Pass me the Kleenex for these musical gems......

When I was in college, one of my many passions was getting the chance to share my love and knowledge of music through my writing. Being a Managing Editor on our school newspaper, The Cormont, I felt I had the opportunity to be open about what I loved in certain types of music. There were articles about my favorite "panty picks", summer songs, artists to look out for, etc. And now, years later, I miss not continuing to do those. 

Oh sure, on occasion I've been known to make a few lists regarding my life or favorite songs off of mixes that I've created, but today after listening to an epic rendition of "Faithfully," I decided to start another list. What's been missing from my life is the ability to connect my favorite things the way I used to. It's not like I haven't been writing, but if you saw how many unfinished posts I actually had on my blog, you'd wonder why I didn't get the inspiration or drive to finish them. Truth is, I don't know how to continue them. Yes, I have passion while writing, but it fades when I've finally shared all the words I can. 

But today, I decided it was time to start using and combining my talents again, because without music or writing, I don't think I'd be who I am today. 

I wouldn't have been published in an Anthology. 
I wouldn't have learned how to sing. 
I wouldn't have learned how to play piano. 
I wouldn't have learned what it took to be in front of a crowd, sharing my most intimate moment through an artistic expression......and making them feel the emotion that I wanted to convey.

So today, after hearing "Faithfully" done so amazingly well by the cast of Glee, I decided to give you, in no particular order, my top ten 'tear-jerker' picks:

1) Faithfully by Journey (and the Glee Cast Version): This song is epic, on so many different levels. The words, the voice, the raw emotion that goes into Steve Perry's deliverance of the message. Yes, it's about a man sharing with the woman he loves that no matter what happens or where he goes, that she's the only one for him. Funnily enough, Steve Perry did not write this song, the keyboardist did. He wrote it for his wife to tell her that despite the fact that he was on the road away from her, he wanted to come home to her and only her. I can relate to that, dating a musician who is sometimes on the road while I'm at home, waiting for him to come home to me so I can remember all the reasons why I fell in love with him. And the version that the cast of Glee has created......just epic and beautiful. (For those of you who know the show, I think Finn and Rachel will definitely end up together, no matter what happens.)

2) Barbara by The Beach Boys: Yes, I know that they have a song Barbara Ann out there, but this song is different. It was written by Dennis Wilson and in my opinion, is just so simple with the words, but moving all the same. Dennis wrote it for his wife, conveying all the feelings that he feels when he's with her. Matt was the first one to introduce me to this song and I'm glad that he did, because we can relate to the words. I can still remember when I heard him share these words with me:

Every day is a special day for me
Living with you
Just being with you
All my love, for all my life, my love, my love
Just for you
For I love to sing songs for you

The simplicity in the meaning moved me to tears the first time I heard these words. And while it is another musician-themed song, where the song Faithfully is more epic, this one is more tender and sweet.

3) Your Song by Sir Elton John: Let's face it......Elton is the man when it comes to some of the all-time iconic songs of our lives! Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? Classic. Tiny Dancer? An instant sing-a-long hit! Candle in the Wind.......both versions? There is not a dry eye in the house. Yet this song......one of my favorites, carries such an intimate moment between a man and his lover. There he is, wanting to share that this is their song and while it's not perfect, it's theirs. I think on some level, we all wish we could have moments like that where we have someone who goes out of their way to share exactly what they're feeling.......in the most creative of ways. You can't help but want to love the song itself. Even the line about the color of the eyes, that he may have forgotten the color, but they're the most beautiful eyes he's ever seen. Who wouldn't want to hear those words? 

