May Roundup: Girls, TV, Guilty Pleasures, and More

This month, we ditched our monthly themes and spent four weeks making mini-soundtracks about songs named after girls, guilty pleasures, driving, TV, and more. In between, Joshua taught the haters how to enjoy Meat Loaf, Miriam Doyle showed us the best songs about losing your virginity, Noura Hemady helped us learn to love the Walkmen, and Jeff King gave us 5 history lessons in the form of 5 songs. A big thank you to our guest bloggers this month!

Songs Named After Girls:

Songs Named After Girls by Claire

Songs Named After Girls by Joshua

Songs About Claires by Claire

This Might Be Proof That We’re Not Music Snobs:

Top 5 Guilty Pleasure Songs by Claire

Top 5 Guilty Pleasure Songs by Joshua

Top 5 Guilty Non-Pleasures by Joshua

Guilty Non-Pleasures: Bands I Don’t Like, Even Though I Should by Claire

Driving Songs:

Top 5 Driving Songs by Joshua

Top 5 Driving Songs by Claire

TV Songs, and Musical Moments:

Top 5 TV Theme Songs: The Classics by Claire

Top 5 TV Theme Songs: “Highbrow,” I Guess by Joshua

Top 5 TV Musical Moments by Claire

New Music, For Haters and Non-Haters:

Get to Know The Walkmen by Noura Hemady

Meat Loaf, For the Haters by Joshua

More Awesome Stuff

Top Songs About Losing Your Virginity by Miriam Doyle

Top 5 Songs for a History Major by Lcpl. Jeff King

Songs About Moms by Claire

Top 5 TV Musical Moments (by Claire)

TV musical antics don’t end with the theme song. If they did, we would miss out on so much! Plot-moving karaoke, musical episodes, magical soundtracks, big performances, rowdy sitcom bands (Every TGIF show ever featured an episode about characters starting a band. But that’s a whole other list.) Here are the Top 5 occasionally earnest, more often hilarious, musical moments from a few of my favorite shows. Enjoy.

“I Will Always Love You,” sung by Lorelai Gilmore (played by Lauren Graham) on the Gilmore Girls

The Gilmore Girls is one of those shows that had an unexpectedly terrific soundtrack. The show was known for it’s whip-fast dialog and litany of references (so many that DVD sets for the seasons came with a booklet tracing each book, song, and trivia fact scattered through Loreleia and Rory’s conversations), but a little homage should be paid to their consistently smart use of music—from their Carol King penned theme song (King appeared in a handful of episodes as the owner of a music store), to their town troubadour, to their exploration of countless bands and genres through Lane’s music-fueled rebellion. Music nerds in the audience will enjoy the fact that in the scene above, a snippet of conversation between Rory and her friend Lane is used to immediately remind the audience that “I Will Always Love You” was originally by Dolly Parton, not Whitney Houston.

This is another example of music used wisely on Gilmore Girls. Lorelai’s karaoke rendition of “I Will Always Love You” took place during the last season. It starts out as a campy, admittedly embarrassing, performance. She’s grinning and gesticulating wildly, playing to a rowdy audience full of friends, when Luke, her ex-fiancee, walks into the bar. And very suddenly, the whole song changes.  Lorelai shrugs and stumbles, instantly losing the upbeat tone as she begins to direct the song to Luke, letting Dolly Parton’s words say all the things she hasn’t been able to say. The last season of Gilmore Girls was a tough one for fans. The creators of the show left at the end of the previous season. Convaluted storylines and forced dialog made the show inconsistent and ultimately unsatisfying. In a weak season, Lorelai’s accidental ode to Luke shines.

“Parents Just Don’t Understand,” rapped by Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) on Parks and Recreation

(**Click on the image above for the video)

Leslie Knope’s version of “Parents Just Don’t Understand” is a perfect snapshot of her character for a Parks and Rec beginner: Playful (see: this whole bit), fun (how much better would your day be if Amy Poehler came to your office and rapped for you? Come on.), collaborative (Tom/Aziz Ansari’s drum solo is immediately appreciated and incorporated), overly committed (actually picking up Jerry’s phone), and a little annoying in a totally endearing way (Amy Poehler’s occasional super high nasal voice only makes me like her more). And the ending where Ron Swanson says he originally came into her office because someone is on fire in one of the parks? Priceless.

