My 30-Day Song Challenge

Sometime near the end of March I found this 30-day song challenge on Instagram and decided to give it a go. I’ve been posting my answers on Facebook for a month, and now, for the sake of convenience, I’ve collected all of them here. Enjoy. 🙂

30 days
Day 1: A song you like with a color in the title
“Blue Velvet” by Lana del Rey

Notes: As a general rule I don’t really care for pop music (except for some of those 80s pop songs that actually sound more like hard rock power ballads). I don’t know any of the new – or old – dances, and I doubt I would even recognize any singers who are currently in the top 10 if they were sitting next to me on the subway. But Lana del Rey is a different animal. She makes that weird/atmospheric kind of pop music that makes me think of movies from the 1960s and those records you always see at thrift stores. Dig it.

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Day 2: A song you like with a number in the title
“The Big Three Killed My Baby” by the White Stripes

Notes: Oh, White Stripes. You and your long song titles. And your bluesy garage rock. And your raw recording quality. And your undying support of old country music and the Delta Blues. And your rabid minimalism. And your gimmickry that actually worked. And your courage to be truly counter-cultural…Damn it, I love this band.

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Day 3: A song that reminds you of summertime
“Summertime Blues” by Eddie Cochran

Notes: Yeah, I know, this one seems obvious because it has the word “summertime” in the title, but hear me out. Back when my sister Katie and I were kids, our mom used to dump us off at PACH Hall’s city-sponsored daytime abandonment camp every summer. Dirty Dancing, Stand By Me, and La Bamba were all popular movies back then, so the music of the 50s and 60s was very much a thing. All the kids were singing (and lip-syncing) those tunes. I hear this song and it really is summertime at PACH Hall all over again.

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Day 4: A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget
“Liar” by Henry Rollins

Note: Everyone I have ever completely written off has had one thing in common.

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Day 5: A song that needs to be played loudly
“Mass Hypnosis” by Sepultura

Note: A friend of mine is married to a guy from Argentina. The first time I met him I mentioned the fact that South America has produced a ton of great metal bands. As soon as I said it, he smiled, raised the horns, and said (in Spanish), “Sep-ul-TOO-ra.” Those first 4 albums are some of Brazil’s finest exports.

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Day 6: A song that makes you want to dance
“The Sails of Charon” by Scorpions

Note: Groove for days. Next time I strip for somebody’s birthday, it’ll be to this song.

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Day 7: A song to drive to
“Misirlou” by Dick Dale

Note: Yes, it’s “the Pulp Fiction song,” but it’s also a great tune to blast when you’re doing 30 over the speed limit with the windows down. My buddy Keith can attest, this was the soundtrack to almost all of our high school adventures. And on a related note, my friend Angelo once killed that trumpet solo during a show at the Jaycees Hall. Great times with this one.

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Day 8: A song about drugs or alcohol
“Snowblind” by Black Sabbath

Note: Something I’ve noticed about cocaine. In songs about other drugs, the artists try to speak in clever/coded metaphors (“Puff the Magic Dragon,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” etc.) But in songs about cocaine (“Casey Jones” by the Grateful Dead, “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton, etc.) they just come right out and say it. Know why? ‘Cause cocaine is a hell of a drug.

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Day 9: A song that makes you happy
“In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room”

Note: There’s a special place in my heart for the tiki scene of the 1950s-60s. I like the neo-tiki/hulabilly scene too. An entire subculture devoted to the art of taking it easy? Yes please. I mean, where else are you gonna find a song performed by 4 international parrots?

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Day 10: A song that makes you sad
“Somewhere Out There” from “An American Tail”

Note: True embarrassing-as-hell story. When An American Tail came out, my mom took me and Katie to see it at Surf Side Cinema. (And yes, we stuffed our pockets with candy from Eckerd beforehand.) I was really enjoying it right up until Fievel and his sister decided to look up at the moon and sing “Somewhere Out There.” I cried so hard and unrelentingly at this song that I drove my mom through all 5 stages of parental concern: (1) “Oh, baby, don’t cry. It’s gonna be alright;” (2) “Look! He found his family! See? Look how happy they are! You can quit crying now.” (3) “You STILL crying? Oh, I am not believing this. This is embarrassing.” (4) “Jason Michael, for gawd’s sake, he found his family! QUIT. CRYING!” (5) “What do you think your daddy’s gonna do when I tell him how much you cried over some singing mice?”

