The other night I was out with some folks, and a friend introduced me to a friend of hers whom I had never met.
“Hi, I’m Eric, it’s nice to meet you,” I said, extending my hand. I always say it’s nice to meet you, even when it isn’t.
“Eric Eagan?” the guy replied.
“Yep. Eric Eagan.”
“Oh man, I love your music!”
Seems he had been listening to my shared iTunes on the network. I was flattered and glad that he liked it. I share my music because I hope others will enjoy it like I do — and I suppose, as with everything I do, there is a tiny element of exhibitionism to my decision to share. It excites me that people are getting off on my selections. But I didn’t think it would come back to me in this way. I had a fan, and it wasn’t even my music. Except for some recordings of me reading the Canterbury Tales in Middle English, I hadn’t produced a single note of it, and some (who are we kidding, most) I never even paid for. Of course, I took credit.
“Thanks! I’m glad you like it. I’ll be in CCL for a limited engagement starting in March.”
We laughed — it was absurd.
It was all sort of absurd.
Absurd because the music was out there to begin with, floating above us in the ether. I just snatched up what I like, which is what we all do. We live in a time of such immense musical output that even people like Kelly Osborne and Hilary Duff can get a recording contract. (You think Hilary would have made it as a minstrel in 14th century Europe, traveling from duchy to duchy towing a lute? I think not.) A vast output of music necessitates having to pick through the offal to find a gem or two. When it comes to music, we are all just list-makers. He just happened to like my particular list.
I have all kinds of lists, of course, not just one. I have a playlist for a night of card playing, with some of the best soul ballads of the ’60s. I have a mix for a debaucherous party, with “Toxic” at the very top. I have a list of the best of Maxwell, Jill Scott and Sade — but I don’t have to tell you what that one’s for. I even have a list of Liszt! (This is too easy.)
When I get on iTunes and see what folks are sharing, I am usually pretty amused by their lists. One girl who was sharing in Sterling last night had a list called “Workout mix for Mom,” which was cute because apparently Mom is a closet “half-dolla” fan. Another had a list titled, simply, “Depression.” It had me weepy within a few minutes of sampling, which I guess is truth in advertising.
You can tell a lot about a person by what they have on their lists, but in the age of mp3 saturation, that is becoming less true. When it’s cheap or free, why not? We’ve all got a little Kylie Minogue on our lists, it seems — even the jockiest of jocks, or the most superior of indie types. Same with Disney recordings. “Part of Your World,” I have found, is no longer a reliable indicator of gender or sexual preference — it’s on everybody’s list these days. Still, girls, if your man is sharing songs from the two movie versions of “A Star Is Born,” look out. The Garland/Streisand combination is still admissible in court.
iTunes also keeps a list of the songs played most frequently, which is, I have found, a better indicator of what type of person the sharer is. When deciding what music collections to explore, I go straight to this list first. If it’s all klezmer or Le Tigre, I know to try elsewhere.
I have always had an affinity for people who like music and like to make playlists. I suppose I can trace this back to the days of Bar and Bat Mitzvah dances of my youth. At these parties, the DJ was always the same guy — a walrusy middle-aged frat boy named Tim. To have the Bar Mitzvah everyone would talk about for weeks after, you had to have Tim, simply because he had The List. He knew how to get the kiddies dancing awkwardly, with songs like “Hero” by Mariah Carey and “Jump Jump” by Kris Kross. We liked him because he played the sexually explicit “Strokin'” by Clarence Carter for us to line dance to (“If my stuff ain’t tight enough you can stick it up my — whoa!” Don’t think that was in the Torah portion.) Sure, he played the new stuff — C&C Music Factory, Snow, Gerardo — but the Tim classics kept us coming back.
A list must always grow and change with the times, otherwise we’d all still be rockin’ to the Andrews Sisters. But hey, put on a little “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” at your next grain and Kool-Aid party, and see how people react. Either they’ll start wagging their fingers and doing the Charleston, or riot for some Ghost Face Killaz. Either way, I bet someone with a thing for tight harmonies will come up to you and say, “Hey, nice list.” Then — and both you and she know it — it’s on.
Eric Eagan is 69.15 percent compatible with Steve and Zander.