“Miami Miami,” sung by Rose and Dorothy (played by Betty White and Bea Arthur) on The Golden Girls

The central theme for the episode is the process of songwriting, specifically between new song writing partners Rose and Dorothy. They’re trying to compose a song about Miami for a contest. Both women have some musical talent, but putting it together proves difficult. Lyrics like “Miami is nice, so I’ll say it twice” turn into a comically repetitive “Miami is nice, so I’ll say it thrice,” followed by the requisite Miami-is-niceities. Brainstorming sessions end in “Miami you’re cuter than, an interuterine.” But the ladies are reveling in all of the songwriting quirks and pratfalls: jargon, brainstorming, arguing, hurting the music, then hurting the lyrics, tearing up songs and trying again. It’s a sweet, honest look at a music lover’s dream: actually creating music versus just consuming it. In the end, the ladies are let down when their second place standing doesn’t win them any attention or accolades. But they come out of the process with a solid song and an all-Golden-Girl-sing-a-long with Blanche and Sophia.

“Afternoon Delight,” sung by Michael and Maebe (played by Jason Bateman and Alia Shawkat) on Arrested Development

**Click on the image above for the video

One of my favorite parts of Arrested Development was their incorporation of music into running jokes (especially with their original songs like All You Need Is Smiles, Big Yellow Joint, and For British Eyes Only). Here, Michael and Maebe find out what we all learned after watching Anchorman: “Afternoon Delight” is a sonically wholesome, lyrically filthy ditty. Unfortunately, they find out during a karaoke performance at the company Christmas party when they’re trying to revenge-bond to get back at their respective mother and son. The thoroughly disgusted faces of Michael’s coworkers after watching him duet with his niece are hysterical, as is Michael’s awkward end of the performance, where he shoos Maebe off in the opposite direction.  One of my other favorite parts of Arrested Development was their penchant for revisiting jokes—another duet of this song, this time between nephew and aunt, appears later in this episode.

“(Night Time Is) The Right Time” performed by Cliff, Theo, and Rudy (Bill Cosby, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and Keshia Knight Pulliam) on The Cosby Show 

**Click image above for clip

One of the most classic musical TV moments, and a moment that proves two things we already knew:

1) The Cosbys were the best family ever: Could you imagine rounding up your relatives for a perfectly choreographed and lip-synched musical number for your grandparents’ anniversary? Would you go out of your way to train a maybe-4 year old to be the most integral part of the performance? I know we live in a time of lip-dubs, musical proposals, family dance routines at weddings—but this was way before all that, pre-big showy lip-synched ceremony. And it’s not even a big public event like a wedding—it’s in their house, just for the lucky grandparents. Okay, I know they’re fictional, but still—the Cosbys were the best. End of story.

2) Keshia Knight Pulliam was the world’s cutest child: Now she’s all grown up and hilariously beautiful, but lets not forget the ovary-busting adorableness that was Rudy, newly sans front teeth, hamming it up to Ray Charles.

If you can’t get enough Cosby, watch their less celebrated but equally awesome performance of James Brown’s “I Got the Feeling.”

Top 5 TV Theme Songs: “Highbrow”, I guess

Earlier today Claire wrote about the Top 5 Classic TV Theme Songs, or, to say it another way, Top 5 TV Theme songs written specifically for the show. What I’m talking about here are songs written by others then appropriated for the purpose of being the theme for the show. The best ones of these are lost to time: We forget we’ve heard them (or just haven’t heard them) before and link them inextricably in our minds to these shows. The absolute best ones (like the ones I’m about to show you) make you forget you ever heard them and reference them only by the show.

In that vein, I will be listing them by show first, then by song. You understand, I’m sure.

