Here's a fun game: Search for your name on Spotify.
Look at the tracks. Maybe you won't find an exact match (sorry, ??????), but consider the possibilities. If you didn't already known of a song with your name, there's a chance it's just really bad. Perhaps awesomely bad. Or maybe you'll get something really nice.
I knew The Dodos had a song called “Ashley.” I'd forgotten about it until this week, when I went back to the band's 2008's album, Visitor. It's a pretty, slightly weird song with a chorus that completely creeps me out. A woman's voice sings,”Aaaaaaaashley,” in answer to various questions. It's probably only creepy if it's your own name, but still.
So, I searched Spotify for “Ashley” songs. The results were pretty excellent. Big Sean and Miguel -- who I expected better of -- have a pretty unexciting song by that name. Green Day has a typical late-Green Day song with my name. Then there's the short but beautiful Yo La Tengo instrumental, in sharp contrast with the screaming Attack Attack song, “Bro, Ashley's Here.” That last one wins just for the title.
After a brief thought-train detour into the land of narcissism, I dove further into some self-involvement: I wondered what someone would write about me. But moreso, I wondered what this stuff says about my name. I grew up watching the cartoon “Recess,” in which the clique of rich bitches were all named Ashley. I once heard someone say that when they receive a professional email from someone named Ashley, they can't take her seriously.
But these songs. The array of artists and tones is sort of surprising. If I had to guess at one of those artists penning a song about an Ashley, I would have guessed Green Day. They got popular in the same era in which the name Ashley spread like an unoriginal, white-bread plague.
And so, I wondered about friends' names. (Because I do occasionaly think of others. Really.) Esteban asked me to search his name. There were only two results -- one being a Smoov-E song off an album called El Joy Del Sexo. That same Dodos record has a seriously fantastic song called “Joe's Waltz” and there are a bunch of songs called “Maddie,” plus one appropriate to my friend, titled “Maddie Goes West.”
However, it turns out that as far as Spotify goes, anyway, no one has ever bothered to write a song about a Michael.
What is it like to have written and widely distributed a song about someone? To me, that's almost as serious a commitment as tattooing a person's name on your body. How must these women feel? And how do the men who wrote those songs feel about it years later? (Sounds like Joleen deserved it, though.)
It's all incredibly personal. Music tends to be that way, of course, but this puts a name on it. Literally.