Audio Stimming: Postmodern Jukebox

Image Description: The keyboard of a piano with a single page of sheet music on top of it
In my family, Music is a big deal, and every Christmas I would make Mix-Tape Style CD’s for my friends and family. Unfortunately, one of my parents would regularly work Christmas Day, and would listen to the CD on the way to work. My father is a walking encyclopedia on the History of Music. If you give him the name of a band, he will rattle off the band’s history and placements of specific songs on radio charts. My partner on the other hand, as kid, did not possess an interest in music. He had limited exposure to FM Pop radio stations and ABC on AM, which didn’t change until he finished secondary college and moved to the “big city” of Bendigo for University access. The only time he listened to music regularly was in the car as he and his step-father traveled into Melbourne together.

This was a strange idea for me to grasp when my partner told me this. It was very difficult for me — a person who is sometimes overwhelmed by sound — to comprehend that for my partner, bands and songs were not distinguishable from each other, but rather blurred together to form one large homogenized blob of decade-associated-noise. Which is why my partner and father will occasionally have weird moments, such as when I play a song my partner vaguely recognizes and I tell him it’s (for example) by Fleetwood Mac. He’ll raise an eyebrow at me and say “That’s Fleetwood Mac?” (though in his defense Fleetwood Mac does change it’s vocal-line up frequently). My father will be incredulous at my partner’s inability to detect a particular band’s style by a mere few bars of music. My partner will shrug non-nonchalantly (“What are you getting all riled up for? It’s just music.”), which will naturally annoy my father further.

Although, I have exposed him to my weird and strange assortment of music, I must confess it mostly consists of 90’s alternative rock — I am a product of my time period in some ways. As my partner’s car is a Japanese import, it can only access AM radio stations, which makes it a little difficult to keep up with modern music. So, it has only just recently come to my attention that auditory stimming is a thing. I hadn’t realised it until I saw a tumblr post mentioning a list of stims, and “listening to the same song over and over again” was one of them, which is something I’ve been doing since I was kid.

The thing is, I still do this and I’m starting to think it might be one of my “feel good” stims (as opposed to my “stress relief” stims which are fidget/hand orientated) and I hadn’t realised it until now. It’s funny, I’ve been trying to figure out “feel good” stims for my characters in my Pushing Boundaries series, and I should have realised sooner why I was having such difficulties. If I couldn’t figure out my own ones, I could hardly figure out ones for my characters. At this point, while I can figure out Mary’s “feel good” stims, it’s going to be more difficult for a character like James, who mostly listens to audio books and classical music, and I have a feeling that it’s going be a process of elimination.

So, for the last two days, I’ve been listening to Youtube videos made by Postmodern Jukebox, and these videos have been helpful for character development and Auditory Stimming:

The Original Artist:
~All About That Bass by Megan Trainor
~Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
~Closer by The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey
~Habits by Tove Lo
~Hotline Bling by Drake
~Lovefool by The Cardigans
~Stacey’s Mum by Fountains of Wayne
~Sugar, We’re Going Down Swinging by Fall Out Boy
~Sweater Weather by The Neighbourhood
~Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys and Barbie Girl by Aqua (the 90’s was a weird time)

The Postmodern Jukebox Version:
~All About That Bass – Postmodern Jukebox European Tour Version ft. Casey Abrams, Haley Reinhart, Morgan James and Ariana Savalas
~Bad Romance – Vintage 1920’s Gatsby Style ft. Ariana Savalas and Sarah Reich
~Closer – Retro ’50s Prom Style ft. Kenton Chen
~Habits – Vintage 1930’s Jazz ft. Haley Reinhart
~Hotline Bling – Vintage ’40s Swing ft. Cristina Gatti
~Lovefool – Vintage Jazz ft. Haley Reinhart
~Stacy’s Mum – Vintage 1930s Hot Jazz ft. Casey Abrams
~Sugar, We’re Going Down – Vintage Big Band Style ft. Joey Cook
~Sweater Weather – Vintage French Pop / Edith Piaf-style ft. Cristina Gatti
~Barbie Girl – Vintage Beach Boys Style ft. Morgan James

This is just a small sample I’m working with. I’m hoping if I use a small sample, it will make it easier to focus my attention. I am so easily distracted by noise and sound. There are way more songs available from the enormously talented singers and musicians that work with Postmodern Jukebox.

All About The Bass: I’ve already written about my issues with the Megan Trainor version (link is here), however I can’t deny I enjoy listening to this version of the song. Morgan James also changes the line to “go ahead and tell those skinny ladies that”, and coupled with her delivery of the “Naw, I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat” line sort of makes it more tolerable? IDK, it’s up to personal interpretation. My favourite part of the song is when all three ladies harmonize together (which is audio catnip for me). The first time I listened to this song, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and sigh; I was not aware I was doing that until my partner raised an eyebrow at my behaviour.

