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Audience is a pretty big deal in writing. We have been talking about it all semester, how audience makes all the difference in composing a text—who is reading, who is taking action. As we are about to step into the Argument Project, it got me thinking about the power of audience and how technology has helped create new audiences that might not normally be there.

I have a series of videos here, the original song and the remake. Watch them. But most importantly, give them a listen. Consider how audience changes, depending on the text. Listen to the beat of the music, the vocal arrangement, the switch in genre. What’s the context? Did it change for each song? Did the voice and tone change the meaning? How might audience change the purpose of the text? Go on. Give them all a listen. I dare you.

Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”
I was a big fan of the Eurythmics in the 80s. How could I not be? Powerful female with an ultra-feminine voice yet so very, very androgynous.

Marilyn Manson, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”
Ah, Marilyn. Tried to be as powerfully androgynous as Annie but never quite pulling it off. But not a bad version. Enough for me to see him perform this in concert. Really.

Depeche Mode, “Personal Jesus”
Oddly, I could only find live versions of this song, all mellowed out acoustically. But this is the original song, a fantastic song…

Johnny Cash, “Personal Jesus”
Until The Man in Black did a cover. Fantabulous.

There is huge popularity in redoing hip-hop songs. Not certain if it’s because of the content or the opportunity to rework the beats. Perhaps both. Why do you think?

Jay Z, “Hard Knock Life”
Love, love, love the beats. I am guessing many of you have never heard the original song Jay Z sampled. You must watch it below.

Annie, “It’s A Hard Knock Life”
Originally a Broadway show with many, many now famous Annie’s (Sarah Jessica Parker, for one). This video is from the film. Chose to post this version because the choreography is just way too much fun.

Dr. Dre, “Bitches Ain’t Shit”
Yeah, I hated it when I first heard it. The lyrics got my feminist ruffles up. They are rough for my 42 yr old ears. No original video on this one so you’ll have to settle with just a listen.

Ben Folds, “Bitches Ain’t Shit”
And then I heard this version. And what do you know? A perfect example of how audience can change if the text is composed differently. Love it. Actually made me go back to the original and learn to appreciate the rhymes. Really.

Michael Jackson, “Smooth Criminal”
I’m honestly not a Michael Jackson fan but I do like some of his stuff. This is one of his I really, really like.

Alien Ant Farm, “Smooth Criminal”
And I REALLY, REALLY like this. But then, I like my music a bit on the loud side.

Black Eyed Peas, “My Humps”
For the record, let’s just establish that Fergie can do no wrong in my eyes.

Alanis Morissette, “My Humps”
Rumor has it that Fergie sent Alanis flowers after seeing this vid on YouTube. I believe it. She is just that cool.

Nelly, “Hot In Herre”
This song is pretty good. Like anything of Miley’s and Britney’s, it stirs my earworm every time I hear it.

Jenny Owen Youngs, “Hot In Herre”
But, omg. This pushes me over the edge. I love this chick. I will follow her to the moon.


I cannot stop listening to this song.

someone. must. burn. me. some Timbaland.


Because of this:

This was my first record player.


It was from Fisher-Price and it played pre-formatted plastic “records” that sounded like tin. I loved it. The sound didn’t bother me as I had the freedom to play my music (all children’s nursery rhymes) when I wanted to hear it.

My mother bought me a real record player a few years later at a garage sale. This is the first album I ever bought:


OK. Stop laughing. I was 10. Disco—and this movie—was hugely popular at the time. I must have listened to that album a million times. Though I have to admit, with older siblings, my tastes quickly moved from The Bee Gees and into more sophisticated music:


This is the first CD I ever bought:


It was 1989 and I remember it very clearly. I eagerly anticipated the release of this CD, having been a Kate Bush fan through much of high school. At the time, music was still easily available to purchase in album form and indeed, I had the album Hounds of Love, her 1985 release.


While I can remember my first album and CD, I cannot, for the life of me, remember my first cassette tape. Which is odd since I was in high school in the 80s which means that overall, I did most of my music listening on this:


I note the historical ride through my instruments of music listening because now, I listen to music on this:


And this:


(OK, I admit that my MacBook is not nearly as new as this one but I am thinking Field of Dreams here: “If you build it, they will come.” If I post a pic of a new MacBook Pro, perhaps one will miraculously arrive on my desk overnight.)

As my listening pleasure has become a digital event, I realize that it is time to do something about the 7 boxes of unpacked CDs that have been sitting on my office floor since I moved here a year ago. Most of them are already ripped to my hard drive but I expect that once I actually open these boxes, I will find CDs I completely forgot about and it will feel as if I have a whole mess of new music.

