It’s time again for my favorite Music Monday of the month – the Beausic Original Playlist! Coming up with the concept for the Beausic Original Playlist for May was even easier than it was to come up with the theme for April because it was kind of built in – The April playlist was all about “April Showers,” and we all know what April Showers bring, right?! “May Flowers.” Yes, it seemed like a pretty obvious choice to center this month’s Beausic Original Playlist around the theme of flowers. I hit a bit of a snag, though, when I realized that my favorite song about flowers, “Like A Flower” by Madonna, had already been featured on a previous Beausic Original Playlist. I briefly considered using it again but it seemed like repeating songs would kind of defeat the purpose of doing these playlists in the first place – sharing music that people may not have been familiar with previously or presenting them in ways that people may not have thought of them before. While it would certainly have been represented differently on this playlist, I felt like that would be kind of a rip-off. So, I set my disappointment aside and decided to move forward without it and came up with a collection of other really amazing songs all centered around the theme of flowers, gardening and general growth. I was actually really surprised at the number of songs I was able to come up with centered around this theme, as well as at how many of them I had known and loved for years without ever giving much thought to or thinking of them as songs about flowers. It’s kind of funny the way a metaphor will work in that way – a song can be saying, pretty explicitly, a line about planting a seed and making something grow but because you understand the context of the metaphor or what it is representing you will kind of bypass the fact that it is actually making reference to gardening… or maybe that’s just me. Either way, let’s get on with the playlist!
As a sidenote: One thing that is a little different about this playlist, in comparison to the others I have done so far, is that I actually created this playlist without any sort of narrative in mind. Instead, I actually focused much more on trying to find songs with a wide range of uses for the gardening or flower metaphors, so while this playlist doesn’t “tell a story” as much as the others it does present the same concept or metaphor in a wide variety of different ways.
Make Our Garden Grow: A Beausic Original Playlist
- Merrill Bainbridge – “Garden In My Room”
- Liz Phair – “Flower”
- Jakob Dylan – “Will It Grow?”
- Sheryl Crow – “Wildflower”
- Lisa Loeb – “Furious Rose”
- Miley Cyrus – “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”
- Darren Hayes – “Roses”
- Owl City – “Plant Life”
- Erik Hassle – “Don’t Bring Flowers”
- Ace Of Base – “Life Is A Flower”
- Kelly Rowland – “Rose-Colored Glasses”
- Monica – “A Dozen Roses (You Remind Me)”
- Mariah Carey – “Petals”
- Dolly Parton – “I Will Forever Hate Roses”
- Jewel – “Love Is A Garden”
- K’s Choice – “Iron Flower”
- Hole – “Petals”
- Garbage – “So Like A Rose”
- Mandy Moore – “Gardenia”
- Barbra Streisand – “Make Our Garden Grow”
The cover of this playlist is also kind of an interesting little tidbit, as well. You may have noticed the little photo credit at the bottom, which is something different since I usually just use “common use” images for these things. As you all must know from my past playlists, (“M.F.E.O.” and “Songs For The Lonely,” in particular,) I am a huge fan of indie pop star Simon Curtis. As a fan of his music, as well as of him in general, I happen to follow him on Instagram, the photo-filtering app for your phone, and have found that he has a bit of an obsession with taking photos of flowers. So, while searching images of flowers and not coming up with anything I really loved, his flower photos came to mind and I figured it was worth a shot. As it turns out, I was right because I absolutely fell in love with the image that I wound up using for the cover of this playlist.
This playlist, as I mentioned above, features a wide range of uses for flowers and gardening and such as metaphor and I was really surprised to find such different uses of floral themes in music. Sure, in some cases the flower is just a reference or part of the title, (like in “Furious Rose,” or “Gardenia,”) and some of these songs actually make very little reference to it at all but fit the general theme of the playlist, (like “Will It Grow?”) but all of these songs are something that I felt really suited the whole concept of “May Flowers.” “April Showers bring May Flowers,” is basically a statement about the rain bringing on new life – it is about something growing out of struggles or darkness, and I found that many of the songs that fit into that theme were also songs that I could really relate to at this point in my life that I didn’t even realize before putting together this playlist. That having been said, let’s get on with the track-by-track commentary.
