Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd, One Album at a Time

by Courtney Smith

Former MTV music programmer and MTV blogger Courtney E. Smith delivers a humorous and edgy look at the world of music from the female perspective.

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780547502236
  • ISBN-10: 0547502230
  • Pages: 240
  • Publication Date: 09/06/2011
  • Carton Quantity: 24

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About the Book
About the Author
  • About the Book
    Record Collecting for Girls is an invitation for all of you stereophiles (who happen to be female), to make your own top-five lists, and then, armed and ready with the book’s fun facts, to argue their merits to the ever-present boys’ club of music snobs in your life.” —Sarahbeth Purcell, author of Love Is the Drug and This Is Not a Love Song

    You never leave home without your iPod. You’re always on the lookout for new bands, and you have strong opinions when it comes to music debates, like Beatles vs. Stones. For years, you’ve listened to guys talk about all things music, but the female perspective has been missing. Until now.

    Drawing on her personal life as a music enthusiast, as well as her experience working at MTV and in radio, Courtney E. Smith explores what music can tell women about themselves—and the men in their lives. She takes on a range of topics, from the romantic soundtracks of Romeo and Juliet to the evolution of girl bands. She shares stories from her own life that shed light on the phenomenon of guilty pleasures and the incredible power of an Our Song. Along the way, she evaluates the essential role that music plays as we navigate life’s glorious victories and its soul-crushing defeats. Finally, here is a voice that speaks to women—because girls get their hearts broken and make mix tapes about it, too.

    “Courtney Smith has smarts and sass in spades. Her insights are as hilarious as they are thoughtful, and when you finish reading this book, you’ll feel like you just got home from a perfect night out with your best friend. And you’ll want to listen to Prince. At full volume.” —Megan Jasper, Executive Vice President, Sub Pop Records

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  • About the Author
  • Excerpts


    If you’ve read the book High Fidelity or seen the movie, even
    just for the sake of John Cusack, then you’ve been witness to the
    art of the Top Five list. Music nerds everywhere delight in making
    Top Five lists of obvious, obtuse, and obscure records tailored
    to every categorization of music you could possibly imagine. I
    am one of those nerds. When my mind begins to wander, I think
    about what albums I could listen to if I were stuck on a desert island.
    (Usually this train of thought ends with the realization that
    I’d hate any album by the sixth straight year of listening to it.) Instead
    of counting sheep to lull myself to sleep, I make a list of all
    the songs I can think of about masturbation. (There are a lot.) I
    keep a running tab of what I think are my favorite songs right this
    minute vs. my most-played songs in iTunes vs. what’s accrued at
    the top of my most-played list. I can’t seem to stop myself
    from obsessively thinking about music.
          I’ve always loved music, but I wasn’t always a music obsessive.
    That started when I was a college student and worked at a radio
    station in Dallas. I fell in with a group of music snob guys who
    regularly debated topics like Blur vs. Oasis and whether Cat Power
    was the cutest indie rock girl or just the craziest. The guys carried
    on conversations as if they were characters straight out of High Fidelity,
    constantly judging and ranking music. It was obvious they
    believed Nick Hornby’s adage that what you like is what you’re like,
    and they were judging people based on their musical taste. Girls
    were generally dismissed from their reindeer games. I can’t even
    tell you the number of times I’d heard them say obnoxious things
    like, “Yeah, she’s hot, but she likes Alanis Morissette, so you know
    she’s kind of an idiot.” I didn’t want to be one of those girls who
    was so easily disregarded, so I faked being knowledgeable enough
    to pass muster. After listening to them make and revise their Top
    Five lists, probably hundreds of times, I developed a list of shortcuts
    for making a Top Five artists list. As time went on I added
    requirements of my own, and before long I had a cheater guide
    that helped me narrow in on my Top Five. When I don’t have the
    whole history of released music at my fingertips, it makes my listmaking
    more manageable, and the guidelines force me to take an
    analytical look at my music collection.
          These are strictly my rules, so if you feel like adding new criteria
    or ignoring one of my standards to better reflect your own taste,
    knock yourself out.
          Except #3. Do not ignore rule #3. You’ll see why.
    The most important thing is that your Top Five list reflects
    your favorites and not what you think someone wants to hear. Dare
    to be uncool.
          Here’s my Top Five artists list right now:

    1. Elvis Costello — British post-punk artist who
    developed into a multi-genre music maven
    2. R.E.M. — A thens, Georgia, college rock band that paved
    the way for indie-to-mainstream success
    3. Sleater-Kinney — Portland, Oregon, riot grrrl rock
    band with a feminist agenda
    4. Stevie Nicks — ’70s and ’80s songwriter with the
    world’s most amazing stage costumes
    5. Fiona Apple — the songwriting port in a world full of
    breakup storms

     Here’s how I got there . . .

