I have listened to “Read My Mind” by The Killers 87 times. I have no excuse for this. It’s a good pop song, but 87 times? 87 times?! It’s a four-minutes long, which means I’ve spent almost 6 hours of my life listening to this song. The number is probably even higher because it doesn’t count all the times I listened to that track in my car.
The Last.fm plug-in I have installed in WinAmp and iTunes counts every MP3 I play on my computer and calculates these embarrassing statistics for me. It almost seems like an invasion of privacy putting my actual musical preferences out there, instead of just what I tell people I like. It’s like the difference between all the healthy stuff in your food diary and the Oreos you’re actually stuffing in your mouth and “forgetting” to write down. We tend to judge people by what they do and don’t like. Whenever I have friends or family over for the first time, they go right for my bookcase, trying to glean insight into my personality by what’s on my bookshelves. I don’t know what people will think of the fact that I listened to “Umbrella” by Rihanna 67 times.
Sometimes I just get obsessed with a song and have to play it over and over and over and over and over, making me grateful I live alone and only annoy my cats with the repetition. (I doubt their brains can interpret musical patterns anyway.) In college, my roommate was obsessed with “Magic” by Ben Folds Five and would shut the CD off in embarrassment every time I entered the room. At least that’s a good song. Sometimes I get obsessed with mediocre songs which I know are mediocre, but I can’t take off of repeat.
The first song I remember obsessing over was “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis. This was in 1996 before MP3s or Google, when music was sold on cassette tapes. I would leave a blank tape in my boombox by my bed and when a song I liked came on the radio I’d smack my hand on the record button like I was swatting a fly. Sometimes the DJ would ruin it by talking over the song or the tape would run out halfway through the song, so I’d have to try again for an even better recording. You had to really work to pirate music back then.
If the DJ didn’t say the name of the song, you were pretty much screwed. You couldn’t search for the lyrics. You couldn’t hold your phone up to the radio and have it magically figure out what song was playing like one service lets you do now. Sometimes I’d hear a really pretty song and have no clue what it was called or who sang it. It was at least a month after I heard “Building a Mystery” that I discovered Sarah McLachlan sang it or that the mystery song was called “Building a Mystery.” And now I just Google.
Since then I’ve obsessed over other songs, like “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane which is so gorgeous that I saw the movie The Lake House mostly because they used this song in the trailer. There have been others too, which I can look up in my Last.fm profile now and realize exactly how obsessed I have been with them.