In Random Rules, The A.V. Club asks some of its favorite people to set their MP3 players to shuffle and comment on the first few tracks that come up—no cheating or skipping embarrassing tracks allowed.
Shuffler: Brian K. Vaughan, the prolific, acclaimed comic-book writer behind Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Runaways, The Escapists, and the upcoming allegorical Iraq-set graphic novel Pride Of Baghdad.
The Police, "Message in a Bottle"
Brian K. Vaughan: I love The Police, I guess. But I'm not a big Sting fan. The character of John Constantine was originally based on Sting, and when I was working on Swamp Thing, I got the opportunity to write a John Constantine story, and I wanted to have my characters make fun of him, because Sting used to be cool, and now he's adult-contemporary. But my characters were too pathetic to make fun of John Constantine, so I avoided it. I think it would've been better to go with Bowie instead of Sting.
Leon Redbone, "According to Our New Arrival"
BKV: This is the theme to Mr. Belvedere. It says the album it is off of is Mr. Belvedere. I don't own an album called Mr. Belvedere. I don't remember putting it on there. That's just al-Qaeda. They must've put it on there. I never listened to it before. I put every song I've ever owned on here, so it's Russian roulette. I just took a bullet.
MC Honky, "What A Bringdown"
BKV: MC Honky is E's alter ego, E from the Eels. That's hip, right? Eels… They're probably my favorite band working today. I think you really have to love the Eels to hunt down MC Honky, but I actually like some songs off MC Honky's album I Am The Messiah probably better than some of Eels' albums.
The A.V. Club: Why the Eels?
BKV: I don't know what it is about the Eels. I always try to force their albums on people, and people say it's too depressing. I really love depressing music. There's something life-affirming about it. It's corny, but sad songs make me happy, I guess. I like a good rockin' sad song, which the Eels excel at.
Karen O and Squeak E. Clean, "Hello Tomorrow"
BKV: That's not terribly cool, to have an Adidas version. That's the Spike Jonze commercial, and it has Karen O from Yeah Yeah Yeahs on vocals, and I loved it. That's one of the nice things about the Internet. I know there's nothing hip about falling in love with a song because of a commercial, but I was able to track down who's behind it.
Chop Chop, "Mix Tape"
BKV: That's a band out of Boston that I got into because it's the girl I went to prom with in high school. But they're really good. It's always fun to have people you know on your iPod.
David Shire, "Blue And Green Talk"
BKV: This is from the Taking Of Pelham One Two Three soundtrack. I'm not a big soundtrack junkie, but it's the greatest soundtrack of all time, I think.
Body Count, "Momma's Gotta Die Tonight"
BKV: From their seminal album Body Count. I think I probably bought that because I wasn't old enough to know better. I was growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, and I knew I wasn't supposed to own that album, so I desperately wanted it.
AVC: Was it the version with "Cop Killer"?
BKV: There were two different versions, and they took it off the second, that's right. I'm sure that made me want it even more, to have the version you're not allowed to have. I've listened to this once, maybe, but I owned it. Putting every CD I've ever owned onto my iPod is like Kryptonite, an exploded piece of your past shooting into you brain. It reminds me of my past failures.
Cyndi Lauper, "Come On Home"
BKV: It's off of Twelve Deadly Cyns, so it's the Cyndi Lauper best-of, which is terribly depressing. I don't know "Come On Home." All I know of Cyndi Lauper is, there's… I think it's in Misery, where Stephen King's protagonist is listening to Cindy Lauper, and he describes her as "hiccupping through another song." As a kid, I thought it was the most awesome sentence I'd ever read, because there's no way to describe Cyndi Lauper other than "hiccupping." I don't know if that was enough to compel me to buy Twelve Deadly Cyns.
The Raspberries, "I Wanna Be With You"
BKV: Allow me to namedrop. I'm doing The Escapists, a Dark House comic book, and it's set in Cleveland, and Michael Chabon, who wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which what this comic is a spin-off of, suggested cool Cleveland bands to me that I was embarrassed I'd never heard of. He suggested The Raspberries. I feel bad. Cleveland is supposedly the home of rock 'n' roll, but it's hard to find good Cleveland bands.
BKV: Writers will lie and say they don't read reviews, or that the bad reviews don't bother them, which is a bigger lie. There used to be a Dr. Dre song I had to listen to which was just Dre insulting his critics, and it made me feel better and calmed me down. It lost power after a thousand listens. I think it's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," where Jay-Z says "I'm a hustler homey / you a customer crony." And "customer" was like the cruelest thing I've heard someone call their critics or their audience, so I have to listen to that song when I get bad reviews, and then I feel better about myself.
AVC: You're doing okay with the critics these days, aren't you?
BKV: Yes, but you don't dwell on the good ones. You seek out the very worst talkbacker, someone who wants your family dead because you wrote Ultimate Colossus wrong.