Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd, One Album at a Time

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Overview

Record Collecting for Girls is an invitation for all of you stereophiles (who happen to be female), to make your own top-five lists, and then, armed and ready with the book’s fun facts, to argue their merits to the ever-present boys’ club of music snobs in your life.” —Sarahbeth Purcell, author of Love Is the Drug and This Is Not a Love Song

You never leave home without your iPod. You’re always on the lookout for new bands, and you have strong opinions when it comes to music ...

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Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd, One Album at a Time'

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Overview

Record Collecting for Girls is an invitation for all of you stereophiles (who happen to be female), to make your own top-five lists, and then, armed and ready with the book’s fun facts, to argue their merits to the ever-present boys’ club of music snobs in your life.” —Sarahbeth Purcell, author of Love Is the Drug and This Is Not a Love Song

You never leave home without your iPod. You’re always on the lookout for new bands, and you have strong opinions when it comes to music debates, like Beatles vs. Stones. For years, you’ve listened to guys talk about all things music, but the female perspective has been missing. Until now.

Drawing on her personal life as a music enthusiast, as well as her experience working at MTV and in radio, Courtney E. Smith explores what music can tell women about themselves—and the men in their lives. She takes on a range of topics, from the romantic soundtracks of Romeo and Juliet to the evolution of girl bands. She shares stories from her own life that shed light on the phenomenon of guilty pleasures and the incredible power of an Our Song. Along the way, she evaluates the essential role that music plays as we navigate life’s glorious victories and its soul-crushing defeats. Finally, here is a voice that speaks to women—because girls get their hearts broken and make mix tapes about it, too.

“Courtney Smith has smarts and sass in spades. Her insights are as hilarious as they are thoughtful, and when you finish reading this book, you’ll feel like you just got home from a perfect night out with your best friend. And you’ll want to listen to Prince. At full volume.” —Megan Jasper, Executive Vice President, Sub Pop Records

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
There are few ways to get to know someone quicker than scrolling through that person's iPod. But whatever you do, former MTV programmer Smith cautions in this insightful and hilarious take on the modern state of music, never date a guy who likes the Smiths too much. Smith easily blends her own musical coming-of-age narrative with rock history—especially women's place in it—interspersed with playlists and brief "interlude" chapters, such as "Music Blogs Are Just Dadaist Conversation" and "Give It to Me for Free." Working at MTV for the first decade of the new millennium, Smith heavily influenced what music ended up on a generation's iPod, from Death Cab for Cutie to the Shins, and she explores her own roots with lists ranging from top five artists right now (with strict rules for admittance) to guilty pleasures ("in my world it's not okay to like the Black Eyed Peas") and best breakup songs cued to the five stages of grief (is it time for angry Fiona Apple or the melancholy Cure?). As the music industry changes with the digital age, so does the concept of "record" collecting, argues Smith, who grapples with whether to keep her nostalgia-laden physical CDs or transfer everything to hard drives. This is a book for anyone whose day has a soundtrack and for whom music reigns supreme. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Girl music nerds have been debating Beatles versus Stones and curating their collections for as long as male music snobs, but that perspective has been on low rotation; hail, hail, Courtney E. Smith’s Record Collecting for Girls, a mix tape of female rock history, playlists for getting busy and coping with heartbreak, and essential info such as how to decode a dude’s CD collection (Yo La Tengo = romantically hapless; Leonard Cohen = asshole)." —Vanity Fair

"Courtney Smith has smarts and sass in spades. Her insights are as hilarious as they are thoughtful and when you finish reading this book, you’ll feel like you just got home from a perfect night out with your best friend. And you’ll want to listen to Prince. Full volume." —Megan Jasper, Executive Vice President, Sub Pop Records

"Record Collecting For Girls is an invitation for all of you stereophiles, (who happen to be female), to make your own top five lists, and then, armed and ready with the book's fun facts, to argue their merits to the ever present boys' club of music snobs in your life."  —Sarahbeth Purcell, author of Love Is the Drug and This Is Not A Love Song "Insightful and hilarious...Smith easily blends her own musical coming-of-age narrative with rock history...This is a book for anyone whose day has a soundtrack and for whom music reigns supreme." —Publishers Weekly

"A melodious road map...There is much here that is both interesting and infomative." —Kirkus

 

Kirkus Reviews

Music writer Smith narrates a melodious road map with much autobiographical detail interwoven.

