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The Playlist of an Almost Deaf Badass

Sometimes My Version is Better

By Alex CaseyPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 9 min read
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The Playlist of an Almost Deaf Badass
Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Some songs really spoke to me.

And some songs only spoke to me because I didn’t know the real lyrics.

I realize this happens to everyone, as Ellen DeGeneres reminded us in 2003:

However, as someone significantly hard of hearing, I mishear lyrics more than the average person, and it's often amusing.

The worst (or best, depending on your perspective) example was when I thought Snoop Dogg was “sippin’ on candid soup” which made much less sense than “sippin’ on gin and juice”. One of my friends simply said, “Sippin’ on what?” and a 10-minute embarrassment-fueled laughing fit ensued.

So here’s a list of songs that had a significant impact on me, whether or not I knew the real words.

“Meet Virginia” by Train: Mid-Adolescent Wannabe Badass

I can easily mock this song now. I enjoy under-pronouncing syllables, adding twang, and screaming while pulling my hair into a ponytail, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome to the teenage me.

My father is not an alligator wrestler nor is my mother is an automotive mechanic. In fact, I have almost nothing in common with Virginia, but she’s a self-sufficient, carefree badass, and I wanted to be one, too.

But I misheard a lot of these lyrics. I wasn’t sure who her brother mediated for (the President) or what was unusual (the shape of her body). However, the worst ones were these:

Real: She doesn't own a dress, her hair is always a mess…She smokes a pack a day, wait that's me, but anyway /She doesn't care a thing about that, hey

Mine: She doesn’t own a dress, her hair is always a mess…She smokes a pack a day, way past me, but anyway / She doesn’t care a thing about that hair

I was convinced this dude was in love with a woman who couldn’t tame her mane (and neither could I) and who could “out smoke” him, which only added to her mystique and confidence. However, the fact that she was completely miserable despite these great qualities spoke to me even more.

Also, the woman in the video is barely old enough to be hired, but I pictured her as a grown woman in her 40s who already had everything more or less figured out. In my mind, the cigarettes had given her a low, gravelly voice (similar to actress and activist Angela Asher) that further contributed to her complexity and wisdom.

Virginia was the perfect anti-hero and my inspiration for a significant portion of my adolescence. Life would have been harder without her.

And yes, I absolutely drank coffee at midnight.

“Round of Blues” by Shawn Colvin: Late-Adolescent Confused About Love

As I was (at least publicly) moving away from Train, I found Shawn Colvin on one of the best mix CDs that no one seems to know. (Seriously, I’ve only found it on Discogs, which allowed me to mostly remake it on Spotify.)

I misheard an enormous amount of this song, including “Another round of blues” for “Another round of booze”. I assumed it was a Sheryl Crow situation. In my mind, this woman was sitting in a bar, telling the bartender about her ex-boyfriend, and when the chorus came, the camera flipped so that she was speaking to her ex.

I only understood about half of the bridge, and there were a couple of lines in the third verse that I hummed. But that wasn't the worst part.

I misheard the chorus:

Real: So wherever you go / You better take care of me / This time / If you're gonna go / Remember me and all

Mine: So wherever you go / You better take care of me / This time / If you're gonna go / You better leave alone

And then in the second verse:

Real: We had our bitter cheer / And sweet sorrow / We lost a lot today / We get it back tomorrow / I hear the sound of wheels / I know the rainbow's end / I see lights in a fat city / I feel love again

Real: We had our bitter tears / And sweet sorrow / We lost a lot today / We give back tomorrow / I hear the song of winds / I know the rain storm’s end / I see lights and ??? / I feel love again

These mishears completely changed the song. Also, apparently I made her into a philanthropist; even when she's losing, she's giving.

Basically, if he was going to leave her, he should just leave. They were done. She eventually feels love again, but there’s a lot more “sad” than “glad” in this song. When she does feel positive feelings, they are because she’s enjoying being independent. She doesn’t need him or anyone else.

I was experiencing all the hormones, refusing to confess feelings to crushes, having my heart broken, breaking others’ hearts. It was empowering to hear a woman say she could find happiness in a life of solitude.

Honestly, I like my version better. Sometimes, I still sing it my way.

“Blue Jeans” by Silvertide: College Wannabe Bad Guy

If I had been a teenager when Billie Eilish released “Bad Guy”, it would definitely be on this list. (Side note: Todd in the Shadows has a substitute teacher perspective on "Bad Guy" that's great for anyone who works with adolescents.) I didn’t want to be caught in real trouble, but I definitely wanted the reputation of a thrill-seeker who could still wear the "saint" facade in front of the parents.

Honestly, I didn’t understand most of the first five of both 7-line verses. Seriously, I only sing along to maybe 12 lines of this song. But the worst mishear was in the very beginning (and anyone could have made it.)

