Is that a Steely Dan or are you just glad to see me?

How do young people today make snap judgments on people when albums and CD’s are a thing of the past? In the olden days, when we went to someone’s home for the first time a quick scan of their record collection and book shelves gave us some immediate insight into their personality.

I remember going for dinner at the home of a business associate of my husbands once and feeling instantly more relaxed when I saw “My Aim Is True” on the top of their CD pile. Of course, I still don’t know if that was his or hers….in my house when you see the CD “Willie Nelson Sings For The Rest of Your Life” trust me it’s his not mine!

It worked for books too. When my friend came back from a date and described that he had The Fountainhead in the living room but Geraldo’s book “Exposing Myself” beside the bed, well it told you something. Now it can’t always be counted on as fact – designers used to offer sets of books for shelves that ‘sent the right message’. I guess it depends on what message you want to send.

Today, you have to start with what colour is his iPod and where does he keep his kindle. How well do you have to know someone before you can ask to spin through their playlists? And it’s not that I think someone is a better person if they have a particular artist in their collection, more that it gives me a starting point in my understanding of them. A touchstone of what matters to them.

And more than most things music is that instant message that you send – like that job-stopper tattoo it projects before you open your mouth. My teenage daughter was happy when the older guys from her swim team complimented the music I was playing when I drove them home – apparently not all mothers play Led Zeppelin at that volume. I think she only liked it ’cause it’s one of the few things I play that I don’t sing along with!

We Are The World….Again

Okay, I get it. Nobody likes a remake the doesn’t capture the magic of the original (Planet of the Apes, The Longest Yard, Psycho, The Stepford Wives…and on and on). But we have to stop slamming the new version of We Are The World 25 for Haiti.

When the original song came out, there was lots of flack against the artists then too. They could do more. They could just give money. They are just promoting themselves. Perhaps. But they also could be spending their evening snorting coke off a supermodel’s belly ring – they chose to do this and, frankly, I DON’T CARE what their motives are – the end result is of some benefit to others. (I have seen a famous person give a ridiculously large amount of money to charity on the condition that it remain anonymous – so you never know how people help in private)

Now to compare the two songs is unfair. You know that Michael Jackson was actually dead for the second one right? I think it was a brave decision to incorporate a rap adaptation at the end of the song. After all, it wasn’t a benefit for orphans in Sweden. I am guessing Wyclef knows better what’s hot right now around the world than Quincey Jones or Lionel Ritchie. You think more people under 40 or over 40 are downloading that song? And they sure tried to bridge numerous genres with that chick from Sugarland, the little midget Canadian boy, Josh Grobin and (be still my heart) Streisand. (but what the hell was with Tony Bennett – he sounded awful. I have seen him live and he is remarkable – I guess “it’s just not my bag baby”)

Of course, the stories around the second one will probably never live up to the first. Stevie Wonder telling the participants that they had to get it in one take or “Ray Charles and I are driving you home.” I love that they had to turn away 50 other artists at the door – the door with the famous “check your ego here” sign. And Springsteen, driving up alone in the middle of the night and parking across the street. And – where was Prince? He was supposed to do a chorus with Michael Jackson and didn’t show up. The only story coming out of the new version was the fact that Miley Cyrus was late. Wow.

You want to see how hip your children are? I played the old version for my kids and was thrilled that they could pick most of the singers. They tested me on the new version and…not so good. Oh well. I downloaded it, and the old one and the next day went back and downloaded more from Sugarland which I would never have done. So I did my part – both for the charity they are helping and for the artists who may end up helping themselves as well.