1. Merrill Bainbridge – “Garden In My Room” – Merrill Bainbridge was kind of a one-hit wonder of the 90s with the song “Mouth,” (“when I kiss your mouth I want to taste it, turn you upside down, don’t want to waste it…”) but I was one of the few who actually went out and purchased the album that this one-hit came from and I absolutely loved it. That album was called “The Garden” and the “title track” was this song, “Garden In My Room.” This song is actually kind of filthy. I had a couple of songs I wanted to include that made pretty overt sexual references using the flower/garden theme, so I kind of wanted to get the dirty stuff out right off the bat. I absolutely love this song – basically, the concept of the song is inviting somebody to take a stroll in the “garden in your room,” which I think is a lovely way to put it.
2. Liz Phair – “Flower” – Where Merrill Bainbridge used the flower concept as a subtle way of saying, “I want to fuck you like a dog,” Liz Phair takes the opposite approach. Yes, “I want to fuck you like a dog” is a direct quote from this song’s lyrics. This is an extremely blunt song about simply wanting to get it on with somebody. This song includes lyrics like, “I just want your fresh young jimmy slamming, cramming, ramming in me” and “I want to be your blowjob queen,” all coming to the crescendo of “I’ll fuck you til your dick is blue.” It sounds crude and blunt and perhaps even a little obnoxious and, yes, it is all of those things and that, in essence, is kind of what makes it so brilliant, especially the fact that it is a woman expressing these views which are so typically associated with men or, more likely, teenage boys. That was kind of the genius of Liz Phair’s first record – she said all of those things that women surely must have thought of but never actually said out loud.
3. Jakob Dylan – “Will It Grow?” – Another throwback to an obsession of mine in the 90s, Jakob Dylan is the lead singer of one of my favorite bands of my teen years, The Wallflowers. While the Wallflowers haven’t released a record since 2005, Jakob has released two solo records. This song comes from his first solo record, “Seeing Things,” and is probably my favorite track from that album. It’s a simple song about being in a complicated relationship, using the metaphor of planting crops on a farm. It has that old-school country/folk sound, reminiscent of Johnny Cash, with beautiful lyrics, including a chorus that says, “Damn this valley, Damn this cold, Take so long to let me know, It’s plant and reap and plow and sow but, tell me, will it grow?” Basically, it is a song about putting in all of the work for something that you want to make work and just waiting and hoping to see if anything will actually grow from it. I’ve been there, for sure.
4. Sheryl Crow – “Wildflower” – “Wildflower” is, in my opinion, one of Sheryl Crow’s most under-rated songs, as well as the album of the same name. This song, and it’s namesake album, is all about falling in love and the consequences that it can have in it’s wild nature. The wildflower, to me, is love itself – it can suddenly grow in the most random of places and, as the song says, “it picks it’s space, and that’s the way it is when nature plays it’s lovely hand, we’ll understand everything.” It’s like no matter how random it may appear, or how much it can throw your world into upheaval in many ways, in the end you will understand exactly how and why everything happened in the way that it did.
5. Lisa Loeb – “Furious Rose” – Don’t worry, this playlist does get more upbeat eventually. Not yet, though. “Furious Rose” is essentially a song about an emotional woman who is deemed “mad” or “crazy” simply because she has feelings and a desire for independence and strength of her own. The lyrics of this song make several references to different types of flowers, aside from the character being named Rose. For an even more thorough, and better articulated, explanation of the song, I turn to a quote from Lisa Loeb herself, “Wild Plums and Agrimony are flowers. In the song I reference a Victorian dictionary of flowers, which explains that different flowers represent different things. Wild Plums represent independence, and Agrimony represents thankfulness and gratitude. In the song, Freud misdiagnoses Rose as a hysterical woman. Rose is a misunderstood individual, so she is begging for these flowers, obvious symbols of the qualities that she possesses, but qualities that are ignored by the doctor. Rose is a subtle and emotionally substantial person, but she’s being pigeonholed as a crazy person. She needs something to represent these traits for her, since Freud can’t see them in her. He talks down to her and doesn’t take her seriously, and she’s frustrated. That’s why she says, “I bet you don’t even know what that means.” A man as smart as Freud should know the symbolic meaning of something as simple as a flower, but inside, she knows that he’s ignorant in some ways – his eyes are not open, even though he acts as if he can analyze her.” Brilliant woman, that Lisa Loeb. I am a massive fan of hers and have been since her career started in the early 90s!