Despite its title, the self-taught "music obsessive" author's debut is not a guide book; nor is it aimed specifically at female readers. Instead, it's a hybrid: part collection of loosely related essays on the music industry, female rock stars and pop music in general; and part memoir, focusing on Smith's particular tastes in music and how that music affects every aspect of her life, most specifically her dating life. The author's experience in the industry, however overblown and self-aggrandizing ("I've been shaping the music you've listened to for a decade," she declares), makes her extremely confident and knowledgeable about popular music, and there is much here that is both interesting and informative. But some of Smith's material is disconcerting, such as defining people and events solely through the lens of pop music. Those who share similar tastes will enjoy the book; readers who don't will find the author aggravating (particularly while making sweeping generalizations about music she doesn't like) and boring.

Too many intricate details of Smith's past relationships and boilerplate clichés (e.g., why she won't date a man who listens too often to The Smiths) make for an uneven collection of essays, ostensibly about music.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547502236
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/6/2011
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 568,502
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Courtney Smith has more than a decade of experience working in the music industry. She recently left MTV after spending 8 years as a music programmer and manager of label relations, where she was one of the executives who decided which videos went into rotation on all of MTV's 20 music platforms. She specialized in grooming upcoming bands and has worked closely with Death Cab for Cutie, the Shins, and Vampire Weekend, among others.

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Read an Excerpt

TOP FIVE LISTS

If you’ve read the book High Fidelity or seen the movie, even just for the sake of John Cusack, then you’ve been witness to the art of the Top Five list. Music nerds everywhere delight in making
Top Five lists of obvious, obtuse, and obscure records tailored to every categorization of music you could possibly imagine. I
am one of those nerds. When my mind begins to wander, I think about what albums I could listen to if I were stuck on a desert island.
(Usually this train of thought ends with the realization that
I’d hate any album by the sixth straight year of listening to it.) Instead of counting sheep to lull myself to sleep, I make a list of all the songs I can think of about masturbation. (There are a lot.) I
keep a running tab of what I think are my favorite songs right this minute vs. my most-played songs in iTunes vs. what’s accrued at the top of my last.fm most-played list. I can’t seem to stop myself from obsessively thinking about music.
      I’ve always loved music, but I wasn’t always a music obsessive.
That started when I was a college student and worked at a radio station in Dallas. I fell in with a group of music snob guys who regularly debated topics like Blur vs. Oasis and whether Cat Power was the cutest indie rock girl or just the craziest. The guys carried on conversations as if they were characters straight out of High Fidelity,
constantly judging and ranking music. It was obvious they believed Nick Hornby’s adage that what you like is what you’re like,
and they were judging people based on their musical taste. Girls were generally dismissed from their reindeer games. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’d heard them say obnoxious things like, “Yeah, she’s hot, but she likes Alanis Morissette, so you know she’s kind of an idiot.” I didn’t want to be one of those girls who was so easily disregarded, so I faked being knowledgeable enough to pass muster. After listening to them make and revise their Top
Five lists, probably hundreds of times, I developed a list of shortcuts for making a Top Five artists list. As time went on I added requirements of my own, and before long I had a cheater guide that helped me narrow in on my Top Five. When I don’t have the whole history of released music at my fingertips, it makes my listmaking more manageable, and the guidelines force me to take an analytical look at my music collection.
      These are strictly my rules, so if you feel like adding new criteria or ignoring one of my standards to better reflect your own taste,
knock yourself out.
      Except #3. Do not ignore rule #3. You’ll see why.
The most important thing is that your Top Five list reflects your favorites and not what you think someone wants to hear. Dare to be uncool.
      Here’s my Top Five artists list right now:

1. Elvis Costello — British post-punk artist who developed into a multi-genre music maven
2. R.E.M . — A thens, Georgia, college rock band that paved the way for indie-to-mainstream success
3. Sleater-Kinney — Portland, Oregon, riot grrrl rock band with a feminist agenda
4. Stevie Nicks  — ’70s and ’80s songwriter with the world’s most amazing stage costumes
5. Fiona Apple — the songwriting port in a world full of breakup storms

 Here’s how I got there . . .

Rule #1: You must own all the full-length albums released by any artist in your Top Five.

