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February 5, 2010

Book Notes - Marisa Meltzer ("Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

With her book Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music, Marisa Meltzer explores the music of the '90s and how both the underground and popular movements of the times have shaped our world. Combining in-depth research with biting commentary, Riot Grrl with Madonna, Girl Power is an entertaining but also informative social reference, and one of the best music books I have read in years.

Bookslut's Michael Schaub writes of the book:

"It's a remarkably well-written book, and it doesn't seek to be comprehensive, indier-than-thou, or preachy -- it's a brief history, written with a keen eye for both social and musical context, and it captures the spirit of popular music in the '90s better than anything I've read."

In her own words, here is Marisa Meltzer's Book Notes music playlist for her book, Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music:

Since I already spend most of my free time watching Breeders videos on YouTube and thinking about the deeper implications of Britney Spears' abs, writing Girl Power—a whole book devoted to those very things!—rarely felt like work. At least, it felt like the kind of work that's a pleasure to do.

But when your hobby becomes your job, it creates a bit of a problem. Suddenly listening to Madonna and Bikini Kill were part of my work life and I needed to go beyond my girly-nineties comfort zone to find music to soundtrack all the other parts of my life.

I don't listen to music while I write, so this is mostly music I listen to while procrastinating. I hope that doesn't sound dismissive; listening to a song while I'm distracting myself from doing something else is usually when I appreciate it the most.

"Six Different Ways" by The Cure

At some point in the middle of writing the book, I started to listen to The Cure exclusively. If I felt trapped in my apartment, I'd ride my bike around Prospect Park a few times and this was always the first song I'd listen to (the second was always “Catch”). There's a certain tenacity to Robert Smith's love songs that really speaks to my inner 15-year-old. I'd like to be on the receiving end of it.

“Pacific Ocean Blues” by Dennis Wilson

This is part of a whole subgenre of songs about California (others include “California Über Alles,” Joni Mitchell's “California,” the Beach Boys' oeuvre, and the theme song to The OC) that I listen to while indulging in low-grade homesickness for the west coast. I also love that this song mentions otters.

"Father Figure" by George Michael

I was in junior high when this single came out and its video felt like the height of sophistication, all models and downtown lofts and garter belts. Now the only place I feel comfortable singing “If you are the desert/ I'll be the sea/ If you ever hunger/ Hunger for me” is the privacy of my own home. But I do it often.

"He Needs Me (Demo Version)" by Harry Nilsson

There are two demos of this song from the soundtrack to Popeye on HARRYties: one is sung by Shelley Duval, the other, for reasons I fail to understand, is sung in Spanish by a woman who sounds like Joanna Newsom. Both are like taking a vacation to Swoon City, USA.

"Hippychick" by Soho

I enjoy the Why Not element of this song: Why not start a group and call it “Soho”? Why not decide to call your one hit “Hippychick”? Why not sample “How Soon Is Now”? It also appears on one of my favorite episodes of 90210 when Brenda tries to become a spoken word artist.

“Stabby” by Japanther

This is a perfect egg timer of a song. I always listen to it between paragraphs or after finishing a chapter, usually while lying on my couch and staring at the ceiling. My apartment has one of those pressed tin ceilings, so there's a lot to look at.

"Whiter Shade of Pale" by Jackie Mittoo

I like Procol Harum's original version of this song, too, but this instrumental cover is totally perfect. I like to listen to it first thing in the morning while drinking tea and staring out at the Yummy Taco across the street.

Marisa Meltzer and Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music links:

the author's blog
the author's book tour events

Bookslut review
Campus Progress review
Library Journal

Flavorwire list of essential 90's female artists by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (highlights of the week's comics & graphic novel releases)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (highlights of the week's book releases)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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