From 1992 through 1994 my taste in pop music was rather questionable.
As I've once written before, my mix tape selections differed from those of my classmates at New Rochelle Catholic Elementary in the early 90s. During art class we were given the opportunity to bring in cassette tapes from home, a sort of play-and-tell to stimulate our artistic instincts with every papier-mache sculpture and watercolor portrait that would be graded by the yellow-toothed Mrs. Baron, a Woodstock alumna who was known to chain smoke the afternoons away in the faculty lounge. In the art room was a small, corner table on which sat a rinkydink, circa-1985 boombox next to a bunch of paint jars and brushes. It would blare bass-heavy singles from Dr. Dre, House of Pain, En Vogue and Nirvana.
My musical contributions to the class were, to say the least, not as popular as the others. Among the cassette singles I had brought in: Annie Lennox's "Walking on Broken Glass," Darryl Hall's "I'm in a Philly Mood," Big Mountain's reggae cover of "Baby I Love Your Way," (which was actually a hit with some of my peers) and of course, the occasional Amy Grant pop gem. The romantic Elton John and Kiki Dee power ballad, "True Love," however, stayed at home because I was wise enough to avoid getting glue poured on my seat and face the subsequent snickering.
Yes, while the rest of my schoolmates jumped along to Kris Kross in their baggy Hilfigers, I was soaking in the latest Christopher Pike novel and turning the volume up on a 32-year-old Christian-turned-pop singer from Georgia. Back then, Amy Grant had ranked high on my list of favorite artists, and I could never explain why. She certainly didn't have the pipes to rival either Whitney or Mariah. But damn, did she put out one guilty pleasure of an album.
"Baby, Baby" was the song that did it for me. While cruising along I-95 in the family Pontiac 6000-LE one morning in 1991, my mom turned up the volume on the radio, proclaiming her love for the song and introducing me to its saccharine sweetness (To blame or not to blame the parents - that is the question).
I was hooked.
By the summer of 1993 my obsession with all things Amy Grant (and Jurassic Park, incidentally) had reached its peak. I had collected all of her previous albums (yep, even the holy ones) and hunted down the pocket-sized biography that was on display alongside the paperback life stories of Kurt Cobain and a then-twentysomething Brad Pitt at the Waldenbooks in the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers. I absorbed every detail of her life and convinced myself that her 1986 hit, "Love Can Do," was written for the soundtrack to my little life in Westchester County. When my parents had signed me up for Campus Kids, a sleepaway camp based on a college campus in Pennsylvania, I had made sure I packed my mix tape that contained the Body & Soul Mix of "Every Heartbeat," my all-time favorite single from the curly-haired Grammy nominee. I played that tune repeatedly on the bus ride, eventually wearing out the tape ribbon. A year later, I would end up retrieving the cassette single from the bargain bin at Nobody Beats the Wiz.
As you'll see, the video for "Every Heartbeat" was nothing groundbreaking. If anything, it allowed AG to finally play dress-up in between clips of cute boy-meets-girl vignettes. And further below, a breakdown of the glorious cheesiness of this low-budget production:
0:09 - Look, Amy's a bubblegum-chewing tomboy! It's the first of many costume changes. Kinda like Britney's "Toxic," but without the slut factor.
0:14 - We establish Cute Boy and Cute Girl toiling away at a neighborhood laundromat.
0:25 - Amy resembles an early-90s Charlotte York in a polka-dot ensemble straight out of Breakfast at Tiffany's.
0:35 - Cute Boy attempts to appear intellectual by wearing glasses and reading a book about being shy (awww).
0:41 - It doesn't work.
1:01 - We establish Guy With Broken Car and Mechanic Lady.
1:25 - Amy turns into Film Noir Diva.
1:31 - "You're a girl?"
2:00 - Amy appears to have stolen the blue shirt of her very, very large boyfriend:
2:15 - Cute Boy at laundromat shows us what he's hiding under that pesky shirt.
2:21 - Cue the old Russian lady!
2:34 - Mechanic Lady cries oil.
2:50 - Clearly, this is the laundromat of choice for Calvin Klein models.
3:01 - Laundry fight!
3:18 - Grab that umbrella. It's raining black polka dots!
Believe it or not, the song, with its ridiculously catchy chorus, still resonates with me and will forever be number one on the soundtrack of my early adolescence -- a time when purple denim was okay, Ace of Base was the shiz, and Twitter was just a sound birds make.
Fifteen years from now, who knows where the focus of my musical reminiscence will fall upon. With over 300 hours worth of music currently stored on my iTunes, it will be quite the challenge, cherry picking which tunes and/or artists stood out and defined this moment in my very late 20s. I guess it all depends on how well a song will age over time, if it can still stimulate, inspire, entertain.
Sorry, Taylor Swift. Something tells me you're not going to make the cut.
*What would be on your soundtrack?