The Adventures of Pete & Pete: “Hey Sandy” by Polaris

I knew, as soon as Claire and I began discussing this topic, I had to talk about a Nickleodian show from the early 90’s. They all are classics in my mind, from Are You Afraid of the Dark? to Ren & Stimpy. But there was a show that stood out for me always, and that was Pete & Pete. It was a show filled with such youthful exuberance, with such childhood oddity, with such beauty and tragedy that it was odd to see on a Saturday afternoon. And the theme song was perfect: It had the burgeoning sound of early 90’s college rock, which we now know as indie rock, and it captured that sound of beaten up but not beaten down, of trampled upon but not trodden, of pushed to the sidelines but not out of the game.

I miss Pete & Pete.

The Sopranos: “Woke Up This Morning (Chosen Few Mix)” by Alabama 3

This is the first of three HBO shows in a row. HBO has an amazing talent for opening theme songs, especially since each show I’m going to talk about never uses any incidental music (backing music, like musical stings for when shit happens to tell the audience how to feel. I’m looking at you, True Blood). This song is no exception. I don’t think I’d ever heard the song before the show started, but damned if didn’t just perfectly capture the theme of the show. It’s about as morally ambiguous as Tony Soprano, and even more enigmatic. I’ve listened to the song three times in a row writing this blurb, and I have gotten something new out of it each time.

The Wire: “Way Down in the Hole” by Tom Waits, as performed by The Blind Boys of Alabama

This may be a little odd to talk about, as each season has a different cover of the Tom Waits original, except the second season, which features Waits’ version. And each season’s cover is tied into the theme of the season through the tambour of each version. And while my favorite season of the show is probably the fourth season, my favorite version of the song is the cover done in the first season by The Blind Boys of Alabama. It’s just so perfect to sum up every bit of the show: It’s gritty, it’s sloppy, it’s a little bizarre, and it has a great beat in the backbone.

Treme: “The Treme Song” by John Boutté

When I first was told about this show, I knew I had to watch it. It had everything I wanted in a show: It was on HBO, it was made by the same people who did The Wire, and it was about crazy-ass musicians and music in New Orleans. And right from the theme song, I wasn’t disappointed. It’s such a fun song! Do yourself a favor: Even if you haven’t seen the show, go out and buy the soundtrack to the first season (as recently given to me by Miriam Doyle, frequent guest poster). It’s fun, it upbeat, and possibly the best music ever to put on when you’re at work and need a pick-me-up.

The Wonder Years: “With A Little Help From My Friends” by The Beatles, as performed by Joe Cocker

I’m not going to get into the perennial argument over which version of this song is better (Please. The Cocker version smokes The Beatles’ version and we all know it.), but I will say that this is the perfect version for the opening credits to The Wonder Years. It’s set to home Super-8 footage of the Arnold family, a loving and super-normal 1960’s suburban family.

Wonder Years wasn’t a super groundbreaking show, nor was it a particularly sappy show. It was, however, much beloved in the Feldman-Saunders household, and I grew up watching repeats of it on Nick at Night (remember when that still existed?). I loved every character, and I’m quite sure my realization that girls were more than just your friends’ sisters was due in great part to Winnie (and to a lesser but equally important extent, Topanga from Boy Meets World).

This song brings back those memories of childhood innocence, before you knew what sex was and before your parents’ drunkenness got angry and before the Internet ruined all sense of wonder. You looked to the sky: you looked to your parents as the hope for your perfect love, you looked to your siblings as the hope for the future, you looked to yourself as the embodiment of your parents’ perfect love and the soon-to-be teacher to your younger siblings. And that’s what I hear when I hear Cocker’s version of “With a Little Help.” I hear the hope of simple perfection of young love expressed in The Wonder Years, and pine for that perfection with all the hope of the 7 year old boy eagerly watching Kevin kiss Winnie for the first time in the woods, with a moon holding water, shining mightily through the leaves above them.

Top 5 TV Theme Songs: The Classics (by Claire)

Recently, I spent a couple hours listening to TV theme songs (which I recommend, by the way) and realized that TV theme songs fall into two categories: Good music used as a theme song, and classic theme songs written for the shows. As an old school sitcom nerd, I had to tackle the classics. Later today Joshua, a slightly higher-brow TV nerd, will be posting about solid songs used on even more solid shows. Until then, revel in the sometimes cheesey, sometimes heartfelt, usually-a-smattering-of-both glory that is the traditional TV theme song. And leave your favorites in the comments!

