The thread to here:

Prologue — As Gershwin once wrote, “And when he comes my way, I’ll do my best to make him stay”

Part the Second — In random, scattershot strokes… me

Interlude — Everything I’ve needed to know about life, I’ve learned from Sting

So, then came Cascada.

Yes, that nightmarish, migraine-inducing German dance trio — who have just morphed Rascal Flatts’ soaring, searing triumph “What Hurts the Most” into a ridiculous, ear-splitting slab of hopped-up Eurotrash that makes DHT’s intolerably wretched recent remake of Roxette’s pop classic “Listen to Your Heart” sound positively stately by comparison — incited the most vicious argument A and I have ever had.

But first things first.

This month exactly marks three years since (the earth moved, since the heavens shook, since the clouds parted, and since) A and I met. In that period, I’ve had many a music-based disagreement with that adorably crazy fool. See, I’m a music fiend. Have been since I’m seven years old. And A — even though, as I’ve already acknowledged on the Buzz, the sector of his cerebellum that ensnares and enshrines melody, lyric, inflection (y’know, the good stuff) has strengthened itself thirtyfold in the past thirty-six months, just by grudgingly allowing me to guide him (read: drag him by the hair) toward the light — decidedly isn’t. It’s not his fault, really: he was way too busy back in the day bisecting angles and choosing his favorite Archimedean place to go snorkeling and inventing out of whole cloth his own mind-blowing twist on the quadratic formula (actions that were actually going to serve him later in life, natch) to worship, as I did most proudly, at the altar of Annie and Alanis, of Carly and Kurt, of George n’ Juice.

I’ve long believed (and frequently claimed) that the two finest and most profoundly noble contributions we humans hurl up into the absurd ether through which we navigate daily are these: we tell each other stories (and, on our best days, receive same in kind), and — often as the sole way to make those stories more palatable — we create music. I’ve been accused more than once of taking these two ideas too close to heart, and perhaps I do, but I strongly believe that a spectacular song’s significance cannot be undervalued or understated. Intimate, raw, personal, real: great music rates. And given the mind-numbing homogeneity, the sameness, of all the crap that is supposed to — just try to explain to me how 859 different religions and their legions can each believe they alone possess the right answer, and just try to convince me that American politics hasn’t been the same damn swindlers’ cesspool, filled with different faces and like intentions, for well over two centuries! — music may just be the only thing that does.

A, meantime, comes to this juncture from a radically (hilariously?) different perspective. A political junkie is that boy. Spends his Sundays reading blog upon blog and mainlining the Mo Rocca gospel. He scoffs at me — vehemently, more times than not — when I tell him nothing is likely to change (because problems and prosperity have always existed, and all that ever changes is their scale), and he tries — valiantly, ever — to convince me that I’m wrong, and he rarely recognizes that, beneath my cynical bravado, I actually actively root for his prescience to prove concrete. I actually want to suppose, in ways both subtle and spectacular, that the world isn’t going irrevocably to hell.

To that end, I give you Brandon’s Buzz.

Since I was a child, I’ve dabbled in writing about the music, the albums, the artists I love. A few years ago, I began sending out to a handful of close friends quarterly “mixtapes” consisting of ridiculously loquacious narratives describing ten or twelve or fifteen tunes I happened to be crazy about at that moment. Last year, at A’s lovably incessant urging, the mixtapes morphed into Brandon’s Tips, a (largely) weekly newsletter spotlighting the latest and greatest new album releases. (Even though he only buys, like, three CDs a year — and, to boot, he doesn’t even do that exceedingly well: a few weeks back, he traveled to Target to pick up the terrific new Augustana disc, their fine sophomore outing Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt, and the crazy fool gave up and went home (!) when he failed to find it amongst the rest of pop/rock’s “A’s.” As he later relayed to me this very story, knowing full well that anything he says can and will be used against him in a Buzz post (especially given his new he-who-shall-not-be-named anonymity, which liberates me to hyperbolize to my heart’s content), I was utterly aghast to realize that, given all the times (and it must number in the hundreds by now!) I have forcibly dragged that boy music shopping with me, it never once dawned on him to proceed one aisle over to the new release wall, where the CD he sought was almost certainly awaiting his arrival! — he’s always intensely curious about what I’m listening to, and he loves to ask whether the coming week’s release slate is or isn’t worthwhile.)