Real: She's the kind of girl you bring home to your mother / She looks good in blue jeans even better under covers / She's a devil in bed between the sheets / Ask her if she's a saint and she'll get down on her knees and pray

Mine: She's the kind of girl you bring home to your mother / She looks good in blue jeans even better undercover / She's a devil in bed between the sheets / After she's a saint and she'll get down on her knees and pray

Okay, so a chunk of the song is about how awesome this woman is in bed. I know that. It’s impossible to miss. However, I thought she went undercover too. Also, after she was a solid 10 in bed, she immediately prayed, which I imagined/projected was due to her Catholic guilt (as Alanis Morissette explains well in her brutally honest "Forgiven").

Maybe she wasn’t undercover with the FBI or top-tier newspaper; maybe she was just a woman who could camouflage into any situation. This concept certainly makes sense with the song.

I worked hard to be who I needed to be in every situation. My roommate wanted to throw and/or attend a rager, I held my own with everyone else. My coworker needed me to stay late, I was mopping and turning off lights. My professors needed a top student, my employees wanted a smiling manager, and my friend needed a ride-along buddy for late night drives to the liquor store 30 minutes away (31 minutes before it closed). I was there.

You were equally likely to see me slow dancing or winning Punch 4 Punch against a guy twice my size.

I loved that Silvertide’s woman was a carefree chameleon, and seemed to enjoy who she was. There was freedom in her facade, and “Blue Jeans” was definitely my college anthem.

“Vienna” by Billy Joel: Barely Young Adult Who Doesn’t Meditate

Guilty pleasure confession: The first time I heard this song was when Jenna was having a meltdown on 13 Going on 30.

I was still fairly close to a “crazy child” and “juvenile”, and watching Jennifer Garner try to hide under the blanket in the storm really spoke to me.

I didn’t mishear any of these lyrics; they were exactly what I needed. I’d left my college roommate, but I was still in those years, and everything felt very fast and high pressure. I needed to accomplish as much as possible. Work. Study. Write. Help. There was barely enough time for sleep, let alone true relaxation.

I still return to this song as my “back up theme song”. When I know I’m going too fast, I go for a walk to Billy Joel reminding me that I “can afford to lose a day or two”.

“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman: Emerging Adult Desperate for Impact

I know I heard this song as a teenager, but it really started speaking to me in my my early-20s. I was desperate for change and to leave my mark. I was living month-to-month and finding freedom in road trips, so I felt Tracy was singing to me.

In retrospect, the person in the song is living in a shelter, so I absolutely still had more privilege. It felt eerily similar, but someone in 2023 would definitely check me on this.

I heard most of these lyrics, too. Except for a couple:

Real: City lights lay out before us / And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder

Mine: City lights way out before / And the (young?) night wrapped 'round my shoulder

In my defense, the driver is safer in my version.

I can’t count the number of times I sang just the line “Leave tonight or live and die this way”. Will things improve? Was there a way to drive off into the sunset (without running out of gas)? Could I leave my mark without living and dying penniless?

Honestly, when I moved in my mid-20s, I felt like I had finally taken Tracy’s advice, and it didn't matter what happened next.

“Her Eyes” by Pat Monahan: Thirties Humble Badass

I found this song in my late-20s, years after its release, and I didn’t realize who Pat Monahan was until much later. It is the grown up version of “Meet Virginia” (which makes sense, given the artist). In some ways, it feels like I’ve made a full circle, but in a good way – back to being a badass.

However, “Meet Virginia” has its own Wikipedia page; no one I’ve met knows “Her Eyes”, and that’s fine with me.

I did mishear a handful of these lyrics, and I like my version so much that I sing it my way.

From the first verse:

Real: She's not afraid / She just likes to use her night light / When she gets paid / True religion gets it all if they fit right

Mine: She's not afraid / She just likes to use her night light / When she gets paid / True religion gets it all if they fear right

From the second verse, I didn’t connect that “She loved Michael Jackson up until he made ‘Bad’” meant the album; I thought it meant “bad” as in once the news hit about his pedophilia, and I thought, “Yeah, we all did.”

From the third verse:

Real: She takes me as I am and that ain't easy

Mine: She takes me as I am and that alright

In my version, this awesome woman is charitable, but she sheds light on the hypocrisy in organized religious organizations, forcing them to show their sincerity before receiving her tithe. She stopped listening to “Thriller” when we gained a different perspective of MJ, and she accepts her significant other exactly as they are.

She’s had a lot of experiences, and isn’t afraid to say “yes” to more, making her fearless. Thinking “cowboy hats make her look fat” isn’t any crazier than Virginia wearing “high heels when she exercises”. “She doesn’t know the word impossible” is even better than having reptile-wrestling parents because she’s wrestling life’s scariest struggles.

When her partner looks into her eyes, he sees hope and potential. What more could we ever want someone to see?

This woman has the badass nature of Virginia, independence of Shawn, and chameleon effect of Blue Jeans. She’s learned how to wait for Vienna, and she’s in Fast Cars because she likes them, not out of necessity.

Yeah, I’m fine with this woman being my hero for at least a few more years.

I feel like I've "lived about a hundred lives" too.

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About the Creator

Alex Casey

I'm a full-time educator and part-time writer. My best ideas usually end up on Vocal.

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