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Day 11: A song you never get tired of
“One by One” by Immortal

Note: It’s not the the trvest song Immortal ever recorded, but for my money it’s the perfect combination of black and thrash metal, peaks and valleys. Every time this song comes up in my gym mix, I go into Norwegian beast mode.

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Day 12: A song from your preteen years
“Turtle Power” by Partners in Kryme

Note: I know you remember Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap,” but do you remember the far superior “Turtle Power”? My only complaint about this song is that it says Raphael is the leader. Wrong. The TMNT theme song clearly states that “LEONARDO leads.” Nevertheless, it delivers an important message: “When you stand for what you believe in and find the strength to do what’s right – THAT’s Turtle Power!”

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Day 13: A song you like from the 70s
“Easy Livin'” by Uriah Heep

Note: This was a hard one, mainly because the 70s were loaded with great bands: Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Heart, The Allman Brothers Band – all that stuff is 70s music. When I was first getting into rock/metal, one of my dad’s radio friends turned me on to a lesser-known, but equally great band called Uriah Heep and their classic album “Demons and Wizards.” I found a copy in the used stacks at Ace Music, brought it home, and have been jamming to it ever since. This song is proto-thrash. Dig it.

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Day 14: A song you’d love to be played at your wedding
“My Funny Valentine”

Note: If I was getting married and my wife dedicated this song to me at our wedding, I would try extra hard not to cheat on her with her sister and/or lose our life savings in a pyramid scheme. Not because I’m a huge fan of the song itself, but because the lyrics really make a guy like me feel appreciated. This is the song you play when you fall in love with the class clown.

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Day 15: A song you like that’s a cover by another artist
“Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” by Stevie Ray Vaughan

Note: If you like guitar-driven music, you owe it to yourself to watch this. Most Jimi Hendrix songs don’t sound right when they’re covered by other artists, but – dare I say it? – SRV actually played this one better. Legend has it that his guitar smoked five cigarettes and made dinner for him after this performance. Seriously, watch his face during the solo at 1:55. Played it so well, even HE just had to close his eyes and shake his head. Spirit done got him, y’all.

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Day 16: A song that’s a classic favorite
“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen (performed by Jeff Buckley)

Note: It’s probably the most overplayed song ever written. You hear it in every singing competition. There are literally thousands of cover versions on YouTube. I’ve been to piano bars where the pianists wouldn’t even take $100 to play it. But don’t forget what Amanda Palmer said: “Some songs get covered a lot because they’re just that good.”

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Day 17: A song you’d sing as a duet with someone at karaoke
“A Whole New World” by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle

Note: So you might have heard this crazy rumor that my friend Keith and I spent an entire Drama Fest bus ride to Hattiesburg re-writing this song with more “grown up” lyrics. Well, the rumor is true. That was high school, but I still remember every word. And with the right singing partner, I can show you the world…

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Day 18: A song from the year you were born
“1979” by the Smashing Pumpkins

Note: Is this cheating? 🙂

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Day 19: A song that makes you think about life
“Parabol/Parabola” by Tool

Note: Whether you believe we were created by a divine being or simply won the cosmic evolution lottery, life as we know it IS a miracle. This song is a hymn to that fact. “Recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing…Embrace this moment. Remember, we are eternal. All this pain is an illusion.”

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Day 20: A song that has many meanings to you
“Lightning Crashes” by Live

Note: I got your ’90s nostalgia RIGHT. HERE. This song has always sent my mind in a lot of different directions – life, death, angels, friends who’ve passed away, second chances, unseen forces, etc. It’s the feeling Robert Plant gets when he looks to the West. It’s chapter 7 of The Wind in the Willows. Much love to those who know what I’m saying.

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Day 21: A song you like with a person’s name in the title
“Jolene” by Dolly Parton

Note: It’s a little overwhelming how many great songs have people’s names in their titles – “Layla,” “Hey Jack Kerouac,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Jackie’s Strength,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Jeremy,” “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam,” etc. ad infinitum. A lot of great tunes, but I have to go with “Jolene” on this one. It takes me back to watching Hee Haw with my grandparents on Saturday nights, there’s no other song quite like it, and – I’ll just say it – I’m from the South. If I pick one of the other songs, I can’t go home again.