6. Miley Cyrus – “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” – I’m sure you are all familiar with this song, if not this version of it. “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” was originally recorded by Poison in 1988, and while that version is a classic, I kind of fell in love with Miley’s version of it when it was released on her last album, “Can’t Be Tamed.” I have always loved this song, though, for it’s simple, heartfelt lyrics. It is, essentially, a song about hurting someone without really meaning to. Basically, the whole concept is that while a rose may be beautiful and kind of symbolic of love and romance, roses do always have thorns and can bring you just as much pain as beauty. Beautiful song, and I think Miley gives a really gorgeous vocal performance on this version.
7. Darren Hayes – “Roses” – Darren Hayes is one of my long-time favorite songwriters and vocalists. He was formerly the lead singer of the megastar band Savage Garden and has released 4 absolutely brilliant solo records. “Roses” comes from his most recent album, “Secret Codes & Battleships.” This song is basically about embracing life while you have it because, God knows, you’re not going to have it forever. Like the lyrics say, “You can’t smell the roses when you’re gone, so live every moment like it’s the last night on earth.” It is absolutely true and all wrapped up in a beautiful song.
8. Owl City – “Plant Life” – “Plant Life” is an absolutely gorgeous track by the brilliant indie-pop band, Owl City. Owl City is known for their clever wordplay and using a lot of imagery in their lyrics and that is definitely true of this song, as well. This is a song about being bored in life or feeling like you’re not really alive. The chorus of the song says, “I’ve been longing for daisies to push through the floor and I wish that plant life would grow all around me so I don’t feel dead anymore.”
9. Erik Hassle – “Don’t Bring Flowers” – “Don’t Bring Flowers” is a fascinating little ditty, which is a large part of why I wanted to include it here. The verses talk about being involved in a relationship that you know is wrong and is kind of dragging you down, making references to being “so deep into this shit I can taste the earth,” and how “you ain’t gonna stop until there’s nothing left,” all leading up to a really catchy chorus of “Don’t bring flowers after I’m dead, Save your giving for the living instead.” I am not entirely certain of what the song is trying to express – is he saying, “you didn’t bring me flowers in life, so don’t bring them in death?” or is it a more encouraging, “don’t mourn me for passing, move on to do for somebody else what you didn’t do for me.” It’s hard to say – I think I change my mind depending on my mood or what I happen to be dealing with in life at the time that I listen to it. Either way, I absolutely adore this song and was really excited to share it on this playlist.
10. Ace of Base – “Life Is A Flower” – “Life Is A Flower” is kind of a random song. Let me explain. You see, here in the US, Ace of Base released a record called “Cruel Summer” in 1998. In much of the rest of the world they released an album called “Flowers” that same year. This album had the same cover and many of the same tracks. The US album had a song called “Whenever You’re Near Me,” which was one of my favorite tracks on the record, but because this was before there was music from all over the world readily available on the internet, I never realized that the rest of the world heard the exact same instrumentation and melody as “Whenever You’re Near Me,” but with completely different lyrics, called “Life Is A Flower.” I will say that I think “Whenever You’re Near Me” is a much better song, although “Life Is A Flower’ definitely has it’s own charms. My main complaint about “Life Is A Flower” is that the lyrics are not very cohesive and don’t make the most sense in the world. Still, it is exceptionally catchy and has a really positive message – “Life is a flower, so precious in your hand, Carry on smiling and the world will smile with you.” I kind of wish, looking back, that I had included “Whenever You’re Near Me” as a bonus track or something, just for comparison’s sake.
11. Kelly Rowland – “Rose-Colored Glasses” – “Rose-Colored Glasses” is a gorgeous pop track from my favorite member of Destiny’s Child, Kelly Rowland, (screw Beyonce!) Unfortunately, where this song was intended as the first single from her third solo album, “Here I Am,” it didn’t actually wind up being included on that record. It is a real shame, too, because I absolutely love this song! “Rose-Colored Glasses” is a song about other people looking at your relationship and thinking everything is perfect but realizing that everybody else is looking through “rose-colored glasses,” because everything is actually all wrong. I’m sure we have all experienced this from one side or the other – I know that I have been on both sides of this type of situation.
