22 December 2009

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Listening to: Tegan and Sara, "I Was Married." A month or two ago, music fiend Ameer made me a mystery CD featuring Tegan and Sara and successfully won me over ("It's a compilation of live and recorded Tegan and Sara songs that I personally hand-picked based solely on what I know of your music tastes. With no track titles."). I've done my homework on them since then and can correctly identify which songs are Tegan songs and which are Sara songs. They are identical twin singer songwriters from Canada who are much admired for their music, their DIY and unique promotional efforts, their fashion styles, and their great hair, among many other things. "I Was Married" was the first track of theirs I fell in love with, but I doubt it'll be the last.

Cruising down the 405 yesterday, heading back to San Diego after a long weekend in LA, we played an easy and spectacular road game. The rules are simple: Everyone pulls out their iPods (or iPhones) and then shuffle plays ten tracks from each. Everyone except the owner of a particular iPod rates each track. The points system is variable and if you don't want to write down the scores, just give each song a 0, 5 or 10. The goal is to get a combined score out of 100, and then a letter grade. In real testing though, a pretty decent score is generally 60-65 points. You can basically make up rules as you wish, and the underlying idea is just to see what songs randomly come up when you shuffle through your friends' MP3 collection.

You also get a chance to learn a few things, like when George surprised us with three straight hip hop tracks, a Chicago semi-classic, and then a Mariah Carey song about Jesus. Ameer's iPhone had a lot of cover songs, two sub-par Mirah selections, and not as much techno as we would of thought. He did hit upon this ridiculous Frankie Vallie remix. It was an obvious ten all around. My random songs were mostly slow and brought the mood down and then pushed George over the edge into sleep. Whoops.

While I'm here, I'll share two other crowd pleasing music games. The first one is super easy and requires no technology whatsoever. You just need a (preferably large) group people willing to sing. Divide into two teams, pick a word, and then take turns singing songs containing that word back and forth. If the word was "star" for example, Team 1 might being with "Star Spangled Banner" while Team 2 follows up with "Ghetto Superstar." The key for maximum fun is to sing the songs out loud. Don't just say "Ghetto Superstar, your turn." That's lame. Sing that shit. And if you personally don't know the lyrics or a line, just background hum or something. A team loses the round when they can no longer come up with any songs with that particular word. Note: The word doesn't have to be in the song title; being in lyrics is perfectly acceptable. For example, you could do "I Swear" because it contains "...by the moon and the stars in the sky."

This is my absolute favorite group game but it can get pretty loud and obnoxious pretty fast. But it's really fun if you're waiting in a long line. We've had strangers jump in to offer songs while we played. If done correctly and with maximum competitiveness, the game can get intense. The picture inserted up above is from one of our games. Notice people are practically praying for a song with the correct word to come into their head. That's how seriously the game should be taken.

Our next game requires a little more technology, Midomi in particular (on the iPhone or otherwise). If you're not familiar with Midomi, it's this software that allows you to sing into your device and depending on how well you sang, it will successfully or unsuccessfully find the song. The app is supposed to be used to find a track that you don't know the title of but it doubles nicely as a game.

For starters, the Midomi game is very similar to the song game since it involves singing out loud and dividing into teams. This time however, you need a moderator. Each team will fire up Midomi on separate devices and have it ready to be sung into. The moderator then calls out an artist ("Ne-Yo!") and the first team that can successfully get Midomi to identify a song by that artist wins the round. We generally allow any results in the top three to count. So if the artist is Ne-Yo, one team might sing "So Sick" while the other one does "Miss Independent." Part of the strategy is figuring out how to get Midomi to perform faster and more accurately than the other team.

Again, with the Midomi game, just change the rules or make up variations as you see fit. Last time we played, we took turns singing Michael Jackson songs individually to get to a last man/woman standing. Songs could only be sung once. This variation only works for certain artists that have enough repertoire to last at least half a dozen tracks.

Trust me, both of these singing game are fantastic and super fun for all. Well, unless your friends hate music (and singing), in which case you should probably reevaluate things with them anyway.