I love This American Life a whole awful lot. I’m not even a big radio show freak, but from the first moment I listed to it almost 10 years ago I knew it was something special. At that point, I didn’t even know what I was listening to, I just knew I had hit upon something special. It helped that the first thing I heard of the show was Sarah Vowell’s brilliant American Goth bit, where she lets a bunch of goth kids dress her up for a night on the town. Until I connected that bit to the title “This American Life,” I had thought it must be some treacly piece of Americana, where wholesome stories of wholesomeness were foisted upon people in need of restoring their image of their nation.
If you remove the treacly part and the wholesome part, I guess the rest of my conception was sorta right.
If you didn’t know, “This American Life” is now putting out a weekly free podcast on iTunes and on their site. If you haven’t given it a try, you should, and I have a place to start (if you haven’t already listened to “American Goth”, in which case…yeah, start there).
This week’s episode – which hopefully is still posted – is called “Break-up.” I’m hoping you can guess what the subject is. As is their form, the show examines the issues of breaking up from a couple of different angles. The best is the first. Act 1. “Dr. Phil.”
No, not that one. Better than that. See, this act is the story of writer Starlee Kine’s breakup with her boyfriend, in which lyrics of Phil Collins songs were inadvertantly tossed out during an arguement. In her desire to let go of the pain, Starlee decides to write a pop love song. And somehow convinces Phil Collins to give her advice.
The result of all this was a song called “The Three Of Us.” I kept expecting not to hear the song at all, because there was no way it was going to turn out well. And then she played it – both for our benefit and for Phil Collins’ – and, egads, it was kinda awesome. In that amateur but heartfelt song way.
But wait, there’s more!
Try to listen to the story itself before you follow my next link. If not, it’s cool. The producers realized that the emotions of the song they had constructed changed depending on the arrangement of it, and decided that they would hold a contest. Send in the best arrangements or covers of the song and they’d post the winners. As you’d expect some of them are meh, but a few are bloody awesome. Especially that cover by We Were Pirates.
It’s a great example of the kind of amazing stuff that comes out of “This American Life,” which on top of being a great show is also the best source of writing inspiration I’ve found. Check it!
I’m ok with second best.
Just love her more and love me less.
I don’t know why I love you, but I do.
I really do.
It doesn’t do me any good, In fact it does me bad.
‘Cause you’re oh so gone, and I’m oh so sad.