So the songs in my head aren’t always songs I particularly like. In fact, the more I don’t like a song, the more likely it will appear in my head, soundtracking my dreams, continuing on when I wake up suddenly, keeping me from falling back asleep. Often they are modern pop songs that do this to me, like that Rebecca Black “Friday” song that was all the rage 4 or 5 years ago. Or Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”
Sometimes it’ll be a song that was ubiquitous at a particular time in my life, most likely during my 20’s. Madonna’s “Holiday” had been known to cycle through the noggin’ around 5am. Then, for a while it was replaced by “La Isla Bonita” then “Live To Tell” then back to “Holiday.”
This morning it was Lisa Loeb’s “Stay.” Back in the summer of 1994, when the movie Reality Bites came out, that song was everywhere. I think it was sung by the actors in the movie, no? I’m too lazy to look it up. The music video was played every hour on MTV, it seemed, and I found that video so annoying. The way it would start with a close up of a cat on a chair by a window in an apartment, looking like it wanted to jump out and escape the film crew and the lights and that girl with the tortoise shell horn-rimmed glasses. And the whole video is Lisa Loeb walking around an apartment. Boring!
I think it was the apartment used in the movie, but maybe I’m making that up. Someone feel free to correct me if you know. And then at the end she opens a heavy door and goes outside. Where? On a balcony? A ledge? Is it supposed to signify leaving? She keeps demanding you to stay and then she goes and leaves? Typical.
I actually did think Lisa Loeb was cute – I definitely have/had a weakness for women who wear glasses, but I hated that song. I hated the sound of the guitar, all the pauses between the lines of the song. It’s barely over 3 minutes long but it felt interminable. I’m a sucker for a sappy love song, but this one was cloying and overly precious.
The movie though. Reality Bites I loved. It was my first exposure to Ben Stiller, who also directed the film. It also starred Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke and Janeane Garafolo. All of them uniformly excellent. i was 27 at the time and I thought the film created a believable scenario where Winona’s character (Leilana) was atttracted to both a passionate (i.e. emotionally draining, alcoholic) slacker musician (Hawke) as well as the more level-headed, professional man (Stiller) who’s, shall we say, less (pop) culturally aware (i.e. boring, doesn’t understand angst). In the movie, she eventually chooses Hawke’s greasy-haired emoting over Stiller’s more stable, financially secure pleading. I think we, the audience, were supposed to think she made the right choice, but I thought Stiller would have been a better fit. Probably because I related to him more than Ethan’s character. His emotionally manipulative artsy boy-man schtick wore thin for me. Boohoo you had a hard life, a broken home, etc. Write a song about it and move on.
And like all 20’s something heterosexual guys of that age, we all had crushes on Winona Ryder. Developed them the first time we saw Beetlejuice, and it carried on through Heathers and Edward Scissorhands. Winona always played the brooding, whip-smart, artistic, nerdy girl who, we imagined, would fall for guys like us if the timing was right. We understood her, we would listen to her tell us her dreams and desires all night long and never make a move on her because that would be self-serving and awkward.
And that is why it was so hard to accept that Leilana would pick the brooding rocker over the nice guy with a job. It was as if she chose against us. It was the Pretty in Pink scenario 7 years later. We all wanted Molly Ringwald’s Andie to choose Ducky, to not be like all the other girls who always chose the tall, good-looking boys over the awkward and shy geeks. We were convinced she was different, that we had a chance, that there was hope. And then right when we think our comrade Ducky is going to get the girl, Andrew McCarthy, the suave rich kid, sees the error of his ways, apologizes to Andie and they ride off into the sunset. And with Ducky’s blessing too, which felt like kicking us when we were down.
Which brings me back to Lisa Loeb. Like Winona Ryder’s Leilana, like Molly Ringwald Andie, Lisa Loeb was the musical equivalent. We wanted to think she was different, that she’s more than just another girl who’s going to pick the rock star boyfriend. A few years later she marries rock star Dweezil Zappa.
12 years later, newly divorced Lisa Loeb would star in a reality TV show called “Number One Single,” a dating show to help her find true love at 38. There’s a message in there somewhere.