    Rule #1: You must own all the full-length albums
    released by any artist in your Top Five.

    The exceptions to this rule: greatest hits albums and anything
    you’ve deemed to be a low point in an artist’s career. I see no reason
    to clog up your record collection with either. Completists everywhere
    just hissed through their teeth at me, but why would you
    own a record you don’t enjoy, or multiple copies of songs you already
    have? For decoration? When music collecting becomes obsessive-
    compulsive disorder, it’s time for a new hobby.
          I was late in discovering Elvis Costello, both late in my life and
    late in his career. I think the first time I heard of him was when I
    saw his video for “Veronica.” It was inexplicable to me in 1989, the
    halcyon days of Debbie Gibson and Poison, why the video for “Veronica”
    was on MTV so often. Costello seemed old even then, and
    his video was set in a nursing home, so in my eyes it didn’t hold a
    candle to Madonna’s video for “Express Yourself.” The video got
    less airplay than Madonna’s, or even Paula Abdul’s, but he walked
    away with the 1989 Best Male Video award for “Veronica,” because
    respect for the man was due. (Paul McCartney co-wrote the
    song, so double the respect.) The melody was catchy, but the lyrics
    were a mystery, and I memorized them all wrong. I couldn’t figure
    out what he was talking about, because the idea of a pop song
    about an old lady with Alzheimer’s was unfathomable and unrelatable
    to me at age twelve.
          After “Veronica” in my discovery of Elvis Costello came “Alison,”
    which had actually been released twelve years earlier — yes,
    the same year I was born. I grew to love this one while listening
    to my parents’ Elvis Costello greatest hits album, and if you don’t
    know it, I recommend you buy it immediately. His unforgettable
    delivery of the line “My aim is true” is a knee-buckler — the sort of
    bittersweet sentiment that I dream of a guy writing for me in some
    tragic soap-opera scenario where we can’t be together.
          My family and I were big perpetrators of the Columbia House
    scam. It was a great way to build a collection, considering that my
    allowance was a mere $5 a week. We would all constantly join,
    leave, and rejoin various mail-order companies that offered eight
    albums for a penny if you bought three at full price. In college I
    ordered The Very Best of Elvis Costello & the Attractions from one
    of those clubs and found myself really getting into his clever lyrics.
    His songs are so easy to fall in love with.
          I went to the next level of Costello fandom when I bought the
    Rhino re-issue of This Year’s Model. It was in the dead of winter at
    the beginning of 2002. I had recently moved into an apartment in
    Brooklyn and was consumed by a long-distance flirtation with a
    boy in a band who lived in Dallas. He mailed me a loaf of honey
    wheat bread (which was impossible to find in New York City) and
    a packet of forget-me-not flower seeds, and he called me on the
    phone nearly every day. I was totally crushed out. A few months
    later, when his band toured through town, he explained to me that
    it all meant nothing, that he was just a flirtatious person, and suggested
    we should just be friends. It was infuriating, and I hated
    him for stringing me along. Listening to the first track of This
    Year’s Model
    , “No Action,” while stomping the cold, mile-long
    walk from the subway through the housing project near my apartment
    was the only time I felt like a rational, thinking person rather
    than a girl who had been turned into a chump and who secretly
    still had a littl...

  • Reviews
    "Girl music nerds have been debating Beatles versus Stones and curating their collections for as long as male music snobs, but that perspective has been on low rotation; hail, hail, Courtney E. Smith’s Record Collecting for Girls, a mix tape of female rock history, playlists for getting busy and coping with heartbreak, and essential info such as how to decode a dude’s CD collection (Yo La Tengo = romantically hapless; Leonard Cohen = asshole)." —Vanity Fair


    "Courtney Smith has smarts and sass in spades. Her insights are as hilarious as they are thoughtful and when you finish reading this book, you’ll feel like you just got home from a perfect night out with your best friend. And you’ll want to listen to Prince. Full volume." —Megan Jasper, Executive Vice President, Sub Pop Records


    "Record Collecting For Girls is an invitation for all of you stereophiles, (who happen to be female), to make your own top five lists, and then, armed and ready with the book's fun facts, to argue their merits to the ever present boys' club of music snobs in your life."  —Sarahbeth Purcell, author of Love Is the Drug and This Is Not A Love Song "Insightful and hilarious...Smith easily blends her own musical coming-of-age narrative with rock history...This is a book for anyone whose day has a soundtrack and for whom music reigns supreme." —Publishers Weekly

    "A melodious road map...There is much here that is both interesting and infomative." —Kirkus