12. Monica – “A Dozen Roses (You Remind Me)” – The only reference in this song to flowers at all is the opening notes, sampled from Curtis Mayfield’s 1972 track “The Makings Of You,” that says, “with a dozen roses, such would astound you, the joy of children laughing around you, these are the makings of you.” The thing I love about this song, though, is the fact that it combines a modern hip-hop with a really classic, timeless R&B track. It’s not just a small musical element sampled, either, but an actual clip of the original recording, inluding vocals and lyrics from the original recording, being worked into the modern hip-hop track. It is a really brilliant fusion and makes for an awesome song.
13. Mariah Carey – “Petals” – In her later career, the hip-hop years, Mariah Carey really took to writing these amazing, deep, heartfelt, introspective autobiographical ballads. “Petals” is one of my favorite of these songs. It is a song about living through hard times and making it out the other side, much like the Mariah track included on last month’s playlist, “Through The Rain.” This song differs from that one, though, in the sense that it is very much telling a story, discussing her childhood and family issues, as well as delving into issues in her previous marriage and betrayal by those she trusted. In this song she uses the flower, a dandelion, as a metaphor for a matriarchal figure, “a flower taught me how to pray but as I grew that flower changed, she started flailing in the wind like golden petals scattering, and I miss you, dandelion, and even love you.” Not only is that some deep stuff, it is an incredibly poetic lyric. The entire song is like that. No matter how much I may want sometimes to write off Mariah Carey as a crazy person, there is no denying her talent as a songwriter.
14. Dolly Parton – “I Will Forever Hate Roses” – Awkward transition #1 happens right here – from a Mariah Carey R&B tinged ballad to this twangy as hell Dolly Parton ballad. I absolutely adore Dolly Parton and this is one of my favorite tracks of her recent music. This is a simple little song telling the story of receiving a bouquet of roses with a card that says goodbye as a way of getting dumped and moving forward in life hating roses. It’s a really simple concept and a different take on roses, since receiving roses always brings up thoughts of love and romance. It is classic Dolly, though, most of all – I really love the fact that Dolly’s songwriting style has not changed since her career began – it’s grown and developed, but she still loves to write a song that tells a story in the most literal of terms, which is kind of old-fashioned but works beautifully for those who do it right. Dolly has been doing it right for decades and, no doubt, will continue on.
15. Jewel – “Love Is A Garden” – Since I have not mentioned it much here on the blog in the past, I figure I should start by saying that Jewel is one of my favorite artists of all-time. I have been a massive fan of hers since her debut in 1995 and consider her one of the most influential songwriters of my life. In 2008 Jewel made a bit of a career transition and began releasing her music to country radio and marketing it as country instead of pop, which I always found fascinating because there were only slight alterations made to her sound. In any sense, in 2008 she released her first “country” album, “Perfectly Clear,” which featured the track “Love Is A Garden.” This is a gorgeous song about a relationship where you have decided to take a break when things get rough and kind of realizing that this was the wrong move because, as the lyrics state, “Love is a garden, it needs help to grow.” It is one of those songs that you hear and automatically think, “Holy crap, how is that so clear and yet so overlooked by the rest of the world?” Seriously, what would ever be the point of just stepping away from your relationship when you have an issue unless all you really wanted to do was end your relationship? Love, like so much of life, actually requires work and effort to be put in.
16. K’s Choice – “Iron Flower” – This song is kind of hard to pin down what it actually means because I really don’t understand what the lyrics are trying to express, and I have never come across anybody who could figure out. So, instead, I will include a story from my life including the song. Hope that will suffice! K’s Choice are my sisters favorite band of all-time, and I became a fan of theirs, as well, listening to them with her. There was a period when we were living in an apartment together when I had just turned 18 and we were constantly travelling a few cities away to go to clubs, since my best friend and I were finally the age where we could get in legally, and there were no decent clubs in our area, so we spent a lot of time driving and listening to music. My sister and I have both always been singers, although I have always been more passionate about singing, and music in general, and made a lot of jokes about starting a band together, like K’s Choice, who are a brother and sister based band. So, this song always makes me think of that because this was a song that we used to play in the car a lot and sing the separate parts to and such. My sister and I didn’t do a lot of singing together because our voices don’t really mesh well but this was a song that we would always sing together and actually make work… at least, in the car we did.
