NOTE: This post is rated R for mild strong language and crude humor.
My last couple of posts (here and here) have provided “liner notes” for (i.e., comments on) my Ultimate Superfly Workout Megamix. I got as far as M before you ran out of patience (which I sensed ahead of time). In this post I cover songs beginning with N thru S because you’re here, so you’re ready for more … right? It’s a long winter and you need more music recommendations for those boring indoor trainer rides!
(It just occurred to me to wonder if I’m using the term “megamix” correctly. After looking this word up on Wikipedia I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t care. I use this term to mean “mix tape that isn’t on tape.”)
Liner notes – Dana’s Ultimate Superfly Workout Megamix Part III
No Love - Lil Wayne/Eminem
Okay, this song is just frickin’ epic, as my teenager would say. It starts off with a whole section by Lil Wayne (which threw my wife off at first—she was like, “What’s wrong with Eminem’s voice? He sounds so weird!”). This passage has some awesome lyrics, plus Lil Wayne just sounds great—he does a better “uh” than anybody, and that’s saying a lot, because rappers are, in general, really good at going “uh.” The “h” almost makes a consonant sound. Anyway, then Eminem cuts in with the chorus, which is good enough, and then the next verse is Eminem’s, and he’s so brilliant, and so fast, it just has me laughing every time, not just because it’s funny (it’s less comic than a lot of his stuff) but because it’s just so right and everything fits together like clockwork. It would be very hard to slack off on your pedaling while hearing something so good. Dang.
Not Going Back - Nas
Nothing Else Matters - Metallica
Offend In Every Way - The White Stripes
This is a good, hard-rocking track, with a nice buzzing guitar. Getting back to that other song, “No Love,” I forgot to mention something: when Lil Wayne says “I’m rollin’ Sweets,” he’s talking about putting weed into a Swisher Sweet (the epitome of the cheap cigar). My brothers and friends and I used to smoke Swisher Sweets occasionally (without anything added to them, I hasten to add, and without inhaling). Mainly this was to get the garlic off our breath because we used to go to Café Gondolier for their all-u-can-eat pasta and like 3 of our 6 plates (each) would be the “oil & gar,” which was just pasta with olive oil and all this crushed garlic on top. Nothing would get that garlic taste and stench out of our mouths. We tried mint gum, clove gum, every kind of oral hygiene, whatever. We’d be sweating garlic the next day. The Swisher Sweet cigars didn’t really mask the stench, but did morph it into a gnarly hybrid cigar/gar. One time we went over to our friend’s car, cracked a window, and (from outside the car) blew all the smoke from a whole Swisher Sweet (each) through the window, then quickly rolled the window back up. You couldn’t see across the car from one window through the next, for all the smoke. The car reeked for more than a week. Offend in every way, indeed.
On the Other Side - The Strokes
One of my favorite Strokes songs. It’s just so misanthropic, I love it: “I hate them all, I hate them all/ I hate myself for hating them/ So I'll drink some more, I'll love them all, I'll drink even more/ I'll hate them even more than I did before.” I’m not a misanthrope, myself—not exactly—but as I’ve said before, an angry mindset is perfect for pedaling hard indoors. (And I’m never angry when I climb off.)
One Mic - Nas
Listen for the background sound of a fiend dropping his Heineken. This is a cool song because it keeps building up, hitting the chorus, relaxing, and then building up again. I’ve used this song’s progression for doing intervals on the trainer.
One Time 4 Your Mind - Nas
Outshined - Soundgarden
My favorite lines: “I just looked in the mirror/ And things aren’t lookin’ so good/ I’m looking California/ And feeling Minnesota.” Don’t overthink it, because looking California is probably better than looking Minnesota (i.e., he feels worse than he looks) and yet he says “things aren’t looking so good.” Actually, overthinking things is good for the trainer, as long as you don’t forget to hammer.
In 2008 I was hit by a car while riding, and separated my shoulder. It was a long time before I could use my right arm well enough to shave, so I went ahead and grew a beard. While I was at it, I let my hair grow for a good while. Being thus unkempt, I relaxed my standards for attire as well. One day I went into work wearing a shirt that was pushing the edge of the envelope for business casual; it was just shy of a Hawaiian flower shirt. For some reason the LAN ports in my office weren’t working (this was before we had WiFi at the office) and I was leading a net conference, so I had to set up in one of the cubicles. This cubicle ended up having a broken chair. So after the call I took advantage of the broken chair back and fully reclined for a few minutes … you know, just maxin’ and relaxin’ and chillin’ my will. Well, at that very moment this sales manager from the Phoenix office came through, trailing his little entourage, all of them in suits and ties. I’d only ever encountered this guy at customer meetings where I was in a suit and tie myself (with a haircut and close shave to match), so he did a double take when he saw me all sprawled out in my flower shirt and beard and long hair. “Wow, Dana, you’re … lookin’ California!” he said. I figured there was no point trying to explain myself, and replied, “Feelin’ California, Paul!”
