Hello BTS readers! My name is Eitan Snyder, and I am the newbie on the blog team. I thought that as my first official piece as a BTS contributor, I would put together a playlist of songs that explain to you where I come from, both literally and musically. That way, when you see playlists I curate or pieces I write, you will have some sense of where I come from. I also encourage everyone to try this for themselves and see what ends up on your playlist.
Here With Me – Michelle Branch
Michelle Branch’s album The Spirit Room was the first CD I ever owned. I could recite every song on this album backwards and forwards with every vocal inflection that she does. Except for “A Drop In the Ocean”. I never really liked that song. Anyway, this song was one of my favorites as a kid. That chorus is undeniable. I also love all of the outdated early ‘00s production techniques on her vocals. They just add to this album’s charm.
Sk8er Boi – Avril Lavigne
This song is really well-written. Whether most people who know this song will admit it is another story. I grew up in my sister’s car bouncing around to “Overprotected”-era Britney, Vanessa Carlton, and Avril Lavigne’s first two albums on full blast. And Michelle Branch. Anyway, the narrative strength of this song is really out of this world despite the fact that she can’t spell. This pure pleasure. No guilt involved.
Shattered (Turn the Car Around) – O.A.R
I hail from Rockville, MD, a sprawling suburb right outside of Washington, DC. Coincidentally, so did these guys. O.A.R named their most recent album, The Rockville LP, after Rockville, MD. Though I stopped being proud of them when they went to Ohio State University. Go Blue!
On My Way Home – Pentatonix
OK, time to come clean. I am a bit of an a cappella nerd. Only a little bit, though. I was in my high school’s a cappella group that managed to sing “Jar of Hearts” while it was at its peak of popularity. For the past year, I was a member of Above the Keys, the University of Miami’s most male a cappella group, where we brought a shark costume to Arkansas just to recreate Katy Perry’s Super Bowl performance at a competition. This past semester, I founded the 18th Notes, the University of Miami’s brand new Jewish a cappella group, and left ATK at the end of the semester in order to spend more time with the 18th Notes. Anyway, Pentatonix is a really killer a cappella group made up of similar choir nerds. As much as I love their covers, their originals are usually pretty stellar. This is one of my favorites from their latest album, and it is also the name of their documentary that is currently streaming on Vimeo.
The House That Built Me – Miranda Lambert
Maryland is below the Mason-Dixon line, so I guess that makes me technically Southern. Does it? Either way, I have a deep affinity for country music. I love the respect that the world of country music has for great songcraft. Country music is the only genre I can think of in which a great songwriter like Miranda Lambert would sing a song she did not write because it was a good song. This song gives me chills every time.
Rolling In The Deep – Adele
This song is going to live forever. Even if you forget the fact that it’s Adele and the whole battle of acoustic vs. electronic music and all of the other narratives that are tied to this song and its corresponding blockbuster album, the sheer brilliance of every single part of this song sets it apart. I imagine kids of the future zipping off to school on their interstellar school rockets singing about how they could have had it all. It’s that good.
Tonight The Heartache’s On Me – The Dixie Chicks
The ‘90s seemed to be a bit of a golden age for mainstream country. I think they hit an artistic and commercial peak with the quality of songs that all of these artists were churning out. The Dixie Chicks rounded out the decade, and their tight harmonies and all-around world class musicianship just put them one step above everyone else in my book. I’m a choir nerd, remember? Also, their whole political controversy touches on another interest of mine: politics. More specifically, I am interested in the intersection of music and politics, both internationally and domestically. A lot of my editorial pieces will touch on this topic, including the Dixie Chicks debacle, so expect that. Hopefully, even if you are turned off by politics, you will at the very least be entertained by my nerdy enthusiasm.
Rise Like A Phoenix – Conchita Wurst
I have another confession to make: I love televised reality singing contests. Like, a lot. I was (and still kind of am) a huge fan of American Idol (as most people were) and I still follow The Voice. I also watched The Sing-off and The X Factor when they were still on the air. To me, while most people watch Real Housewives of [insert city name here], I watch reality singing shows for the same reason: to de-brain. Anyone who knows anything about the music industry knows that it doesn’t really work the way they claim it does on these shows. But it’s good fun. And every so often you find someone talented. My favorite televised reality singing show is the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual contest broadcast all over the world that attracts hundreds of millions of viewers. It is the biggest campfest in the world and it is often wacky, irreverent, crazy and outright weird. This makes for fantastic television. It’s a mix of my two favorite things: music and international politics. Though I liked this year’s winner, the Swedish Mans Zelmerlow and his song “Heroes” do not accurately sum up the spirit of Eurovision. Rather, let’s look back one year at the 2014 winner, an Austrian bearded drag queen with a killer voice singing a James Bond-style ballad. In all her glory, I present Conchita. She’s dope.
Keep Your Money – Empire Cast
Right behind my love for televised reality singing contests is my love for musical television. I was a fan of both Glee and Smash before they both went off the deep end. I love Pitch Perfect, like all good aca-nerds should. I can’t get enough of Nashville and just finished catching up of the first season of Empire. After watching Empire, I have two things to say. One, Cookie Lyon is my spirit animal. Two, Jamal (played by Jussie Smollett) is incredible. This is his big single on the show and it is just so great.
American Middle Class – Angaleena Presley
Hard-biting social commentary. Lyrical brilliance. This song is amazing for so many reasons. This song is so well-written that it sounds almost effortless. As a songwriter myself, I hold this song (along with many other songs on this list) as a gold standard for my own writing.
Fight Song – Rachel Platten
Here is a thing you should know about me: I love pop music. I love mainstream hits and Top 40 radio. I am not saying that ironically. I really do. I am not the Pitchfork type to stick my nose up at any music that is remotely popular. I think that anything that achieves mainstream musical and cultural dominance ought to be examined and analyzed seriously as art, because it reveals a lot about what the public thinks and values about people and music. Pop music is the voice of the people, which is why I find it so important and also so fascinating. I am really inspired by this song and I love it despite the fact that it seems a bit formulaic and does not really cover any new ground. It’s just a good song, and that is all I really need to hear in order to appreciate it. I have no patience for abstract art pieces and multimedia demonstrations that surround music that is not very good. There is not much else I care about when reviewing or analyzing music except for whether the song is good.
I hope you have enjoyed this playlist and can see a little bit of where my head is at musically. I can’t wait to share what I am working on with you!