Theme songs. You know you have one. We all do. That song that doesn’t just speak to you, but speaks for you. Theme songs come in two different flavors: philosophical and subliminal. The former is a conscious choice, while the latter is more a reflection of our unconscious.
Philosophical theme songs are often easy to find and are generally straight forward. They serve as our own personal propaganda campaign and support the image that we wish to present to the world. A biker might choose something tough, like “Bad to the Bone” (George Thorogood and the Destroyers), while a lady-killer (or someone who wishes they were one) might choose something like “Sharp Dressed Man” (ZZ Top). Silly examples, I know. But they are believable, right? And don’t even get me started on the songs politicians choose for their campaign rallies.
For me, if I had to pick a philosophical theme song these days, I think it would be “I Heard Ramona Sing” by Frank Black. This comes from his solo work outside of the Pixies and is also found on the soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The lyrics, specifically the first verse, appeal to my sensibilities and play off of the image I am currently cultivating here–the thoughtful music fanatic. “I had so many problems/Until I got me a walkman/I really liked it a lot and/They walked right in and they solved them.”
The second type of theme song, the subliminal, is more likely to choose you than the other way around. Unlike with philosophical theme songs, whether you like this song or not is irrelevant. You’ll probably just be minding your own business, idly flipping through radio channels or listening to that new album you just bought. An innocent turn of phrase will catch your attention and suddenly you know that this song has got you pegged. Discovering this type of theme song can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience. The lyrics may hit too close to home, revealing secrets you may not have admitted even to yourself. But you know that what it is saying is true.
I recently had this experience with “Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem. I love this song, don’t get me wrong. It is fun to listen to and always gets me going when I’m tired in the morning. But it speaks to me on many levels. It is the perfect theme song for someone entering their 30’s, who spends more time at work than away, and who is wondering if this is how the rest of their life is going to be. There is a tired, dissatisfied undercurrent to this song, perfectly counterbalanced by the infectious, sometimes off-kilter dance beats of the instrumentation. “Break me into bigger pieces/So some of me is home with you/Wait until the weekend/And we can make our bad dreams come true/And its a go/Yeah its a go/But if we wait until the weekend, we could miss the best things to do.”
It’s hard to grow up… and it’s even harder when you realize that it has already happened…
Do you have a theme song?