This week’s question comes after the revelation that one of the few original songs Lauryn Hill has released in the past 15 years was unceremoniously dumped into the world via the ignominy of being on the soundtrack to Surf’s Up:
What’s a song you love but found from an unexpected source?
Note: Beginning next week, look for AVQ&A on Saturday mornings. And if you’re looking for more songs to fall in love with, check out our weekly roundup of A-Sides, and listen to the year’s best music with us on Spotify.
I absorb a lot of my musical obsessions from television—I’ve even written before about how Moral Orel, of all things, led to my love affair with my favorite band, The Mountain Goats—but that doesn’t mean I necessarily feel awesome when someone asks why I decided to bust out Colin Hay’s mournful, beautiful acoustic version of “Overkill” at karaoke, only to have to explain that it’s because one time he played a guitar-wielding corpse on Scrubs. Zach Braff has gotten a lot of begrudging respect over the years for injecting the Garden State soundtrack into a generation’s Shins-loving veins, but he also had plenty of musical impact on the show that made him famous, specifically introducing creator Bill Lawrence to the Men At Work frontman’s solo work. Hence Hay appearing in the show’s second-season premiere as a sort of wandering troubadour, applying “Overkill”’s anxieties to the troubles plaguing the Sacred Heart crew. My Scrubs-loving phase might be a decade-plus behind me, but Braff’s taste for high-quality mope-rock still holds up.
When I was in college, my roommate and I adopted a semi-ironic appreciation for Geico’s caveman commercials, with the two of us making an effort to convince ourselves that they were actually very funny and not annoying. One commercial, dubbed “Caveman Airport” when it recently resurfaced, features a caveman encountering an offensive Geico ad in an airport and then slinking away with a heavy sigh. It’s very funny, or at least I think it is, but the best part is the background music: a little tune from Norwegian electronic band Röyksopp called “Remind Me.” It’s a funky song with some rad beats, but it’s not something I ever would’ve listened to if I hadn’t heard it first in the stupid commercial—I mean, the very funny commercial. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only reason I even know it’s a real song is that we thought it was so annoying/catchy that we wanted to download it. More than a decade later, I still love when it when the song pops up on shuffle.
I don’t like Coldplay. I mean, Parachutes is pretty good and “In My Place” is a solid radio single, but, outside of that, I’m no fan. I was quite surprised, then, to find myself swooning over “’Til Kingdom Come,” a somber electro-acoustic ballad that served as X&Y’s secret track. The thing is, I’d never have found it if the song hadn’t appeared in the season five premiere of FX’s The Shield, which was, at the time, the greatest TV series I’d ever seen. It’s true that Coldplay’s something of a queasy fit for the ultra-macho dirty cop series—especially when it’s underscoring Vic Mackey and Ronnie Gardocki’s brutal beatdown of some petty thugs—but the show often surprised with its music choices, having also gotten me into both Flogging Molly and The Magnetic Fields. The difference is that I celebrate the entire catalog of those bands, whereas “’Til Kingdom Come” remains probably the only Coldplay song you’ll find me slipping onto mixtapes.
The classic webseries Yacht Rock manages a difficult trick, in that it draws you in on the assumption that it’s lampooning the central, invented musical genre, when it’s in fact a deeply silly love letter to a bunch of excellent records by musicians who looked like this during the last pop-music era when such things weren’t a hindrance to a hit song. I was already a fan of the series’ top supporting characters, Steely Dan, but my collegiate snobbiness had me thinking that protagonists Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins were total cornballs. This is, as McDonald and Loggins once wrote, what a fool believes. In time, Yacht Rock taught me to unapologetically love the music those two sensitive beardos made together and apart, like “This Is It,” a stirring anthem whose percolating bass and luxurious strings also make a great backdrop for a comedic back-alley confrontation between its composers and their natural enemies, Daryl Hall and John Oates. So thank you, Yacht Rock, for making me feel the raw power of really smooth music.
I have never seen the movie Surf’s Up. It looks like garbage, to be quite honest. Despite the voice talent of Jeff Bridges as a wise Dude-esque mentor, the animated film about surfing penguins and the women who love them (just speculating here, I have no idea), everything about the film screamed generic kids’ movie to me. So imagine my surprise when a friend emailed me a link to a new Lauryn Hill song called “Lose Myself” and said, “You’ll never guess where I found this.” Yep: One of the few original songs Hill has released in the past 15 years is on the freaking Surf’s Up soundtrack. I can only assume this is why it’s not better known, because let me assure you: It’s a fucking banger. Catchy as hell, with a bouncy pop beat and bassline, yet still managing to capture the elusive Lauryn Hill soulfulness so often denied us in the 21st century, “Lose Myself” is a spectacular song, the kind of thing defenders of the mercurial artist will haul out to prove why she’s worth the endurance test of maintaining fandom. I have a suspicion that a lot of people will begin to listen out of curiosity, then bail within the first 30 seconds thanks to the cheesy synth-organ sounds, not realizing it’s about to launch into magic. Woe unto them—and thank you, Surf’s Up.
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