4) Never is a Promise by Fiona Apple: Not all 'tear-jerkers' are romantic ballads......even though it would be nice for each one to be romantically involved. But this doesn't mean that this song is any less Kleenex-worthy. Fiona Apple isn't really known for getting loud when she's hurt or angry in her music. Instead, she carries this "quiet storm" of emotion, grabbing you at the very core of your soul. I remember that when I first heard this song, it wasn't really moving to me......until my freshman year of college when my mother had succumbed to her manic-depressive state. At this time in my life, I was dealing with all of these feelings and emotions that I had never thought I'd be dealing with. I was only 18 years old, having to understand why my mother was constantly making me cry and feel guilty for being a regular teenager. It felt like she didn't know me, didn't care to know who I was, and instead did her best to make me feel like I wasn't good enough with the person that I wanted to be. I had to do everything she asked me to do. I had to sacrifice for her. I had to defend myself against the lies she had created in her delusions about my current home-life with my father. I can still remember the one line that always caught me:

I don't know what to believe in
You don't know who I am

I was so lost, thinking that I was supposed to have a mom who supported me and understood me. Someone who wouldn't tear me down any chance she had. Someone who could respect my wishes when I asked for space or time to process my feelings. And while I know now that she wasn't well when all this is happening, this song is still my go-to song when I need to just cry and process life.......Kleenex always on hand.

5) That I Would Be Good by Alanis Morissette: There's always a song or two that's necessary to hear when one feels insecure and unsure of life. And I'm sad to say that in quite a few years of my life, I've been insecure. I've felt like I haven't been good enough or strong enough to do the things I've needed to do. And while this isn't a strong, empowering number, it's one of those songs that has always reminded me that no matter what happens in my life, I was going to be ok, whether that be in a life I wasn't satisfied with or without people around me. I knew I could be just fine, I would always come out the other side. I may have had a few scars to show for it, but I'd get through everything the best way I knew how: one step at a time. 

6) Is It Okay If I Call You Mine? by Paul McCrane: I have my college friends and parents to thank for getting me into more musical theatre-type music. The first time I heard this song, I was a sophomore at Marymount College, hanging out in my friend Ileana's room. She kept raving about this song and knowing how much I loved music, wanted me to hear it. When I had met my ex-fiancee in my junior year, that song really hit home for me. I remember just how much I wanted to be with him, to call him mine for just a little while. Those words, just like most of my favorite songs, were simple and heartfelt, with a deeper meaning. I couldn't wait to be around him, to get to know him better. While I now find a deeper parallel with that song in my current boyfriend, I love how Paul McCrane's voice takes these simple phrases and hopes to share how even for at least a little while, he wants to be with this person that has consumed his thoughts. 

7) This Beauty by Amanda Rogers (Jupiter Sunrise): Not a mainstream number, but a moving song all the same. I love the way Amanda conveys how people view her as such a beautiful person, even though she may be talking about her own insecurities and pointing them out at every turn. And if she could, she would stop paying attention to the media's notion of the image of being beautiful and focus on what's important: what people really see when they look at her. With all the different types of media focusing on the idea of beauty being skinny waists and accentuating "the goods" with provocative apparel and makeup........it's easy for the women of our time to feel that disappointment when they can't live up to the standards that media wants them to be. But let's face it: it's better to truly be who you are rather than someone you're not. And the way Amanda Rogers evokes emotion in her song.......I definitely get just a little choked up.

8) Hello Again by Neil Diamond: Ah, how could I pass up not talking about Neil? Whenever I hear the strings intro to this song.......it gives me goosebumps. And the way they use this song in the movie The Jazz Singer? Such a classic scene. Neil comes back to his woman and when he sees her, all those old feelings return and in that moment, the only thing on his mind is just to tell her "hello" and to show her that he realizes how much he needs her in his life. He knows he has looked at her many times before, but this one is different. Whenever Matt is on the road and he calls me at after a show, I'm reminded of this song just a little bit. Just the idea that after all of the music, madness, and girls around him, that I'm the one he wants to talk to at the end of the night. And the words..........need I say anything more?

9) The Right Place by Andy Mac: Not all of my 'tear-jerkers' are mainstream/classic songs......this one is no exception! While I find some of the words to not be as clear-cut and simple as some of my other favorites, this gem is definitely one to not pass up. Mac delivers the idea that in the simplest of moments, one can realize that they are exactly where they need to be in life. More and more lately, I connect with that simple message. While for so long, I struggled with who I was in a relationship and kept coming up short, I found that relationship to change the game. That relationship that makes you realize that that person is what makes you feel more complete than you've felt in a long time. True, you should really be complete with  yourself before being in a relationship, but I love how this song really touches on the aspect of being complete with your significant other/love interest. The one person whose smile or quirky mannerism is all you need in life to feel everything fall into place. 