The Tips were born from a single seed that A planted in my e’er-fertile mind. We were chatting one evening — I forget the topic by now, but music must have somehow been involved — and he proclaimed to me that if I were to begin making regular suggestions to him, he would begin heeding said suggestions and purchase more (and, necessarily, better) music for himself. This struck me instantly as a fine idea: having sneaked multiple peeks at A’s iTunes library, I can tell you that he seems to harbor a nasty misconception that Jimmy Buffett and “Weird Al” Yankovic are this nation’s poets laureate, and all of a sudden, here he was handing me a golden chance to light for him another path. It was too good to pass up, that.

Each tipsheet (all seventeen of which can be accessed inside the lime green tab marked “Attic” at the top of this page; a full complement of mixtapes and earlier music writings is forthcoming), therefore, contained a playlist — a kind of musical postscript to the discussion that had just preceded it — so that A (and Sherry Ann and Jared and Mike and Clay and whomever else chose to come along for the ride) could not only read about the latest albums that deserved attention, but could delve deeper into one aspect or another of each tipsheet’s main topic. (For instance, last fall’s re-release of Counting Crows’ shattering debut album inspired a playlist of August and Everything After‘s best tracks, and a recent all-’80s edition of the Now series bore a smashingly brilliant year-by-year cross-section of that decade’s finest offerings.)

The deal was quite simple: A was to listen to each playlist, and he was to purchase at least one track from each list (and trying to discern which songs were going to “speak to him” — hands down, A’s favorite music-related expression — became a rather fun parlor game, one — go figya, this — which I lost far more times than I won). And while I had to cajole him into submission more than once — A would rather have contracted syphilis than pay any attention to last summer’s grunge playlist, from which I literally had to plead with him to pluck Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike,” as stunning a song as has emerged the past two decades — it was by and large a total blast as an experiment, and as I wrote in tipsheet numero uno,

“This way, he’s guaranteed weekly exposure to at least one brilliant swath of new music, and at a cool ninety-nine cents a pop, he’s getting his ticket to heaven punched one stunning song at a time.”

Of course, my off-the-cuff candor occasionally gets me into a spot of trouble, and that brings us to Cascada, whose “music” I had the (entirely justified) gall to term “brainless tripe” in a recent tipsheet. A was cut to the bone by this remark, because whenever he hits the gym, his iPod hypnotizes him into a calorie-scorching stupor by blasting eighty asinine decibels worth of Cascada’s international megahit “Everytime We Touch” straight into his poor, tortured skull. And even though I’ve been openly (and good-naturedly) mocking his inexplicable affection for a track whose title shall not be uttered (rhymes with “Dry Pumps”), this case was decidedly different. This time, A was actually offended.

So for that, A, the man I love deeply and intensely, I offer you a sincerely heartfelt apology.

I’m extremely sorry.

It certainly was not my intention to infer that simply because I find Cascada to be brainless (which I most defiantly do) that I find you brainless (understand this, sir: anyone who can rebuild the whole damned quadratic formula around “-6” and make it fly toward heaven is not — repeat, not — a dumbass, in any capacity). In a June 2007 tipsheet, whose theme was “guilty pleasures,” I penned the following sentiment, which I continue to whole-heartedly believe:

“One likes what one likes, and in an increasingly morbid climate in which the music bidness seems to be irrevocably dying on the vine, it seems ultimately pointless to feel, of all things, guilty about any music that offers you even the slightest pleasure.”