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Will Smith uses his early 90s, wholesome rap chops to layout the entire, complicated back story of Fresh Prnce of Bel Air. In two head-bopping, sure-to-be-stuck-in-your-head, theme-song-listening-minutes, Smith preps the viewer so they arrive at the episode fully debriefed on Will’s hometown, journey, and newly minted status as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. This is probably the best TV theme song ever, if only because it does everything a theme song needs to do, and does so with good music, sharp lyrics, and a keen eye for detail. He’s been busy putting out blockbuster movies and tiny blockbuster children for the past several years, but lets take a minute to remember the awesomeness of Will Smith the rapper. Parent Just Don’t Understand? Summertime? All those movie themed Top 40 hits he put out when my generation was wading through middle school? He was awesome. If you need a non-Men In Black dose of Will Smith in your life, check out this video of him from a few weeks ago, performing the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song.


The theme song to Maude is basically Women’s Studies 101 summed up with a bouncy musical backdrop. The lyrics paint Maude as part of a larger feminist tradition, a compatriot of bra-burners (they reference the first one) and historical icons (they reference…a lot. That Family Guy joke is pretty accurate). The song was spot on: Maude became a sitcom feminist icon. She was political, opinionated, she did unheard of things on television like have an abortion and handle her husband’s mental health issues and consequent suicide attempt. She was brawny, tough as nails, and portrayed by the ever delightful Bea Arthur. Maude was also part of a suite of game-changing sitcoms by Norman Lear—it was a spin-off from All In the Family, as was the Jeffersons (and Gloria, and 704 Hauser, and Archie’s Place, but I wouldn’t really call those game-changing). And Good Times was a spin-off of Maude—okay, Norman Lear trivia lesson over. Go forth and win your 70s sitcom trivia league tonight. (If you’re actually in one of those, you KNOW you want me on that team. This is not a drill)

Boy Meets World

I always thought of Boy Meets World as a modern Wonder Years, and not just because each show starred a Savage brother. They were both smart, earnest shows about being a kid, complete with relatable sensitive everyman stars (The Savage brothers), heartthrob lady loves (Winnie, Topanga), and doofy older brothers (Wayne, Eric). And they spanned so many seasons that we actually watched these kids grow up on camera—a fact reflected in the range of theme songs above (click the image for a video of all the theme songs), which starts with a middle school era Corey surrounded by cartoons and baseballs, and ends with a college-aged Corey jostling and joking with friends, his gorgeous girlfriend laughing on his lap. The version that actually has lyrics (“When this boy meets worrrrrld…”) is a solid theme song: Brief, to the point, catchy, and clearly designed for it’s target audience— 11 and 12 year old girls who wanted to listen to something soft rocky and guitar based as they ogled Rider Strong.

Full House

Did you ever feel like 90s family sitcom theme songs sounded…the same? Like their own funny genre of music, several TGIF staples started with songs sung by a throaty singer, featuring big sweeping instrumental moments, wholesome nonsensical lyrics, and a distinctly 90s lite-rock flavor. There’s a reason for that: They were by the same opening credits songwriting power team, Jesse Frederick/Bennett Salvay. Like the Lennon/McCartney of 90s family fare, they penned the opening tracks for Full House, Step by Step, and Family Matters. Of the three, Full House best exemplifies this style, if only for the opening lyrics where Frederick/Salvay wax poetic on the wonders of predictability, and mourn the loss of paperboys and milkmen. It’s a weird 50s-wholesome, nostalgic moment for a show geared towards kids and preteens

The Golden Girls

There are a lot of cheesy songs about the joys of friendship, which I won’t list here because we all exhausted them at youth group bonfires and in middle school choirs. I think the theme song of the Golden Girls is much better than all those songs (I’m looking at you James Taylor. This whole blurb is about you, buddy. There, I said it.). This song is a cheerful, straightforward ode to friendship. The whole message is “Hey! Thanks for being my friend! I think you’re a good person! I’ll show up to your party! I’ll bring a big gift! Yay.” It doesn’t get much better than that. Keep it simple, friendship songwriters.

