinion Barbie Girl is not a bad song per se, but is not in my top half of songs on the album. Oh, and go listen to the full album. If you’ve heard Barbie Girl, you probably assumed the girl and guy were putting on over-the-top voices for that song. No, that’s actually their real singing voices.)