Culture  The Hipless Boy: Over and over and over

There’s a song that I like to listen to over and over again. As I write this I’m listening to it on my computer. Some of you might judge me harshly, but it’s a Sarah McLachlan song. I don’t even know the name of it. I ripped it from my friend Minerva’s CD a long time ago, and the song is orchestral and soaring.

Last time I have coffee with her I tell her about my fixation with the song.

“I can’t stop listening to that song,” I say. “Off that Sarah McLachlan album you loaned me.”

“There are a lot of songs – which one are you talking about?”

I pull out my iPod and untangle the earbud cord.

“Hold on,” I say, “I’ll play it for you.”

Minerva takes my earphones and puts them in while I finger the scroll wheel on my iPod. When I first got my iPod I kept thinking about the scroll wheel and the button in the middle as areola and a nipple. I know that’s perverted, but I am passionate about nipples and areolas.

“Oh that one,” Minerva smiles, and takes the earbuds out.

“Isn’t it gorgeous?” I gush. “And the best thing about that song is that it’s just pure singing, there are like, no words.”

“Yes there are,” Minerva says, “Hate to break it to you.”

I frown. “Really? Because it sounds like she’s just improvising.”

“Hallelujah,” Minerva says.

“Wait. What?” I say, puzzled.

“That’s the word. That’s what she’s singing. Hallelujah. She sings it over and over again. Like, she sings it thirty times.”

“Huh,” I say. It’s something I never noticed, and as Minerva reveals this to me I kind of don’t believe it. To prove it to myself, I put one earbud in and click back to the song. About 15 seconds in I don’t have to hear any more. She’s right.

“It’s funny,” I tell Min. “I must have listened to that song 30 times already, and never picked up on what she was singing.”

Min grins. “You’ve listened to it 30 times?” she asks, disbelieving. “Sheesh. That would totally get on my nerves.”

“Well, isn’t there a song you like to listen to on repeat?”

Min looks up at the ceiling of the Second Cup, in thought. “There’s an album I used to like to have sex to,” she says, a saucy look in her eyes

“Which one?”

“That Yeah Yeah Yeahs album, Fever to Tell.”

“Isn’t that album kind of raucous?” I ask. “It’s like, really loud and jerky.”

Min’s eyes drop down to the floor and a brief flush of red appears on her cheeks.

“Well,” she says. “That’s kind of how I like it sometimes.”

I laugh.

“What’s really hilarious,” Min continues, the flush disappearing from her face, “Is that my roommate – I had a roommate at the time – my roommate had a CD she liked to listen to too when she fucked her boyfriend. It was some Radiohead album. And sometimes when I was home I’d hear the beginnings of that album and I’d think, well, there they go. Anyway, to this day, when I hear Radiohead, I think of her having sex. Because I could hear her having loud sex over the music.”

I pause to take this in. I find these stories utterly amusing.

“I don’t have that kind of relationship to Radiohead,” I say to her.

“Nor should you,” Min says. “I wish you only the normalest of normal relations to Radiohead.”

“It’s kind of sad that that experience ruined Radiohead for you, though.”

“It didn’t ruin it,” Min hastens to clarify. “More like – complicated it. Complicated it unnecessarily.” Then she reconsiders. “Well, actually. Yeah. It’s ruined. I wish I could like Radiohead like a normal person, but now when I hear it I think about leaving the apartment. Fucking music. Fucking housemate. Fucking fucking music.”

“But wait,” I say, charmed by Minerva’s half-serious outburst. “You never really answered the question. Do you have a song that you like to listen to over and over?”

“What – and not get sick of it?”

“Yeah. I kind of think that everyone’s got to have one song that they can do that with.”

Minerva half-squints her eyes and gets very quiet. She looks like she’s looking at nothing for a second.

“Oh Holy Night,” she finally says. “It’s a Christmas carol. I love that goddamn song. We used to play this compilation at my house at Christmas, and whenever that song came up, I’d sing my lungs out along with it, and when it ended, I would run over to the stereo and click back so that it would start all over again. And then I’d sing my lungs out to it again.”

The Hipless Boy appears Mondays. Tell him what song you can listen to incessantly at