Renee had to make a "Soundtrack To My Life" list for one of her communication classes, and it go me thinking. I've made more than a few "Soundtrack To My Life" compilations for various reasons - girls, essays, CDs to give away as presents, etc. Having heard and winced over other people's soundtracks throughout my life, I thought it might be wise to stop for a moment and explain the ground rules, just so everyone's clear.
1. Unless the number of songs exceeds 10, you cannot repeat an artist, no matter how influential. Period. If one artist is truly dominant in your soundtrack, you are allowed to pick an entire album as one entry, but you can only pull the stunt once, and it has to be your most important entry.
2. You are not allowed to pick a song from any movie that does not mimic your life fairly exactly. Therefore, songs from High Fidelity, Garden State, Love Actually, and The Graduate are all acceptable - and maybe Almost Famous or Big Fish if we really want to stretch things. It is not, however, acceptable to pick the theme song from any epic movie. This includes: Braveheart, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Princess Bride, The Godfather, and above all, Rocky.
3. Choosing classical music is acceptable, but only in moderation. You are allowed one classical piece out of every five regular songs. This piece should be filled with grace, longing, and beauty. It should not be something that has been played behind a commercial, or generally used at a wedding. It is not allowed to be "The 1812 Overture" or "The Hallejah Chorus" except for very, very good reason. On the flip side, it should also be from a composer that at least one person in the room has heard of. Everyone is given one Mulligan on this rule, in case "Fur Elise" or "Heart and Soul" is a must for your list because you always played it with your mother on cold winter evenings.
4. The list should, in all ways, be balanced. People who chose all classical, all emo, all 80's metal, or all folk are justly perceived as thinking simplistically. For someone in their early twenties, a list should incorporate at least one song from your childhood, one from your middle school depressive years, one song that reminds you of good times in high school, one song that changed you during a tough, introspective stage in your life, and one song you'd like played at either your wedding/funeral, depending on whether you want something sweeter or sadder at this point.
5. Not all of these songs can currently be on your iPod. If you have all of these songs playing currently, it's become the "Soundtrack to your Right Now." Stretch back further.
6. Some people will pick all songs that no one in the room has heard of. Some people will pick all songs that are played on the radio, or would be known by everyone in room. Both styles are wrong. Allow for your own uniqueness without rejoicing in your musical superiority.
7. "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" is not allowed in your soundtrack, for any reason.
8. If at any point in your list you pick a song because it sounds more impressive, less embarassing, or you know someone else who might read the list likes it, start over. You're doing it wrong.
9. Christmas songs are not to be snickered at. Christmas is an important time in families and relationships, and is usually some of the coziest memories you have come from this time. If you weep when you hear Judy Garland sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," then put it on that list and don't let anyone take it off.
10. This is not a time to show what your current musical taste is. If you only listen to rap these days, that's fine, but don't pick all rap songs if you grew up loving country. It doesn't matter if it's embarrassing now. We're not passing judgment on who we were.
11. Finally, don't defend the songs on your list, only give your reasons for picking them. It doesn't matter that you've got a soppy Backstreet Boys song on that list - if that was the song being played when your dad drove you home from that seventh grade party where you got dumped hard for the first time, then say that. It doesn't have to be a good song. It just doesn't.