In the “cinematic masterpiece” Runaway Bride, there is a pivotal moment when the character of Maggie (Julia Roberts, playing herself quite convincingly) faces a fear that all human beings must face: Eggs.
Yes, in her great quest to discover why she keeps running out during her marriage ceremonies, she vows to figure out how she likes her eggs in the morning. Not how someone else likes her eggs, not how she wants other people to think she likes her eggs, but how SHE likes her eggs. It’s an age-old question, really, and one that I can proudly answer, “Scrambled Whites.”
In other aspects of my life, however, I understand fair Julia, er— Maggie’s plight. Sometimes I wonder how many of my “favorites” are actually products of my personal tastes or simply consequences of my culture and environment.
In short, how do I know what my Track 11’s are??
Back when I first started buying CD’s, (Compact Discs, for those who may not know) I became fascinated by the fact that when I’d listen to them, particularly my Broadway Cast Albums, many of the tracks that made me think, “Hmm, this a good song, what number is it…?” were always Track #11.
I don’t know why. Maybe it’s an unspoken Musical Theatre rule that composers put a really great song at Track 11. (Or maybe that’s 11:00?) Regardless, it happened to me enough that I noticed, and here are a few examples:Sunset Boulevard- American Premiere Recording
Into the Woods- Original Broadway Cast
Side Show- Original Broadway Cast
Martin Guerre- 1999 Cast Recording
Triumph of Love- Original Broadway Cast
Wicked- Original Broadway Cast
Now, if you can hum even two of those six songs, then I probably consider you a close friend. And if you can’t, I really hope you haven't stopped reading. I also hope you realize that in finding the freedom to hint at the true depth of my Musical Theatre dork-dom, I have come a long way.
You see, it wasn’t too long ago that I looked at my itunes and was ashamed, yes, ASHAMED of my music collection. And to a degree, it was somewhat merited. I mean, Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis? Was I menopausal? This sudden self-awareness led me to waste money on a couple of albums from artists that I mistakenly thought would make me seem edgier. (like Seal and The Dixie Chicks)
Since that rock bottom of embarrassment, I have worked hard to reconcile ‘yours truly’ with his inner high school teenager. Where did that young nerd go who asked for Stephen Sondheim’s Passion as a reward for his straight “A” report card? Tell me, what happened to that kid who explained to his father that he wasn’t excited about his birthday present because he wanted the “New London Cast Recording” of Starlight Express instead of the “Concept Album?”
What I’ve come to find is that no matter how hard I try to reclaim that boy from my past, I never completely find him. And you know what? That's OK! The time and experiences I’ve lived through have expanded my tastes to include many more things besides Musical Theatre, and I’m a better person because of it. What I have been able to reclaim, however, is that I am once again free to embrace my favorites. And now, drunk with that power, I would like to say something else:
I love Celine Dion.
I love her crazy high riffing. I love that when she sings “love” is sounds like “lerve.” I love that during ballads she beats her chest like Tarzan on crystal meth. I love the bizarre musical genres that she often has no business singing. I love that when she belts really high you can see her incisors. Finally, I love Celine Dion because no matter what she does, you know it’s because she thought it was a good idea.
You know, sometimes I think we fear being permanently defined by our tastes. That somehow by declaring what we like, we declare “not-liking” everything else. But discovering our “Track 11’s” doesn’t exclude us from anything. Our favorites create preferences. And why shouldn’t we know what we like, or in many instances, prefer? It makes our happiness definable. Just like eggs at breakfast.