(And don’t think for a second that I’m too cowardly to cop to my own blinds-drawn debauchery: when I say I back Hilary for president, I actually mean Ms. Duff, whose music — wholly notwithstanding the fact that, vocally, she has nothing on Debbie Gibson — I’m firmly convinced is gonna outlast Cher’s.)

All that said, here’s what else I believe (and I’m telling you right now, if I could write this in fire, I swear to God I’d write it in fire): I believe we have an obligation to ourselves, and to the muse, and to the moon which objectively oversees all these laced-together chords and words, to seek out the absolute best music we can find to fill our silences, and not simply fall head over ass for the first thing that noisily stumbles down the pike. I believe we cheat ourselves out of something profoundly valuable (and valuably real) when we decide Cascada is perfectly sufficient without first investigating Paul Oakenfold or Everything but the Girl or Roxette (all of whom offer us tunes with substantially more meat on their bones), or when we swallow Sara Bareilles’ Kool-Aid without first taking a sip of Tori Amos’ or Cyndi Lauper’s or Joni Mitchell’s (ditto, forever), or when eight pompous bars of John Legend don’t make us run screaming for George Michael’s welcome mercy.

That’s why I’m here to help, in any way I can. Welcome to Brandon’s Buzz. The next phase of my crusade has arrived.

We’re gonna talk about music, first and foremost, but — as with all previous efforts in this evolution — we’re gonna use music as a springboard, as a way to discuss life, and politics, and love, and sex, and genius, and movies, and passion, and the soaps, and friends, and David Gray, and “Friday Night Lights,” and gas prices, and Cherry Coke, and the world, this apeshit crazy world. We’re gonna nothing short of save this apeshit crazy world, one magnificently deranged blog post at a time.

Hello, world. My name is Brandon. You’ll find I’m nutty as a loon, but I mean well.

4 responses to “the mission statement, roughly
(finale, or: then A met B — but now we’re standing face to face, isn’t this world a crazy place?)”

  1. the buzz from Sherry Ann:

    Ok A, take it from me, he has never apologized for making fun of someone’s musical taste. We have been having these Cascada type arguements for OMG! 20 years now. He has never apologized to me for the “brainless tripe” he says that I listen to. (God bless you Jason Mraz!) Forgive him because it all comes from a place of love.

  2. the buzz from brandon:

    I have two things to say here: First of all, it DOES come from a place of love! Secondly, there’s a marked difference: Jason Mraz isn’t brainless tripe, he’s just a pseudo-clever doofus who doesn’t apply himself *nearly* often enough, irrespective to the fact that he has proven conclusively that he can be monstrously brilliant — “D-d-d-d-did You Get My Message?” anyone? — when he in fact DOES. (Most seriously, Mraz’s new duet with James Morrison is a triumphant work of art.) Cascada, on the other hand, has NO redeeming qualities; I KNOW you’re as certain as I am that Janis Ian never intended a skanky four-on-the-floor beat should be grafted onto “At Seventeen,” and don’t even get me started on what those trashy bitches have just done to “Because the Night”! See what you did, you totally got me fired up again!

  3. the buzz from Sherry Ann:

    Ok B, once again, you missed the point of my response all together. I was reassuring A that he is not alone when he is on the tail-end of one of your musical tirades. It was not to start a musical debate about my future husband Jason Mraz. Although A, he has a point about Cascada. There is no reason to ever shake your ass to “At Seventeen”. B, you should make A a cd that has the original versions of these songs and let him choose for himself. You know that I love you both, so settle the Cascada arguement. (B! Your Jason Mraz comments almost brought a tear to my eye. “Psuedo-doofus” that is as close as we have ever come to an understanding. My heart is so filled with love right now! I’m serious!!)

  4. the buzz from brandon:

    Not at all did I miss the point of your response, darling! I simply needed to reassure you that, no matter what you’ve inferred from past comments, Mister Mraz — while he is many other things, “irritating” and “arrogantly inane” chief among them — is not brainless tripe. Nonetheless, what fills your heart fills mine. Much love!