Top 5 Driving Songs (by Claire)

A funny thing happened two years ago: I stopped driving. I didn’t plan it or expect it, but here I am two years later, lacking car insurance and car, still wielding my Maryland driver’s license, which in California is simply a glorified alcohol passport, not legally usable if you want to hit the road. I didn’t miss it for the first year and a half. But around the time that Joshua said “Hey, let’s do a driving songs list!”, a thought lodged in my head: The best way to listen to music is in the car. It’s where I used to find new music, it’s where I used to rediscover old music, and most importantly it’s where I used to enjoy the head to toe giddiness that comes from rolling my windows all the way down and turning a song all the way up.

My alcohol passport is about to expire, and I think it’s time to re-up and get some wheels, or at least get behind one for a bit. Here’s what I’ll probably listen to when I do.

“The Curse of Being Young” by Hunx and His Punx

I’m not great at finding new music. It’s not a problem I have with other interests. I find new books with harrowing, wallet-emptying ease. I live in a town where new foods seem to find me—a thick skinned pomelo the size of my head stalks me out of a farmer’s market, tacos slippery with grease and spiked with seedy salsa verde appear in a truck that idles outside of my apartment, it’s rumbly engine chanting “Eat again, kid, eat again.” But new music, specifically new music that I like, has never come easily to me. When I find new music that I like, I cross my fingers and stalk the record label, track down previous albums, and look for all related bands. It’s a sporadic hunt, and one I wish I were much, much better at.

My sister long ago inherited my father’s open ear for new music. It is impossible to step into her car without finding a hodge podge of old and new songs housed on slim unmarked discs, tucked away throughout the car in thick stacks.  The girl has good taste, and having spent the past two weeks criss-crossing Baltimore and DC, this is a small musical thank you. It’s not a new song, but it was to me the first time I heard it in her car 6 months ago, and I rediscovered it this trip. I recommend playing it on your way to the snowball stand, the destination for many of our travels last week.

“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette

One of my top 5 early musical taste defining experiences was listening to HFS in elementary school. HFS introduced me to a dizzying number of 90s rock icons, many of whom I still listen to now. “You Oughta Know” played every morning on the way to summer camp one year. It was the first song I remember blasting in the car, even though I wasn’t driving, and it remains a play-at-top-volume classic. Though Morissette rages against the post-relationship transgressions of Uncle Joey, I recommend blasting this song no matter what you’re relationship situation is. It’s cathartic. Don’t you have a boss or friend or neighbor or guy ahead of you in traffic who needs to know how enraged you are? Turn the volume up. Let it out.

“Mas Que Nada” by Sergio Mendes and the Black Eyed Peas

So I know the Black Eyed Peas are a scourge on the earth and that we all signed that petition to do everything we could to end their stranglehold on modern radio (I think it was post-My Humps, pre-Imma Be. And based on this year, our petition is a rousing success! Now who’s next? My sights are on One Direction). But once upon a time, they made a decent album that attempted to bring Sergio Mendes to the mainstream masses (which they unfortunately followed up with a very boring second Mendes album). The combination of Sergio Mendes and is fun, silly, and perfect for rolled down windows on an early summer, pre-blazing humidity Baltimore day.

“You Need (Clipse and Led Zeppelin)” by Xaphoon Jones

Xaphoon Jones mixes an impeccable, and unexpected, cocktail of Led Zeppelin and Clipse. Though neither of them does much for me on their own (half true—I like Led Zeppelin, but in a pretty straight forward, just-the-hits way that doesn’t constitute legitimate fandom for a band with such an extensive catalog. You can’t just like the three songs everyone knows by Bob Dylan and officially like Bob Dylan as an adult. You can, however, do this very comfortably with a band that only has a handful of albums under it’s belt. This is maybe a theory I should work out elsewhere. Lets get back to the song), the combo makes perfect driving music, specifically under my all time favorite driving conditions: driving fast, preferably on an empty road with no threat of sudden filling, windows rolled down, volume thrown up to it’s highest notch, arm slung over the side of the car, banging the rhythm open palmed on the door.

“Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots: Part 1” by The Flaming Lips

I love big, brassy, loud songs as much as the next driver. But I’ve always needed a second type of song: A slow down song to offset all the heightened door-slapping, lyrics-yelling aggression. Most of my driving life, as I’m sure is true with much of yours, has consisted of zipping to and from work. That work has included monastically quiet offices, big houses full of children waiting to be fed and chauffeured to soccer practice, summer camp classrooms teaming with preschoolers—all sorts of spaces and audiences where entering hyped up on adrenaline would have been unwise (this is not true at all with restaurant work, which mandated big aggressive music beforehand, and made it so I could only stomach slower songs after the extended adrenaline binge that is a shift waiting tables) This is one of my slow down songs, one that plays nicely with the songs before it and transitions into something slower, or a few snatched minutes of silence. It’s a big, complex, layered song, one that doesn’t do a quarter as much for me piped in through headphones as it does turned up during a long drive.

Guest Post: Top 5 Songs For A History Major, by LCpl. Jeff King

Who doesn’t love a good old history lesson? Don’t answer that. More to the point, I wanted to include on the same list a really peppy song in which “we took a little trip along with Col. Jackson down the Mighty Mississip” and an Australian dirge from a World War One amputee’s perspective. There is no boundary to the number of ways a songwriter can present a new perspective on an old event or time period or mythical epic poem. I was hoping to compare the ways in which these stories were told through song, be it through legend, humor, or wailing guitar refrains (looking at you, Lightfoot).

“The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton

To be honest, this song inspired me to create this list. It refers to the final campaign during the War of 1812, which future President Andrew Jackson thoroughly defeated a British Army force almost three times as large as the American force. It is pithy, catchy, and mentions Old Hickory by name, although it gets his rank wrong, as he was not a colonel, but a Major General. I also think it’s a great way to commemorate the drunks and criminals who outfought what was, at that time, the world’s most renowned military. Oh yeah, I also can’t get enough of the “they ran through the briars” refrain.

“Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot”

I can think of few things bleaker than a grey, overcast day on Lake Superior or more terrifying than the prospect of a cold drowning death between Minnesota and Canada. On November 10, 1975, this freighter and her crew went to the bottom of Lake Superior during a storm. Lightfoot weaves chronology and legend into a mournful ode to a vast, scary lake and the men it consumes.

“The Ballad of Charles Whitman” by Kinky Friedman

When it was released in 1971, this song understandably caused some controversy. The University of Texas shootings were fresh in Texans’ minds and this irreverent Jewish cowboy had the chutzpah to record a bouncy country number about a deranged shooter. Forty years later, he ran as an independent candidate for governor of that state. He’d have my vote.

“Victoria” by The Kinks

Ray Davies & Co. wrote this number as more of a tribute to an era than any one event, which allows them to masterfully blend satire and admiration. The narrator understands his station in life, yet still loves his queen. Britain’s cultural and political climates are the main subject of the song, but this man truly believes that Queen Victoria acts out of love for her subjects near and far, even if the nobles just below her are pompous snobs.

“And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”  by The Pogues

I specifically included the Pogues’ version because in my opinion, the original Eric Bogle song is missing some angst that Shane McGowan manages to capture. It is told from the perspective of an Aussie soldier during World War I, specifically the failed Dardanelles Campaign of 1915 for which First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Winston Churchill was fired. The narrator describes landing with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at the battle of Suvla, Ottoman Empire in August of 1915 and the misery he experiences before losing both legs to a Turkish artillery round and his life afterward. The song ultimately builds to an emotional refrain of Waltzing Matilda. If that doesn’t make tear up a little, you have no soul. Fun fact about this song, the title of its parent album Rum, Sodomy, & The Lash is taken from a Churchill quote regarding traditions of the Royal Navy.