I have written before about the terrible self-identification that can go into putting songs onto an iPod. When iPods were more limited in capacity (and in function, just, say, playing music), I felt extreme anxiety at deciding which music to put on the machine lest some imaginary and judgmental person should pick up my iPod and evaluate my taste, even my character, based on these musical selections.
This psychological paralysis was attenuated by one rather simple fact—people don’t actually peruse the contents of each other’s iPods that much in non-communal settings. So, if you’re an adult, work a real job, and pretty much only use your iPod for commuting or exercise, there isn’t much opportunity to be judged by an imaginary interloper who gets his/her hands on your most private of musical objects.
In a way, iPods are kind of like wallets or underwear. If you lose the former, it is really annoying, time-intensive, and often expensive to replace. The latter is usually only seen (and handled) by intimate relations. These facts, at least in my life, have freed me from caring at all about what someone else might think about what is or isn’t on my iPod. Since no one else ever uses it, there is nothing to worry about.
(And, the selection issue is a rather big deal still. I buy the iPods with lower storage because they still seem to suffer from programmed death. My current iPod is on borrowed time at 2+years.)
All of this occurred to me the other day because I misplaced my iPod. I got up early enough in the morning to run that, when I couldn’t find my own iPod, I grabbed my wife’s to avoid making a racket and waking up the children. She has a green iPod mini that she never uses. I looked at its contents briefly (there was some music on there that was tolerable) and took off.
Now, just as trying to use someone else’s wallet or wear someone else’s underwear would be off-putting and perhaps surprising. (Settle down—I have taken my wife’s wallet, but her undergarments would certainly be too small. And, no, that wasn’t a penis size claim. My wife is almost 7 inches shorter and a good deal lighter than I am.)
I have written before about my wife’s rather eclectic and quite seemingly random taste in music. I was a bit lucky in the draw at the beginning—I just pushed the shuffle button and started down the road—but after 30 minutes or so you would have seen me running along in the pre-dawn light of my adoptive city listening to “When you Believe”, the 1998 release and 1999 Academy Award winning duet by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.
Now, I have also mentioned my love for Whitney Houston’s amazing voice. This duet, which seems in retrospect the least likely thing to have ever happened in popular music, features Mariah on her rise to become the biggest selling female recording artist of all time and Whitney’s last gasp of success before her descent into drugs and madness.
It is also a perfect bit of evidence for a debate my wife have had more than once. Years back, as we drove from wintry Maine to an airport in another state in the extreme AM, my wife insisted that Mariah Carey was the best singer of the past generation. I countered that this was patently impossible with Whitney Houston in the mix. (This was before she passed away; we agreed that for stylistic reasons and output, that Celine Dion should not be in the discussion.)
While I wax poetic about Whitney’s power and pure tone, my wife insisted that not only did Mariah have a greater vocal range and a wider stylistic ability, but she was also technically the better singer. Better voice by nature, I countered for Whitney. And, besides, I said, we’d have to listen to them together to decide truly.
So, the wife took out her iPod. The very one that I put on to go running last week. And she played me this song. The song is saccharine and at times not the greatest melody. It is the perfect example of pushing the boundaries of taste and necessity to create a mediocre song for a motion picture. But persuading these two women at this time in their careers to sing it made it work.
The song supports both me and my wife. Whitney’s voice is smoother, her tone rounder. Mariah’s phrasing is breathier but her vocalization is more dynamic. Whitney ranges from quietly reserved to blasting away her audience with an “I will always love you” avalanche . Mariah is, as my wife argues, more deft, varied and challenging to listen to.
Listen to the song, and tell me what you think.
I kept contemplating this while running through the streets and the parks and watching the sun rise. I actually listened to the song once more. I stopped thinking about the comparison—or at least which is better—and thought more about how well they highlight different approaches to being a diva.
Then I thought, of course, about Nicki Minaj threatening Mariah Carey. I know I am a little late on this and that no one in the world really cares what I think, but here we go. First, this is obviously a trumped up conflict. Second, even if it were, while Nicki Minaj seems legitimately insane, I suspect a lot of it is a pose. She’s trying too hard to seem crazy to actually be crazy.
Mariah Carey? She’s trying too hard to seem sane. Have we forgotten Glitter or the fact that she traded blows with Eminem? Or how about the fact that she is the mother of twins and has been in a cut-throat industry for over two decades?
Mariah Carey doesn’t need extra protection from Nicki Minaj. Nicki Minaj should be thinking about the witness protection program. Carey has people who know how to deal with threats. Minaj is just learning how to play the game.