Overfloater - Soundgarden
Paint It Black - The Rolling Stones
An oldie but goodie. I used to enjoy singing this to my kids when they were babies and I was rocking them in my arms.
Paper Planes - M.I.A.
If you’re not familiar with M.I.A. and would like to hear her most charismatic, crowd-pleasing song, this is probably the one. There’s a cash register sound in the chorus, and if you’re sure you’re alone in the bat cave during your indoor workout, you can pantomime hitting the “Sale” key on the cash register, like Davis Phinney used to do after winning a prime in a criterium. It’s okay, I give you permission. (My daughter, reading over my shoulder, rescinds this permission, or tries to, lacking any authority.)
Personal - Ice-T
Another great trainer track. My favorite line: “Bury you deep, creep, no one’ll weep, ‘cause the next night with your bitch I sleep.” Here, Ice-T is obviously alluding to Shakespeare’s historical play Richard III, in which Richard of Gloucester famously wooed Lady Anne Neville despite having just murdered her husband. These rappers, despite their coarse utterances, are far more erudite than many listeners realize.
Pump Your Fist - Kool Moe Dee
R.A.K.I.M. - Rakim
I hope my recommending this song doesn’t get me in trouble with Homeland Security. The “A” in the R.A.K.I.M. acronym conceit fits into the chorus thus: “R: rugged & rough, that’s how I do it/ A: Allah who I praise to the fullest.” Let me just say this: I myself am not Muslim, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy this song. I’m glad to take this opportunity to clear things up, since the NSA has surely spotted this song on my hard drive already. So I’ma give a shout-out to our NSA friends: thanks for keeping us safe! And please understand, I have a little fun with this song, but at the end of the day I’m a patriotic American, born American, and these colors don’t run! USA #1 LET’S ROLL!
Rabbit Run - Eminem
Radio Suckers - Ice-T
Rap God - Eminem
So you know that song I mentioned earlier, “Outshined” by Soundgarden? It’s just over 5 minutes long and has 163 words. R.A.K.I.M. is just shy of 4½ minutes and has 543 words. “Rap God” is just over 6 minutes and has 1,551 words! Eminem goes so fricking fast on this one, it’s amazing, and the lyrics are laced with double-, triple-, probably quadruple-entendres, and they’re funny. If it bothers you that he calls himself a rap god, consider that a) let’s face it, he kind of is, and b) he tempers this boast with some perspective (calling himself “Dale Earnhardt of the trailer park, the White Trash God”) and also by being self-effacing (“Only Hall of Fame I'll be inducted in is the alcohol of fame/ On the wall of shame”). By the way, I should point out here that I firmly believe those who enjoy quality (in their booze) enjoy it responsibly. Don’t let this line from Rap God (or that line from “On the Other Side”) mislead you.
Rewind - Nas
Rhinosaur - Soundgarden
Richard - Obie Trice
Did you think only one rapper (Ice-T, as described above) paid tribute to Richard III? Well think again! I’m talking about the line, “A ho’! A ho’! My kingdom for a ho’!” (Okay, I’m kidding. That’s not an actual line from this song, and as far as I know, this song isn’t about that Richard. But then, I haven’t read the play in a long time. Maybe this whole track is some kind of extended Shakespearean allegory.)
Roughnecks - Obie Trice
Santeria - Sublime
Searching With My Good Eye Closed - Soundgarden
This is a good song for the trainer, but with one reservation: it gets off to a really slow start, as the narrator (yes, it seems to have a narrator) runs through a strange monologue involving animal sounds: “Do you hear a cow? [Moooo.] A rooster says… [Croooowwww.]. Here is a pig: [Oink oink oink.] The devil says….” All very amusing, but it’s like 80 seconds before you get any drums and guitars and whatnot. Is it worth it? Sure! Besides, you could use the downtime to wipe sweat off your face, or adjust your shoes or something.
