My Musical History


My life consists of obsessions and it’s no different with music.  When I buy new music, I listen to it over and over (and over and over) again until it is playing in my head and driving me insane.  I then find the next music to obsess about.   Because of this, many of the songs I listen to bring back a particular memory–fond and not so fond–of different moments of my life.Take, for example, the song  “Oh Mickey, You’re So Fine,” which I heard for the first time in years while I was eating ramen for lunch recently. I started singing the lyrics to the song, then immediately recalled “Istanbul” by They Might Be Giants.  Then I hated myself for doing both. These songs, and other pop music from (mostly) the 90s, will forever be associated in my mind with the time I spent at Camp Canadensis during the summers in my childhood.  They bring back mostly cringing images of my bunkmates on bed blasting terrible songs and singing to the tunes while I’m trying as hard as possible to tune out.  Camp Canadensis is where I was first exposed to pop music.  It is also where I first learned that most people have no taste in music.

What kept me from losing my sanity during those summer days were the counselors, many of whom were from the South and who blessfully brought with them the soothing melodies of country music.  I learned then that country music is the only genre that I can tolerate for longer than 30 minutes, but I never got into specific artists because it was so hard to get exposed to country when I returned home.  Country music may be the most popular music genre in the U.S., but its presence was non-existent in the Northeast in the 90s.  There was generally one country music radio station, but it would  disappear in a year, which often happened around Christmas time.  That’s why Christmas country music like “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” brings back memories from high school when I would be surfing through the radio stations looking for a new station after the old one went under.  One Christmas, the market finally realized that one Asian Southerner wannabe wasn’t enough to support a radio station solely dedicated to country music in the New York metropolitan area and I stopped listening to the radio.

I became hard core country in college, but there was a brief phase when I really got into Japanese anime music.  Early on in college, I came across a great song called “Omoide ga ippai” (roughly translated “Full of Memories”) by a dissolved band called H2O from an anime I had never seen based on an manga that I had not read (at the time).  Whenever this song plays on my iPod now, it brings me back to riding on a Boston College shuttle bus on my way to downtown Boston to shop on a Sunday, armed with my MD player. It’s a memory of two novelties, the minidisc, which died with the iPod, and Sunday shopping, which was an entirely new experience for a person who grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey.

The iTunes music store, which was introduced in my sophomore  year in college, really expanded my musical habits.  For the first time, I could really explore and discover different types of country music without ever leaving my home.  “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” by Alan Jackson was the memorable first purchase from the store, but I really associate this lifestyle-altering technological advancement with Brad Paisley.  I fell in love with his “Long Sermon” on iTunes;  “Who Needs Pictures” was the CD that I first bought.  The song and the CD will forever be associated with my sophomore dorm room, when I first experienced that feeling, “I have to have this CD.”  It’s the moment I truly fell in love with music–and Brad Paisley in particular.

Paisley has released great CDs over the years, but his best is “Mud On the Tires,” which contains classic songs like “Mud on the Tires,” “Celebrity,” and the 2005 Country Music Association’s Song of the Year, “Whiskey Lullaby.”  “Mud on the Tires” hadn’t been my most favorite song on the CD, until I went to my first Paisley concert in New Jersey, when he opened with the song.

Ironically, the song’s also associated with one of the greatest regrets of my life.  A couple years before that concert, in my second semester of law school, Paisley had come to New Jersey during his tour.  The concert was during exam period, but my exam schedule was perfectly spaced such that I had three days to study for my best subject and the concert fell right in middle of my study period.  In pretending to be a studious student that I really wasn’t, I chose wrongly that spring.  I’ve been to two more Paisley concerts since my first and they have been a blast, but he didn’t play–and probably never will play–more than a couple songs from his earliest CDs, “Who Needs Pictures” and “Part II.”

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