10) Question by Old 97s: While I know a few people won't understand how moving this song truly is, I'm going to take the time to put it as the final song on my list. Oh sure, there are sooooo many other songs that I could've come up with for this final number (and believe me, I'm a HUGE 'tear-jerker' song fan), but I have to share this one. A man putting into words the instant that he wants to propose to the one he loves. I could probably go on and on about how great this song is, but I'd rather you hear it. Simplistic and tender......perfect combination.

11) Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley: Now yes, this is a cover of the Leonard Cohen version, but Jeff Buckley's version is so melodic and haunting. There are so many interpretations to the song itself, but I love the one I take from it: the idea of a love that hurts you so much it causes physical pain. There are so many songs about the fluffy, happy side of love that I love how this song is the "dark side," so to speak. Yes, the themes are more sexual and ominous, but that's what makes this work. One of my favorite verses is the following: 

Baby I've been here before
I've seen this room and I've walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew you
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

The way Buckley sings about love being this cold and hurtful thing......it just makes you feel that heartbreak that he's telling you about. Oh yeah, a box of tissues is necessary to get through this number.


I definitely plan on making more Top Tens, especially ones that focus on the types of music I'm surrounded by/love listening to/hate/stumbled upon by accident. Until then, if anyone has any ideas for a list, comments are appreciated! 

~Jenny Rockstar


Finding the "Glee" in life

I'll admit it......when I get into something, I'm always the first to dive headfirst into learning EVERYTHING and ANYTHING that I can about what interests me. When I was in high school and hit that "boy-band" phase, I could probably recite the birthdate and favorite color of the members of Hanson, Backstreet Boys, *N'Sync, and 98 Degrees. (Fortunately, I grew out of this awkward phase, even though my music collection from these years are still a guilty pleasure.) This also became my time to fall in love with Nicholas Brendon from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. And then by the time Senior Year rolled around, I was becoming heavily interested in '60s & '70s music after watching a made for TV movie about The Monkees and their rise (and fall) to fame. (The first time I met Peter Tork will always be one of my favorite memories.) This intro, while not in the same genre, led me to some of my current classic rock loves: The Beatles, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd. 

Come college, I turned to more visual interests, immersing myself in shows like American Idol (I'm still convinced Clay Aiken was the winner) and Broadway musicals (thanks to my theater friends). Some of my friends brought me out to local shows, where I would meet more indie-style bands that soon became some of the most influential music in my life (refer to Jupiter Sunrise blog.) It also became a period in my life where I explored other genres of music like Jazz, Opera, Punk, Oldies, and anything that caught my fancy. I was always researching and learning as much as I could, hoping that I could find myself in those very things I had come to love and admire. When I would luck out and create that connection, life made sense for a change. I felt like I had understanding, even from something that would never know how much of an impact it would leave on me.

During my junior and senior year in college, as well as a few post-college years, my interests became more serious. I wanted to be the best writer at any subject that I felt passionate about, so I started researching issues pertaining to my life. My mother went undiagnosed for manic depression, so I explored that topic just as vigorously as I would learning about my favorite boy bands. When it came to writing about the Army and what was supposed to be my future life, I buried myself in guidebooks and stories that Army Wives had written before me. And as for music, I learned about music that had never quite interested me before, but I felt determined to learn more about. I felt the push to be an adult and to stop dreaming and learning about the passions that had driven me before in life. I was going to be living on my own. I was going to be married. I was an adult who needed to act like one, something that I wish I hadn't done.

My music choices reflected that, as it became harder for me to find new music that spoke to me in the way it had before. There would be the occasional song here and there, but nothing that really grabbed me the way things used to. I struggled a lot with knowing who I was in these years, trying to understand my part in the world. 

I wasn't writing the amazing stories in Rolling Stone Magazine that I had hoped to write. 

I wasn't getting to rub elbows with the musicians/actors that impacted my life up to that point. 