Seduction - Eminem
Perhaps a rapper can’t really call himself a rapper if he doesn’t do at least one song that recalls Richard III. No, Eminem’s rival isn’t a king … just a fellow rapper. But, same diff, you know? And sure, this song isn’t about actually murdering anybody, but there are plenty of metaphors along these lines (“You think you killing them syllables … quit playing” and “it’s psychological warfare” and “your entire arsenal is not enough to fuck with one round.”) And the other center idea, of stealing your foe’s mate, is expounded upon at length: “There's a seven disc CD changer in her car, and I'm in every single slot, and you're not. Aww.” (Shakespeare, being fairly ribald himself, would have like the double-entendre of “slot” here.) And, “I am awesome and you are just awe struck. She's love stricken. She's got her jaw stuck, from…” Okay, maybe that’s enough.
Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes
Sexodus - M.I.A.
Shoot Me Down -Lil Wayne
I just love this song, and I can’t really say why. I don’t have any idea what the hell he’s singing about. I mean, there’s obviously some stuff about shooting, but all kinds of other wacky nonsensical stuff too, like “My picture should be in the dictionary next to the definition of definition” (could he be talking about well-defined muscles? I doubt it…) and “But your bullets don't reach Mars, haws, claws because I'm a beast I'm a dawg, I’ll get you.” There’s one line that’s oddly fitting for riding the bike trainer: “And I would die for ours, ride for hours, supply the flowers.”
Shooter - Lil Wayne
Sick Of You – Cake
This song, like many Cake has made, is humorously dark and darkly humorous. If John McCrea were a cyclist, he’d add a line or two about being sick of riding indoors. He gave some background on this song to Spin magazine: “It’s about how when you hate things, the circle of hate starts rather broadly. You hate the President or a big movie star, someone you’ll probably never meet. Gradually though, the circle tightens and the objects of hate get closer and closer to the hater. Now it’s your uncle or your mother, now it’s your close friend, and finally it’s you. Bummer.”
Sing For the Moment - Eminem
Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
So Human - Lady Sovereign
This song is a good case study in basically stealing somebody else’s music and making it better (or at least more appropriate for dancing or working out to). Kind of like Robin Hood, really. This song samples pretty much the entirety of The Cure’s “Close To Me,” but turns it from a sad, frankly rather emo affair into something irreverent and saucy that you can hammer to. Go, S.O.V.!
Spoonman - Soundgarden
Okay, I have absolutely zero idea what this song is going on about. “Feel the rhythm with your hands/ Steal the rhythm while you can, spoonman.” A man, a plan, a canal, panama! Maybe it’s about making spoonbread. That would jibe with the line “all my friends are Indians” since Native Americans made spoonbread. And I can imagine palpating spoonbread in my hands, perhaps rhythmically. But what grunge band sings about palpating spoonbread? I’ve also thought this song could be about spooning. I visited a little museum in LaCrosse, Kansas that had an old journal from a Civil War soldier in it, which visitors were free to thumb through, and I read a passage the soldier wrote about his battalion being crammed so tightly into a tent, they had to spoon. One guy would be up all night (standing guard, I guess) and would periodically tell everybody to roll over: “Spoon left!” or “Spoon right!” But I doubt Soundgarden ever read that journal. Anyway, it’s a great song. I’ve never been much preoccupied about lyrics.
Stan - Eminem
This song is depressing, according to my daughter. (What?! I let her listen to Eminem? Yeah, I guess so. But only certain tracks.) Anyway, as I just explained to Alexa, when something is creatively or artistically brilliant, it doesn’t matter how depressing its subject matter is, because we’re uplifted by knowing humans can be capable of such brilliance.
I won’t describe the song in great detail—there’s no time, no room, and anyway you can hear it for yourself—but there’s something particularly interesting I want to point out. The song tells its tale in the “epistolary” manner (which is a fancy English-major way of saying “letters back and forth”), but with a twist: we get all the letters, but not quite in the right sequence. We get Stan’s three letters, in chronological order, and then we get Eminem’s reply, but this fourth letter is out of sequence. Eminem has only received the first two of Stan’s letters, and is responding to the second one, which was written when Stan was frustrated but not yet heartbroken. We know how this sad saga ends (having heard the third of Stan’s letters), but Eminem doesn’t—yet. The real climax of the song, arguably, isn’t when the car goes off the bridge, but when Eminem delivers the penultimate word of the song—that is, when he realizes he’s at the heart of the tragedy he was too late to prevent.
Suck My Kiss - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Sunshowers - M.I.A.
Superunknown - Soundgarden
Survival - Eminem
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