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Entertaining and definitely a great concept with some small caveats
on February 16, 2012
I have to preface this review by noting that the music lovers I know - no matter the age or gender- usually have strong opinions about which songs and albums they love and loathe. They are prone to spirited and often loud debates about the merits of serious musical artists.
I note this only because I think author Courtney Smith couldn't avoid the inevitable issues that arise with a book like this: opinions about music, stated strongly and directly, will cause a certain percentage of readers to boo and hiss...simply they don't share the same views. I understand this impulse, having been shocked to discover the musical "taste" of some of my friends. The urge to judge was strong but reason prevailed..well, so far.I still have a hard time understanding how a good friend could possibly like the music of...well, never mind. I'm sure you get my drift.
If one uses Record Collecting for Girls as a conversation starter and inspiration to think about "top 5" lists of favorite artists, etc...it can be quite a fun read. But it is isn't what I would call a guide ( as the title suggests). Instead, it is a series of often intriguing essays combined with the author's memories of the music which influenced her life. Yes, there are playlists but they are only a part of what is contained in this book and I wouldn't call them guides.
As I read Record Collecting for Girls, there were several topics which kept my attention. I especially enjoyed the piece, "Where Have All the Girl Bands Gone?" with info about Phil Spector ad his domineering personality but also his absolute genius when it came to finding and promoting musical talent. It was a trip down Nostalgia Lane to read about The Runaways, the Go Gos, and others.
I thought Smith's piece about break- up songs was brilliant, perhaps because it struck so close to the bone. When relationships hit the skids, certain songs seem to resonate through each stage. There are the angry songs, perfect for outrage and feeling betrayed. There are sad, grieving works to echo the sense of loss. Bit by bit, song by song, relationships end, often with music playing in the background. Smith picks music to fit just about every break-up situation imaginable.
I would have given this one 5 stars but I felt that Smith hadn't quite hit her stride yet, with an uneven quality to the pieces - some great, some so-so, etc. She certainly has the credentials to write a stunner of a book, especially with her background as a music programmer and manager of label relations at MTV for years. She was also among the first to make waves on the Internet writing and chatting about music. I'm eager to read more of her work.