I wasn't living up to my full potential, nor was I able to find a way that helped me to do that. My inspiration felt lacking.....at least for a while. 

But all of that has changed in the past couple of years, as I found myself in a new relationship and a new chapter in my life. And with that, my interests started to come back slowly, but surely. I danced more, worried less, and stopped trying to push forward when clearly it wasn't making a difference. There had to be another way around the wall I had in front of me.

And then, about a month or two back, I started to watch the show Glee. I managed to catch an episode here and there, but nothing serious. It just seemed like another silly show on television.....I didn't give it much thought. All it looked like was another teeny bopper show that would catch on with pre-pubescent teens. Then one night with my boyfriend Matt, I watched the infamous Madonna episode.......and things were never the same. I decided to give the show another chance and really became intent on watching the plot unfold.

I know it sounds silly to think that a simple TV show could change my perspective on life (because it hasn't), yet the simple story about a show choir trying to rise from the ashes and the mini-dramas and conflicts they are faced with presented in a somewhat comedic manner.......I couldn't help but feel a sense of understanding towards its message. It brought me back to my high school chorus days and from there, I felt a sense of nostalgia. I remember being like Rachel Berry in trying to snag every solo I dreamed of having, as well as dealing with unrequited feelings for any boy that I had even liked. I remember feeling like the outcast in school as I became known for being somewhat of a writing/music geek......minus slushie facials. I sometimes felt like Tina, wanting to avoid having to deal with people, marching to the beat of my own drum, especially when in my own high school years I dealt with some tough and eye-opening experiences. And in some strange way, I also remember feeling like Finn, always trying to find my voice and my place in the thick of it all.........the show brought me back to that girl I had been....and the one I had always wanted to be.

With a new determination, I set out to find out more about the show, as well as try to watch every episode with a renewed enthusiasm for life. Almost every character reminded me of people I went to school with; the line drawn between athletics and the arts something I could relate to in a big way. Watching each episode, it felt like I was watching my high school ambitions and dreams each week. 

Finding my place in the world. 

Having to make difficult choices that truly shaped who I wanted to become. 

Hearing the song in my heart and following it with everything I had.

But what struck me the most is for the first time in a long time, I found myself passionate and ambitious to learn about something new. It's important to have interests and mini-obsessions with things......you learn a lot about yourself from what you like. I'm always trying to find my own happiness in life with everything I have. But sometimes, when it doesn't feel like enough, you need to change up the game a little. Just one little change always seems to renew the goals you seek, not for its ability to rattle around the status quo, but for how it makes you appreciate your own dreams even more.

I'm always going to be afraid that I'm not going to make it where I want to be in life, but I'm going to push past that fear. 

Because I know I'm going to be a wonderful writer that will one day write a book that will change my life and impact those around me. 

Because I know that if I want to meet those people that have had a significant impact on my life, it will happen if I believe in it. 

Because I'm not afraid to be that girl who randomly breaks out singing while walking down the quiet boardwalk at 10 pm, envisioning everything I've ever wanted just being there for the taking. 

Because I know I have a voice that is going to move mountains. 

Because when I stand against the wind with a song in my heart and a dream in my soul.........nothing can stop me. 

I think we all need a little "glee" in our lives, those simple things that help us to make it through the days and keep us smiling and strong. Without it, life doesn't always seem so shiny and bright.......without those dreams, you lose sight of you.

~Jenny Rockstar


I took the road less traveled by.....and that has made all the difference

Yesterday, during my first day off this week, I decided to venture out my front door and become more acquainted with the area that I call home: Manasquan. Armed with my iPod and my camera, all I wanted was an opportunity to clear my head for a while and get some time doing two things that I really enjoy: listening to music and taking pictures of the things that I come across.

For anyone not familiar with Manasquan and its beach, it's more intimate, less noisy, and its inlet runs parallel to the Point Pleasant inlet on the other side. A long pathway of jagged rocks all placed in the form of a pathway, leading out to a lookout point made of concrete. I was determined to get to that lookout point, no matter how treacherous the path may have looked. I took each rock at a time, judging and gauging which one made the most sense to reach for next. At times, I was scared I was going to fall or be blown away by the crazy wind, yet I knew that if I had turned around then, that it was pointless for me to have even tried at all........so I kept going.