I have prolonged this transfer of technology, however, because I think it will be very much like the way I felt when I made the leap from cassette to CD: as much as I loved the streamline of the CD and the larger format to read things such as liner notes and lyrics, there was something about that click of the cassette case, the smell of the tape, the need of the pencil to rewind the loose cartridge that I was going to miss.

And once I make that transfer away from CDs completely, I only have the digital version of “album art” which is small and not nearly as interesting as it was in the past. I am certainly a true believer in the betterment of our lives with new technologies and I support digital music otherwise I would not interact with it. But I will be melancholy when I sell those old CDs to a used CD store, especially Kate Bush’s The Sensual World. Just memories of the week I bought it and played it non-stop are special to my young adulthood.

What technology have you given up to move into newer forms? Are you sad to see it go?

As I sit here composing this weekend’s blog entry, I am very much aware that I am a mere four hours from the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

And I am very, very excited about that.

I am a sucker for the VMA’s. They are and always have been a twist to the average award shows and I have never once been disappointed. Like most from my generation, I felt the impact that the VMA’s had on our popular culture as I watched Madonna pull off the first and best edgy performance at any VMA:

1984: Madonna, Like a Virgin

This was huge when the show first aired. Remember, this is pre-Internet—if you missed the VMA’s running that weekend, you had to wait for the rerun whenever MTV decided to air it as there was no YouTube to run to. And MTV didn’t run the repeat directly after the original show as they do now.

Monday in school found us all struggling to concentrate; everyone was talking about how scandalous Madonna was and a good half of the student population at my high school didn’t even have cable TV yet so a lot of people never even got to see it. When they started running the video of her performance, I—like most girls at the time—was glued. What? A wedding dress? Singing about being a virgin? OMG.

Once Madonna’s performance aired, everything changed. Live acts at the VMA’s become the hottest anticipated moments in music. I could fill a blog with all the performances that are stand-outs (which you can easily view with a good search on YouTube). These are some of my favorites, based on my excitement level when I first saw the performances air:

1988: Guns N’ Roses, Welcome to the Jungle

1992: Nirvana, Lithium

1999: Fatboy Slim, Praise You

2002: Eminem, White America and Cleanin’ Out My Closet

2003: Coldplay, The Scientist

But no one—no one—can top the Queen of the VMA’s: Britney. Madonna may make better videos (Express Yourself, anyone? Wow.) but Britney is the Queen of VMA live performances:

2000: Britney, Oops…I Did it Again

2001: Britney, I’m a Slave 4 U:

and of course:

2003: Britney, Madonna and Christina Aguilera:

She just rules that VMA stage, lip-synching and all. I’m really excited to see what Britney does tonight. I know she is touring and all, but I have a hard time believing Britney will miss tonight’s show. If anything, to get us past last year’s performance of Gimme More. Which I will not post here. Because in my mind, it never happened.

Yeah I know you are probably thinking this:


But that is not the type of earworm I have. I have this type. Yep, that song that sticks in your head continuously that you cannot possibly get rid of. And because I am prone to traits of OCD, I really own a persistent little bastard.

Unlike most people with earworms, they get a song stuck in their head and then its there until replaced by another song. Not me. I get an earworm and it is in there for days. Months. Years.

I went through most of my high school years with my earworm singing John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” (of course, at the time, he was Johnny Cougar. This was before he became John Cougar Mellencamp and his current manifestation of John Mellencamp. See, you all thought P Diddy was original in the name changing silliness). Here is that song, if you don’t recognize it:

In art school, I spent years with this little gem by The Cure, “Friday (I’m in Love)”:

Not a bad song but when you wake yourself up singing it every day—for years—it becomes bothersome. Somewhere in the late 90s, I got Will Smith feeding my earworm:

can it get any more embarrassing? That earworm loves to just burrow down deep inside my brain and make me totally miserable.

Then miraculously, some time last year my earworm finally decided to venture into something current. And behold: Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”:

Not a bad song. Quirky. And at least I was within range for a decent song.

And then this week, a new earworm has taken root. Yes, I am going to admit here what it is. Because I am both in awe and shock that this song is waking me from mid-slumber and it actually has me dancing around my office when I get it in my head.

I—and my earworm—love, love, love Miley Cyrus’ new song, “Party in the USA”. Cannot get enough of it.

How about you? Any earworms that you simply cannot get rid of? What is digging inside your head?