1. “Tell me,” from the “Marie Christine” soundtrack
This terribly short-lived Broadway show, which was an adaptation of the myth of Medea written especially for Audra McDonald, is by far one of the best musicals out there. It’s by one of my favorite composers — Michael John Lachiusa. The show isn’t really known by many people, but it’s probably one of my two favorite musical theatre scores. Ever. I’ve probably listened to the soundtrack as a whole hundreds of times, and I think anyone with any mild interest in musical theatre or opera absolutely has to check it out.. It is sooo. good.2. “Touch of my hand,” Britney Spears
Who knew a little-known Britney ditty from the mid-2000s could rival Cyndi Lauper’s very own ode to masturbation? I always giggle when I think about Brit-Brit gettin’ down with her bad self, but the incorporation of string instruments and transient, synthesized harmonies make this song the tops (!).
3. “Remember (Walkin’ in sand),” The Shangri-Las
I don’t know what it is, but there’s a certain earnestness and visceral quality in torch songs, especially ones by girl groups in the ’60s, that I really really dig. This track is no exception.
4. “Come out,” Steve Reich
It’s not always easy listening to Steve’s music, but he’s perfect for me when I go to that certain place. I first heard his music as a part of a score for a film that came out a couple of years ago, and this past year I’ve really started to explore his entire canon of work. For me, it’s really incredible and crazy to hear a composer make a tangible piece of work that resembles almost exactly what’s going on inside my head all of the time.
5. “Music (DJ Coco Snatch flawless remix, featuring Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t get you out of my head”), Madonna
I kind of grew up in the sandbox in the ’80s singing Madonna’s songs, and she’s been such an inspiration to me as an artist for my entire life. I love that she’s been able to say so many things and reach so many people even though she came from so much humbleness and pain. Even though some people dismiss her as just another crappy pop star in the vein of awfulness (i.e., Cher), I think she’s a lot more than that. I really really do.
6. “Good morning, heartache,” Billie Holiday
Most of my favorite singers are drug addicts, alcoholics, and just general all around f***-ups. I love hearing real pain when I’m listening to a straight up, real singer; if I don’t get to hear any aspect of a singer’s internal energy in their voice they’re pretty worthless to me. I love Billie because of this, and this song especially, because when she sings it, it sounds like she’s crying.
7. “Alabama Song,” Lotte Lenya
I love how Weill and Brecht constantly stuck it to the man with their quasi-musicals and proto-experimental operas. The way that Weill was able to make his music (and the artists who sang it) sound so abrasive and strange, yet incredibly tuneful, is really neat-o to me. And gorgeous, in an ironic, decrepit sort of way..
8. “Tu che invoco” (from Spontini’s “La Vestale”), Maria Callas
When I was growing up in the Ozarks of Minnesota with little to no culture to speak of, I read a play about the life of Maria Callas on a whim, and it really did change me forever. I started listening to her music because of it, and that’s what eventually got me interested in opera. This particular live recording of the aria is really stellar, as it’s from a rare 1958 Los Angeles concert that was before Callas’ voice really started to deteriorate. The recording of this aria is probably one of my favorite recordings of Callas.ever (!!), and the recording as a whole is the best overall Callas album I’ve ever heard.
9. “Wake up alone,” Amy Winehouse
Amy, Amy, Amy. How were you able to write your entire (!!!!!) “Back to Black” album about my last relationship and its aftermath without having a single conversation with me? I don’t know, but please keep doing what you’re doing. I know you’ve been to rehab.or something like it.recently, but don’t let it ruin your genius. In our next lifetimes, let’s be bffs, k???
10. “Lovely head,” Goldfrapp
When I first heard Goldfrapp’s album “Felt Mountain” (which this song is from), I cried and cried. Maybe it’s because the album was thematically about what was exactly going on in my life at the time.. Maybe because it incorporated cabaret and folk influences into dreamy electronica and synthpop.. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because I have no clue and the whole CD speaks for itself. It’s like the love child of Fiona Apple (another one of my all-time ladies) and Danny Elfman going on a really bad e trip in the backroom of an after-hours gay bar. When the movie of my life starring Jennifer Jason Leigh as myself is made, Goldfrapp’s doing the soundtrack. The end.