Upon hearing that I’d only ever heard the highlights from the Phantom of the Opera, as opposed to the full soundtrack, a friend of mine who is...enthusiastic about the show lent me the two-disc complete set over spring break. The fact that I still remembered most of the lyrics, in spite of not having heard them in the better part of a decade, is testament to both how much I enjoyed Phantom and how little other music I had access to at age 12. My much-belated apologies to the people in my 7th grade gym class on the day I thought the title song was appropriate workout music.
I’ve occasionally been told by my friends, upon hearing the music playing out of my laptop from time to time, that I have good taste in music. As much as I’d like to take their compliments to heart, it’s necessary that I take their praise with a large grain of salt called “the stuff they never hear, because I never play it in public.”
Some of you may have in mind the boy bands and pop stars of the 1990s as your musical guilty pleasure of choice, but even when they were popular, they were a phenomenon that I missed entirely. It was entirely by chance that I ever listened to the Backstreet Boys at all, when a friend of mine gave me one of their CDs as a half-hearted birthday present. I have to admit that the music was not as bad as my pretentious fourth-grade self believed, but even so, my father got (and continues to get) more enjoyment out of that CD than I ever did.
No, the music in my library that I only listen to on my own is typically a) blues/folk music by people who most people don’t realize even have musical careers, b) soft rock songs I like from movies I’ve seen, or c) foreign film soundtracks. For every indie band that I turn my friends on to, there’s a Once Upon A Time in China theme song that I hold on to because I think it would be a great workout song if I ever started working out at a gym for fans of Jet Li’s early career. Show tunes used to form a fourth category, but once you’re taking a class on musicals, reviewing musicals, and performing in a musical, it’s pretty clear that you may as well embrace musicals as something you’re into. Which brings us back to Phantom of the Opera.
I first became interested in Phantom of the Opera when I trawled my parents’ CD collection for something to listen to, stumbling across the highlights CD, as well as significant amounts of Eagles and Chinese bootleg recordings of “Old Style Love Songs.” I try not to think too hard about how many times I sang along to “My Girl” by the Temptations before realizing that it wasn’t the original version, or even necessarily the Temptations. Of course, my musical tastes started being shaped at that point, as a lot of music I found didn’t strike my interest at all, although I’d probably listened to Barney the Dinosaur’s classic hits, parts one and two, at some point in my extreme youth and forgotten about it.
I will say this much about my music, though — a lot of the music I’d be ashamed to play around my friends, I will gladly blast from my car stereo with the windows open, if only in hopes of finding a kindred spirit in the next lane. Such is the case with the accordion-heavy polka “Los Dos Laredos,” which is the song that a well-known vehicle in a well-known web series has stuck on its radio, “well-known” being a relative term. Ironically, that’s a song I have played for my friends, with predictable blank-faced results. And I still haven’t had anyone recognize it on the highway.