The exceptions to this rule: greatest hits albums and anything you’ve deemed to be a low point in an artist’s career. I see no reason to clog up your record collection with either. Completists everywhere just hissed through their teeth at me, but why would you own a record you don’t enjoy, or multiple copies of songs you already have? For decoration? When music collecting becomes obsessive-
compulsive disorder, it’s time for a new hobby.
      I was late in discovering Elvis Costello, both late in my life and late in his career. I think the first time I heard of him was when I
saw his video for “Veronica.” It was inexplicable to me in 1989, the halcyon days of Debbie Gibson and Poison, why the video for “Veronica”
was on MTV so often. Costello seemed old even then, and his video was set in a nursing home, so in my eyes it didn’t hold a candle to Madonna’s video for “Express Yourself.” The video got less airplay than Madonna’s, or even Paula Abdul’s, but he walked away with the 1989 Best Male Video award for “Veronica,” because respect for the man was due. (Paul McCartney co-wrote the song, so double the respect.) The melody was catchy, but the lyrics were a mystery, and I memorized them all wrong. I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about, because the idea of a pop song about an old lady with Alzheimer’s was unfathomable and unrelatable to me at age twelve.
      After “Veronica” in my discovery of Elvis Costello came “Alison,”
which had actually been released twelve years earlier — yes,
the same year I was born. I grew to love this one while listening to my parents’ Elvis Costello greatest hits album, and if you don’t know it, I recommend you buy it immediately. His unforgettable delivery of the line “My aim is true” is a knee-buckler — the sort of bittersweet sentiment that I dream of a guy writing for me in some tragic soap-opera scenario where we can’t be together.
      My family and I were big perpetrators of the Columbia House scam. It was a great way to build a collection, considering that my allowance was a mere $5 a week. We would all constantly join,
leave, and rejoin various mail-order companies that offered eight albums for a penny if you bought three at full price. In college I
ordered The Very Best of Elvis Costello & the Attractions from one of those clubs and found myself really getting into his clever lyrics.
His songs are so easy to fall in love with.
      I went to the next level of Costello fandom when I bought the
Rhino re-issue of This Year’s Model. It was in the dead of winter at the beginning of 2002. I had recently moved into an apartment in
Brooklyn and was consumed by a long-distance flirtation with a boy in a band who lived in Dallas. He mailed me a loaf of honey wheat bread (which was impossible to find in New York City) and a packet of forget-me-not flower seeds, and he called me on the phone nearly every day. I was totally crushed out. A few months later, when his band toured through town, he explained to me that it all meant nothing, that he was just a flirtatious person, and suggested we should just be friends. It was infuriating, and I hated him for stringing me along. Listening to the first track of This
Year’s Model
, “No Action,” while stomping the cold, mile-long walk from the subway through the housing project near my apartment was the only time I felt like a rational, thinking person rather than a girl who had been turned into a chump and who secretly still had a little crush. It’s frustrating when someone treats you horribly,
but being a jerk back to them just doesn’t seem worth it. Instead
I pretended to be sternly nice and above it, but that farce left me with a lot of anger to work out. Power-walking to a collection of songs full of venom, vigor, and a dash of bitter longing got me through that romantic humiliation and the feeling of annoyance with myself for not telling him off. I didn’t get the guy, but I did get Elvis Costello.
      I quickly became a devotee. I still get chills listening to certain turns of phrase in his songs. His album When I Was Cruel came out the next year, and I tumbled head first into obsessively listening to it, dissecting it. I saw him live three times. I worked my way through most of his catalog over the next five years, first focusing on his pop albums with the hits. I still discover new songs to love when I re-explore those albums. Next I delved into his collaboration with songwriter Burt Bacharach, his classical compositions,
and even his British TV program scores. The man has a giant back catalog of material, and I’ll admit I cheated and put him on my Top Five list before I owned everything. I’m still growing into some of his work. I expect when I get older and tired of pop music, Elvis Costello will still have something to offer me. I’m not sure I can say the same for anyone else on my Top Five list.
      Elvis Costello is my number one with a bullet because I want to own all of his work and can’t get enough of listening to him.
That is how you should feel about the number one on your Top
Five. Number one becomes your family, your boyfriend, and your comfort food. It’s indispensable.

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Table of Contents

Record Collecting For Girls 1

Top Five Lists 5

Where Have All The Girl Bands Gone? 25

interlude. My Scrobble, Myself 43

Making Out With Romeo And Juliet 47

Guilty Pleasures 67

The Smiths Syndrome 85

Interlude: Give It to Me For Free 101

Are We Breaking Up? 103

The Next Madonna 110

Interlude Music Blogs Are Just Dadaist Conversation 139

Our Song, Your Song, My Song 143

The Death Of The Record Collector 157

interlude: Adventures In Second Life 173

Rock 'N' Roll Consorts 179

Beatles VS. Stones 197

Final note Down The Music K-Hole 213

Acknowledgments 225

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2013

    Cool songs

    Super nerdy fun

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2011

    Super Excited!

    I just ordered this book! I can't wait to read it! I'm sure it will be one of my new favorites. :) Read It!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 11, 2011

    Excellent

    Check out playlist on spotify too.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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