The Soundtracks of my Tears
Bex Schwartz

Once I was on the phone with this guy that I was in love with? And he was telling me that I wasn't allowed to call him ever ever ever again? And I was trying so hard to remain aloof and cool and finally I hung up on him and pumped up the volume on my boombox, and the tape that was in there was Sinead O'Connor, and suddenly she was wailing "This is the last day of our acquaintance" and it was a Cameron Crowe moment. A life-perfectly-enmeshed-with-soundtrack moment. A perfect synchronicity of music and minute, a synergy normally associated with films directed by, well, Cameron Crowe. It was all a giant misunderstanding and suddenly our acquaintance was completely severed and it would never be the same again. And I'll never forget it, because it was perfectly soundtracked.

The most memorable scenes from popular movies are often soundtracked -- call it the Magical Musical Movie Moment (hereinafter M4). Think about Wayne's World and "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- that soundtracked moment hit, it clicked, and it stuck. Now it's nearly impossible to be in a moving vehicle and not start to headbang when it gets to the "So you think you can stomp me and spit in my eye" part. It's entirely impossible to be in a moving vehicle with two or more friends and not sing the "I'm just a poor boy..." part together. If you're like me, Wayne's World is permanently burnt into your brain and it probably won't ever leave -- copious quantities of pot won't even help. ("Bismillah, no! Never let you go"). The M4 is indelibly inked on your psyche and you will never be able to enjoy certain experiences without singing a song in your head.

Take this quick M4 test to see how much of a music geek you are:

  • You will never hear "Tiny Dancer" without picturing the scene in Almost Famous
  • You will never hear "Don't You Forget About Me" without seeing The Breakfast Club. (Side note: nearly all 80s teen movies really nailed the M4: Heathers, Pretty in Pink, [double side note: any Molly Ringwald movie], St. Elmo's Fire, etc.)
  • You will never hear "Born to be Wild" without wanting to be in Easy Rider.

Bonus question / personality test: When you hear "Singing in the Rain," do you envision Gene Kelly or Malcolm McDowell? If you picture Gene Kelly, don't date someone who envisions Malcolm McDowell. Good sex, but it'll never work out, so start every relationship with this question.

M4s stick because they illustrate the heightened and ideal versions of our own mundane lives. I never got to celebrate my affair with a sexy, working-class dancing instructor, but I really wish I had. So when I hear "Time of My Life," I get a little mushy. Similarly, I entertain an ongoing fantasy about walking into a record store and watching in amazement as every woman starts to interpretative dance to the Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet." This hasn't happened to me yet, but it happened in Empire Records and that scene was enormously satisfying. I want to rally other like-minded individuals trying to fight prejudice and narrow-mindedness as Dave Brubeck's "Take 5" plays in the background (Pleasantville). M4s offer vicarious transcendence.

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August 2002

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