17. Hole – “Petals” – Speaking of one of the most influential songwriters of my life, as I was before, Courtney Love definitely qualifies for that title. “Petals” is actually one of the songs that really showcases the reason for that. Featured on my favorite Hole record, “Celebrity Skin,” “Petals” is, to me, a song about the loss of one’s innocence. It is a song all about kind of reflecting on the times when life was simpler, before you were hurt and forced to see the world for what it really is. My favorite part of this song is the lyrics, “They will make you so cynical, The fire burns the flesh, destroys the past and makes us old.” It is so true that as we grow and see more and more of the world we become so much more cynical, so much less trusting and so much less open to what life has to offer. As life starts to “tear the petals off of you,” you become so much more jaded with the world. It is really sad to think about it that way, though, and I much prefer to think that as we grow we simply have to fight harder to hold on to our hopes and our openness. Perhaps my petals just haven’t all been torn off yet.
18. Garbage – “So Like A Rose” – “So Like A Rose” is actually kind of an unpopular track among many Garbage fans, due to it’s very minimalist style and sort of more submissive lyrical style but it is actually one of my favorite tracks from the band. “So Like A Rose” seems, to me, about the thought process of somebody contemplating suicide. It is an incredibly haunting song and it is a little difficult to listen to at times but is definitely a beautiful song. The lyrics just describe such an incredible sense of solitude and hopelessness that it is very easy to let the song really take you into that space yourself, although one would hope not to the extremes of the song. Still, it is absolutely gorgeous and heartbreaking, and I absolutely love the last line, “You’re so like a rose, I wish you could stay here.”
19. Mandy Moore – “Gardenia” – My favorite track from my second favorite album of all-time, Mandy Moore’s “Wild Hope.” “Gardenia” is a song about looking back on a relationship that has ended and realizing how much you have learned about yourself from the whole experience. The chorus says it all – “I’m the one who likes Gardenias, I’m the one who likes to make love on the floor, I don’t want to hang up the phone yet, It’s been good getting to know me more.” It is so true and yet it doesn’t get said very often, in music or otherwise, that we don’t really know ourselves, the things we love and the things we don’t or the things we expect out of others or out of our relationships until we experience them for ourselves. We don’t know what we are willing to accept in a relationship until we experience what we do not want. You have to be hurt or be in a relationship that doesn’t work out before you can see how you truly want it to be. This is an absolutely stunning song, Mandy gives the vocal performance of her career so far and really makes a statement in a way that I, with the music encyclopedia in my head, have never heard before.
20. Barbra Streisand – “Make Our Garden Grow” – To close out this playlist, I bring you a bit of a rarity. I titled this playlist after this track, as I have loved it since I first heard it and felt like it was a good fit to kind of express the theme of the entire playlist. “Make Our Garden Grow” serves as the final number in the musical/operetta “Candide.” I discovered “Candide” when a good friend of mine who I was kind of in love with at the time, (long story, different day,) starred as “Candide” in a local production of it. I went and saw him in it twice and was really impressed with his performance but also with the music of the show. “Candide” is based on the novella of the same name by Voltaire, about a young man who is kind of an eternal optimist, who wanders through life with one horrible thing after another happening to him but trying his hardest to maintain his positive outlook and faith in what he was taught as a child. This is definitely a story that I can relate to. In the end, Candide comes to realize that all of the big dreams he believed in and what he was taught as a child was not what life was really about and that what really matters is working for what you get in life and appreciating the blessings that you have. It is with this realization that he sings the big finale, “Make Our Garden Grow.” The song itself is not so rare, but Barbra Streisand singing it is. This song was recorded for her initial sessions for the “Back To Broadway” record in 1988, however the recordings from this session were mostly scrapped and new recordings were done a few years later. This song was never re-recorded and never saw an official release. Thanks to the internet, though, it is out there now, although the version included here is the best quality I was able to find and it isn’t amazing. Barbra’s performance, on the other hand, is definitely amazing – just check out her belting the final note in full voice for 19 seconds! Insanity! Amazing performance! I hope you all appreciate it!
So, there you have it – the Beausic Original Playlist for May: “Make Our Garden Grow.” In spite of it’s being less narrative than in previous months, I was actually really pleased with the selection of music I found for this playlist and was really glad to be able to put such different genres together in a way that was cohesive and didn’t have too many awkward transitions or anything. I hope you all enjoy this playlist as much as I do and maybe pick up some music you weren’t familiar with before! While you are enjoying all of this music, I wish you all a beautiful week and a beautiful life!