My friend Isabel Cole explained to me that in horoscope-speak your “moon” is the secret Spotify playlist that you’d make to soundtrack your inner life. She also reminded me that astrology is fake, which is why it’s good—it’s like an improvisational prompt with arbitrary parameters to ensure it’s not just an act of confirmation bias. Something seems like it doesn’t fit, but then you make it fit, and that tells you something new about yourself. Just because something is tautological or arbitrary doesn’t mean it’s meaningless or ineffective, which is something I’ve known for a long time because I have experience with other things like that, too—death, certainly, but also the music I like.
Songs can hit you like that time I was walking home in the snow and an avalanche of ice fell from a bridge about ten feet from where I was standing, and there was no one around, and I thought about how if I’d been seconds earlier I’d be dead but if I’d been seconds later I wouldn’t have even noticed. It was a miracle that only I saw, and it made me feel lucky to be alive in a queasy sort of way.
Sometimes a song changes you in exactly the way you were intending to change anyway, which is suspiciously convenient. But sometimes a song changes you in a way you were not expecting, that turns out to be convenient, too, like when I decided Katy Perry was OK just in time for my son to get obsessed with her. Sometimes a song will change you in a way that you resent and you have to either find a way to make it fit anyway or bury it deep down, but deep down is still part of you.
And sometimes a song is just the wallpaper, except one day you realize you’ve looked at it every single day for years and never noticed something in it and all of a sudden it’s a miracle, too.
And sometimes a song really just means nothing to you, and it seems to mean everything to someone else, and you wonder where they must have been standing when it fell to earth.
The first 24 songs here are a mix of all of those kinds of songs and probably a bunch of other kinds. It’s my moon mix, the private mixtape I made to help tell me something about myself and to help me feel my feelings. Some of these might tell you something or make you feel something, too—that’d be neat!
1. Ashlee Simpson: “Better Off” (2004)
2. Mountain Goats: “Dance Music” (2005)
3. Kermit the Frog: “Rainbow Connection” (1979)
4. Margaret Berger: “Robot Song” (2006) [not on Spotify, HQ version in linked post]
5. t.A.T.u.: “Cosmos” (Outer Space) (2005)
6. Alicia Keys: “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart” (2010)
7. Shakira: “Empire” (2014)
8. Vitas: “Opera #2” (2001)
9. Keke Palmer: “Music Box” (2007)
10. Sky Ferreira: “24 Hours” (2013)
11. Michael Jackson: “Earth Song” (1995)
12. The Knocks f. Sneaky Sound System: “The One” (2014)
13. Kelis: “Song for the Baby” (2010)
14. Nelly Furtado: “Say It Right” (2006)
15. Beastie Boys: “I Don’t Know” (1998)
16. Beatles: “There’s a Place” (1963)
17. Marit Larsen: “This Time Tomorrow” (2006)
18. Natalie Hemby: “I’ll Remember How You Loved Me” (2017)
19. Arcade Fire: “Neighborhood #1” (Tunnels) (2004)
20. Madonna: “Like a Prayer” (1989)
21. Amy Diamond: “It Can Only Get Better” (2006)
22. Vershon: “Mercy A God” (2016)
23. Vanessa Williams: “Save the Best for Last” (1992)
24. Whitney Houston: “I Will Always Love You” (1992)
The next 26 songs were living there in my bones the whole time, the ones that became a part of me even when I screamed for them not to. This is a more-or-less chronological story of the development of my taste, with a big obvious gap from the time I went to college until I escaped my 20s alive, during which time I wrote a bunch of lists to track that sort of thing.
If you know me well enough, maybe you can hear some of me in here:
25. Harry Belafonte: “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” (1956) — figuring out what music is;
26. The Mamas & the Papas: “California Dreamin’” (1965) – and figuring out which music is mine and which music I inherited;
28. The Fools: “Psycho Chicken” (1980) — and sometimes music can make you scared and laugh at the same time;
32. Aerosmith: “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” (1987) — and how there could be something off about a song, but even now when I hear it I can make it better than it probably deserves;
34. Metallica: “Seek and Destroy” (1983) — and how music could make me feel like I could destroy, yeah, that’s probably better than killing a guy;
37. Duice: “Dazzey Duks” (1993) — and how I could dance when my sisters forced me to, and it didn’t feel anything at all like the way it sounded, in fact it was humiliating, but everyone was laughing;
39. Coolio: “Fantastic Voyage” (1994) — and how a song could make me ashamed because it made me feel cool, which makes me a poser;
40. Alanis Morissette: “Head Over Heels” (1995) — and how an embarrassing song could hold me captive, like I was a DNA match for an unholy symbiosis;
43. Eminem: “Criminal” (2000) — and sometimes a song refuses to abide the cool/shame dichotomy even while it is steeped in shame, because it’s also shameless, and this is useful especially but not only if you’re going through puberty;
45. Radiohead: “Paranoid Android” (1997) — and hey since I’m Older Now I realize that all these things that have just been happening to me can also be cultivated.
46. Frank Zappa: “Who Needs the Peace Corps?” (1968) — So I cultivate.
And then after a while I realize that for all the benefits of cultivation, there’s still a bunch of weird stuff knocking around in there getting etched into my bones. Plus I have two kids, and kids really dredge the past right up to the surface for you, cultivation be damned. So I give myself over to
47. Wang Rong: “Chick Chick” (2014) — chicken noises (again)
Once again, or maybe as always, it happens like this: I’m not even sure I like something at first, but I can tell somewhere within me that it’s great, it’s got my number and it won’t stop calling, which is to say of course I like it—although this, liking something because it is great, is different from “liking something for its greatness.” But I guess you can like it for that, too.