Bad Romance: The funny thing is that Lady Gaga herself is a self-taught pianist, so she often performs Poker Face in this style, which I think is great. If anything, I encourage artists to be able to sit back and strip down their music to the essentials. Ariana Savalas and Sarah Reich work great together as a team, with Sarah performing tap dancing. I would have thought the tap-dancing would make it distracting, but it’s complimentary (or at least that’s the case for me).

Closer: While it’s clear that the guy from The Chainsmokers could not sing to save his life, this is not the case with Kenton Chen and the other vocalists Mario Jose and Vince Cannady. They provide lovely tenor and countertenor harmonization. But this song highlights the fact that talented musicians and vocalists are still restricted by the song. The lyrical clunkiness of the chorus is highlighted because these are talented musicians and vocalists. Much in the same way that Elvis Presley’s bad acting was highlighted further by surrounding him with a cast of talented actors. But, getting back on topic, I just love this style of music. Amongst my favourite songs are I Only Have Eyes For You by The Flamingos, I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) by The Four Tops and Why Do Fools Fall In Love by Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers.

Habits: I love the Haley Reinhart version of this (I’ve replayed this countless times over the last two days). I adore Haley Reinhart’s smoky/raspy Mezzo-soprano voice, or at least I think that’s what it’s classified as (I am in no way a music expert). Haley Reinhart is an engaging performer and she is exquisite to listen to.

Hotline Bling: While I despise the original version of this song, I do enjoy the Hotline Bling memes which are hilarious (the Star Wars one is the best, no exceptions). But much like All About That Base, when Cristina Gatti sings this song, it somehow becomes more tolerable (is that the right word?). When I asked my partner to listen to it, he said “Great, now I have to take this song seriously.” He described it as “like Amy Winehouse”, to which I replied “Why do you say that like it’s a bad thing?”, especially since I also love Amy Winehouse’s music such as Rehab (I play this constantly), Back To Black and Valerie (I know this is Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse, but you get the general idea)

Lovefool: As stated previously, I adore tracks performed by Haley Reinhart, but I also really like the original as well. It’s one of my favourite songs, I think both versions are good, but my partner thinks this version is too close to the original. Let me know in the comments section if you agree or disagree.

Stacey’s Mum: This song is a bit of guilty pleasure of mine, and while I enjoy both versions, I’ve got to say that Casey Abrams is mad talented.

Sugar, We’re Going Down Swinging: Although I am a big Fall Out Boy Fan, I love it when female artists do covers of songs originally sung for/by men. After all, despite the fact that Otis Reed originally did sing it, Aretha Franklin’s version of Respect is the one that’s most well known, and it’s obvious Aretha Franklin’s version is the better one (not sorry in the slightest). Joey Cook’s version does not disappoint, it sounds just like I imagined a vintage big band to sound like, and the black and white visual adds to the jazzy atmosphere.

Sweater Weather: While I do like the original, I prefer Cristina Gatti’s version, not just because she is lovely to listen to (singing in French!) but also because, unlike the original song, the music composition is consistent throughout the track, the original track slows down the melody for some weird reason near the end. This reminds me strongly of Dancing With Myself by Nouvelle Vague, although I do also enjoy the Billy Idol version of Dancing With Myself as well.

Barbie Girl: With regards to Aqua, I actually have a copy their first album (I give full permission to laugh) and while Barbie Girl was most certainly overplayed, it wasn’t Aqua’s best song, my preferred Aqua songs would be Good Morning Sunshine (even though it has a weird rap moment?) and Happy Boys and Girls (if you could turn Diabetes into a sound, I’m fairly certain it would sound like this). With regards to The Beach Boys, I think Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys is an overrated and, quite frankly, jarring song (there’s a reason people only use the first minute and thirty seconds of that song). I feel that Wouldn’t It Be Good (one of my favourite songs) and I Get Around are better examples of The Beach Boys trademark harmonizing vocals.

And this is why Youtube is both a terrible and wonderful thing. For the last two days, I’ve been feeling happy whilst listening to music, but feeling positive and feeling productive are not the same thing. It’s impossible for me to write and sing at the same time (I’ve tested this). Words can be distracting to productivity, which is why one of my PWE teachers recommended listening to instrumental sounds while writing like cinematic soundtracks or classical music instead.

I have found that I’m more productive with music playing in the background with speakers. I’m not as productive when I’m listening to my mp3 player and headphones, but then again, I live with just my partner and me so that’s possible for me to do that (I understand that’s not possible for everyone). If using Youtube, make use of the playlist function, I found that the playlist function was super helpful and I didn’t have to worry about what video to play next, it automatically went to the next one. This way I could just run it in the background while I did the dishes and the laundry.

So, let me know in the comments section down below if you’re into this type of music or if you like an alternative cover version of a song.

Links:
~Queer Without Gender – Experience Atypical: Sound
~Sensory Processing Disorder Checklist: Signs And Symptoms Of Dysfunction
~Todd In The Shadows: Closer by The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey
~Todd In The Shadows: The Best of 2013
~The Rap Critic: Hotline Bling by Drake
~When you try all the sounds and beats on your synth while only playing coldplay – viva la vida
~Auditory Stimming

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