And finally, after enduring the wind and sea-spray catching me off-guard several times, I made it to the lookout point and took a long hard look at the pathway I had just conquered. Funnily enough, life is just like that jagged path: lots of patience and decisions that could alter how you venture down your own path could mean you either make it through or end up in the water. And sometimes, taking a breather and allowing yourself the opportunity to take in your surroundings on that path help you to continue down it.

I felt I had conquered a huge feat: making it through the rough patch of the road, yet I knew that I'd have to go back the way I came in, with quite a bit of alteration to how I originally walked that pathway. But instead of immediately jumping the gun to go back, I stayed on that lookout point, watching the fisherman trying to catch some prime fare off the concrete pier.......until the graffiti on the concrete caught my eye. There, in bright blue lettering, I saw the following words: LIVE FREE. Of course, I had to take a picture of those words, because after all of the struggles and tribulations recently, I felt a sense of calm reading those very words. All of us struggle on a day-to-day basis with feelings of not being able to live the way we want to live, not being where we want to be on certain things in our life. Even the happiest and most content of individuals will always have something that they strive to have still, something that always seems to be just a little out of reach for them. I felt empowered after seeing these words and wanted to embrace its message. Therefore, my camera was staying out, as I saw many other meaningful messages painted all over the inlet.

Some were silly little proclamations of love, like "Jeff <3's Erin 4Ever" while others were even sillier, just random nicknames and words like "Skyscraper" and "Big Black" vertically painted down the concrete anchors. Each was unique in its own way, offering something new and interesting to look at while I took in the sea air and magnificent view of the shore line. But then I came across yet another word spray-painted onto the concrete: Fear. For so long, I've feared the danger along my path, yet I've continued to follow what I believe in. And just like the previous phrase spoke to me, this one did as well, because fear will always be present in anything I do, just like while I was walking along the jagged rocks. It is everywhere and anywhere it wants to be, no matter what happens in life. The only way to truly conquer fear is to know that it will always be there, but to not pay any mind to it.

More and more, I became comfortable with the surroundings of the inlet and allowed myself the opportunity to really open up on my picture-taking. I felt all the tension drain and my camera gave me the opportunity to just relax for a while and enjoy the beautiful day unfolding before me. Picture after picture of the waves, the inlet on the opposite side, fishing boats, and surfers caught my eye. Even for a weekday, there was still so much going on outside......and I wanted to capture all that I could. While there would be more, I decided I had taken enough pictures at the lookout and proceeded to make the trek back over the rough terrain. On my way back, however, I came across the most extraordinary heart.......painted onto a cracking, crumbling rock. Before my friend Nick could offer his personal interpretation of the image as an old love, it made me realize that even when your heart is broken, it's still intact. It never completely shatters, but instead weathers the storm, keeping its shape for all to see. The heart is a warrior, always sharing its message of love no matter what the cost. In a way, I felt like it was my heart, cracked and weathered through the years, but still able to distinguish that love is alive and well.

No matter what happens in life, I will always believe in love. For a while, like this path, I needed to take it easy and find my way, despite the odds against me. Love is eternal, it is prominent even when everything else is not. It comes in all different sizes, defies all logic and reason, and will always win. Every day, my faith in love is renewed. I see it in every form and anywhere I go. It can be in your significant other kissing you goodbye as they start their day, or a parcel from a friend. We see it in people holding the door for others or simply greeting a stranger. It comes in a touch, or a phrase, or a gesture of kindness. I could come up with many examples for hate as well, but a simple gesture of love can erase even the largest exhibition of hate.

My road may be jagged and scary at times, but it is mine. And it is full of just as much beauty as a smoothly paved road.......but I don't need something that's easy. I need the road that teaches me how to prepare myself for life, that challenges me to push harder and choose wisely, because life is not easy. Life is messy, complicated at times, and can push you down even when you're already down. But as long as you keep getting back up and pushing forward.......nothing can stop you. 

~Jenny Rockstar