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Day 22: A song that moves you forward
“Curse You All Men” by Emperor

Note: I didn’t have to think about this one for even a second. Whenever I’m feeling down and defeated, this is the soundtrack to my rise from the ashes. It’s an acquired taste for sure – most people won’t make it past the vocals. But if you do, you’ll hear an anthem dedicated to seeing beyond the present moment, reclaiming what’s yours, and torturing your enemies for eternity. “Curse you, all men whose coil is strong / I recognize the sparrow’s heart beneath the theater of misery / Disbelievers shall, by dawn, be forced to forever mourn / Curse you, all men that resent my empire / As I have risen again / At war this time.” By the way, did I mention that I met these guys at the airport in Tokyo?

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Day 23: A song you think everybody should listen to
“Pig Fetus” by The Brass Tacks

Note: Why should everybody listen to this song? Well, mostly because I’m in the band that wrote it, performed it, and edited the video together. Also, because you should all subscribe to my YouTube channel (Gemini Hills). There’s no metaphor to this song, by the way. It’s about my old partner in crime, who really did keep a fetal pig named Babe in a jar. For more info, click here. Enjoy. Oh, and listen with headphones.

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Day 24: A song by a band you wish was still together
“Domination” by Pantera

Note: You HAVE seen this before, right? I mean, what are you doing with your life if you haven’t seen Pantera’s classic live performance of “Domination” in Moscow? I doubt they’d still be playing at this level if they were still together today, but it would be nice if Vinnie and Dime were still alive. They were good guys. Gone way too soon. Watch and learn, kids. A legend is born starting at about 3:05.

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Day 25: A song you like by an artist no longer living
“I’m Afraid of Americans” by David Bowie

Note: It might be different with rap and hip-hop, but when a rock or metal song features a special guest singer it usually sucks. Not so with this song, though. David Bowie and Trent Reznor did it right. By the way, when my gal-pal Wendy and I went around to the back of State Palace Theater to watch David Bowie get into his car (after standing front row for the concert), Trent Reznor was there and we stood right next to him. Not as exciting as getting an IG like from Billy Corgan, but hey, it was still a nice moment.

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Day 26: A song that makes you want to fall in love
“Crazy on You” by Heart

Note: I’m bending the rules a little bit on this one. “Crazy on You” doesn’t necessarily make ME want to fall in love, but it was the perfect song for my favorite movie scene about falling in love. Take two minutes out and watch it. Remember what love felt like at that age? Desperately wanting someone. Trying to reach out to them. All of your interactions are fumbly and awkward. You don’t know how you’ll ever manage to make it work. And then…

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Day 27: A song that breaks your heart
“Rattlesnakes” by Tori Amos

Note: I have a terrible history with Tori Amos’s Strange Little Girls album. First, it was released on September 18, 2001, exactly one week after 9/11. Just hearing it takes me back to a very bad time. On top of that, the songs all have a sad, rainy day, creepy hospital room vibe about them – like that “I Feel Fantastic” video on YouTube (don’t look it up). The only song I really liked was Tori’s cover of Lloyd Cole’s “Rattlesnakes,” but even that has totally depressing lyrics about a young woman who’s been dealt a bad hand. “She says, ‘Oh, it’s so hard to love when Love was your great disappointment.'” Talk about a mood killer.

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Day 28: A song by an artist whose voice you love
“City of New Orleans” by Johnny Cash

Note: It’s the quintessential old country song about trains. A lot of people have sung it, but Johnny’s version has always been my favorite.

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Day 29: A song you remember from your childhood
“Call Me” by Blondie

Note: Here’s another one I didn’t have to think about. “Call Me” was my first favorite song. My parents had it on a 45, and I wore that damn thing down. Still love it.

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Day 30: A song that reminds you of yourself
“Man on the Moon” by R.E.M.

Note: I keep thinking there’s gonna come a day when I wake up and find myself a wise, old, totally mature man who no longer loves pranks, surprises, and fart jokes. And yet every morning I wake up still loving all three. I guess this is just me. “If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve…”

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And there you have it. Hope you found something worth listening to. Thanks for reading.

– J.

About J. Wiltz

"Well, you know, there really isn't very much to say about me." - Andy Warhol
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