You know that song “Steal My Sunshine” by 1999’s one-hit wonder Len? I love that song.
Wait… where are you going? Come back! I can explain.
I know that song sucks. Really. It’s trite and treacly and repetitive, with a simplistic and unappealing melody. The man can’t sing and the woman sounds twee. I don’t even know what it’s about.
The song sucks, and I know it. But I love it anyway. Here’s why:
In 1999, I was living in New York City. I didn’t get great radio reception in the bedroom of my apartment, and one of the stations that came in best was the epitome of horrid corporate radio at its worst. Because I have developed an intensely negative Pavlovian reaction to the noise an alarm makes, I set my clock radio to that station so at least there would be some variation in the sound that roused me from slumber. [Fun fact, kids. Back in the Olden Days, people had machines in their homes that were a combination of clocks and radios so as to have both music and a marker of time’s passage in one convenient device. Now that we all carry supercomputers in our pockets, these devices are rapidly going the way of the Victrola.] But since the station that came in best was one that had a preset playlist that didn’t vary for about two weeks at a stretch, I would wake to the same song over and over again. Kind of like in “Groundhog Day,” except without having to deal with Andie MacDowell. When the song was awesome (like Macy Gray’s “I Try”) it was fine. When the song was horrible (like “Blue” by Eiffel 65), it made waking that much more dreadful. And for a couple of weeks that song was “Steal My Sunshine.”
The other relevant factor is why I was in New York City in the first place. In 1999, I was in the process of being ground into a fine powder during my intern year of residency. Now, residency is not famous for being something doctors enjoy. But I happen to think mine had a particularly bad scut/faculty support ratio. (Sorry, [redacted] Department of Pediatrics!) And every morning I would wake to face another day of drawing an endless number of blood tests or inserting an endless number of IVs, often into tiny, tiny little people. While surrounded by the most fabulous city in the world, as far as I am concerned (and likely always will be).
[Aside — there was an almost admirable lack of pretense about making us draw all these blood tests and insert all those IVs. Nobody pretended we were learning, and everyone pretty much knew we were there because the hospitals were unwilling to spring for efficient phlebotomy and IV teams. And it’s not like we didn’t get good at it. As one friend put it, I could have gotten an IV into a stone by the end. But it took a toll on my mental health. Sitting in the subway and looking at other passengers, the first thing I would notice about them is how easy it would be to find a good vein. Seriously.]
So every day I was schlepping in to spend hours and hours jabbing small people with sharp things. And then schlepping home totally depleted. All while living in a city full of awesomeness I was too tired and broke to enjoy. (Thankfully, I lived a few blocks from World’s Best Best Friend, and had the indescribable pleasure of many hours on her couch eating carry-out Chinese food and watching television shows of varying quality.) So when Twee Lady sang the line “I missed a million miles of fun” into my sleep-deprived ear, something resonated in my soul. “Yes,” my groggy self thought. “Yes. I am missing a million miles of fun. Right here, right now. Thank you for singing my story, Twee Lady!”
And then I would drag my ass into the shower.
So that’s why I will generally listen to that song if it comes onto my Sirius radio “90s on 9” station (which does seem to play it an awful lot). It may not be good, but it seemed to describe how I was feeling at a particular moment in my life. And that’s this week’s question — what song (or book or movie or television show) do you like primarily because it spoke to how you were feeling at the time in your life when you first encountered it? Which of your likes is informed entirely by the context in which you first liked it? Bonus points if you know it’s horrible, but you like it anyway.
[Having written all of the above, I died a little bit inside when I found the album cover art I included with this post.]