Sometimes, we discover things in the most roundabout ways. By that I mean that we never seem to take the straightest line to the things we like most, because there’s something about taking the bumpy road, the avenue that takes a hard curve, the street with the weird diversions on it that makes the destination all the more special and ready for the telling. It makes it more special in our head, because it was an adventure getting there.
The reason I’m discovering Eliza Doolittle is Jim Carrey.
Eliza Doolittle is a British songbird. Her album, Eliza Doolittle, is an incredibly fun little pop confection. Her YouTube acoustic covers of others’ songs, where she sings with just a stand-up bass and guitar backing her up are undoubtably awesome.
Jim Carrey is… umm… well you know who Jim Carrey is. Not British. You don’t think of him as a singer, but apparently he has a band, so there’s that…
These two things don’t seem to lead to each other, but they did… and I think that’s the only reason I’m listening to Eliza Doolittle on repeat right now.
To be clear I must have heard Eliza Doolittle on my Pandora account plenty of times before. There’s no way I haven’t. I admit openly that I have a “Regina Spektor” station, and I am positive that she has popped up on there being cheerful and creative. How could she not? But, in the echo chamber of Dave Matthews, Coldplay, and female singer-songwriters with twee tendencies, nothing registered. I can’t actually remember actually ever thinking, “Ahh, hello Eliza, I’ve discovered you! Why is your name the same as that character in My Fair Lady?”
I think this says just as much about my listening tendencies as it does about anything else. I am a horrible music consumer. I have this horrible ability to tune it out for long periods of time, particularly when my intent is to listen to music! Like I’ll sit down to listen to an album, listen to the first song, start thinking about going to the bank or getting a bite to eat, and realize, thirty minutes later, when the album has finished, that the soundtrack to my thought process has kindly been provided by whatever poor artist I was supposed to be listening to but totally forgot about because my mind got caught on sandwiches.
Pandora only makes this process worst. To be fair, it makes the song’s that do stand out on Pandora that much more special, because if one song catches my attention on a radio station that has been catered to my tastes by a mathematical formula, then it must truly have something in it that throws me for a curveball. Pandora can lull you into a state of complacency, which is why I still prefer good old-fashioned radio stations controlled by another human — they keep me on my toes, and I tend to actually listen for so much longer.
Either way, if Eliza ever appeared on my Pandora, she was a victim of the hypnotic trance I enter when I listen to Regina Spektor radio. I was probably thinking about sandwiches or something…
Then came Jim Carrey…
Entertainment Weekly told me Jim Carrey had covered “Creep” by Radiohead with his band. As context they also provided a bunch of other artist’s covers of the song. It’s a very well-covered song. There was Weezer with an army of guitarists and singers and other assorted instrumentalists. There was the lead-singer of The Pretenders, that band that sang “I’ll Stand By You.” Conan O’Brian singing the song as a London chimney sweep, inexplicably enough. I listened to them all for as long as I was captivated, but I found them all to be just… meh. Especially Jim Carrey, who has some musical chops, and an incredible affinity to be a total ham at all times. I just didn’t care for any of it.
And then there was Eliza Doolittle, standing outside with a stand-up base, an acoustic guitar and a drum box. You can hear the sirens and birds in the background. You can see her impossibly sparkly leggings and gold shoes. And her voice. Her voice makes an impression. And suddenly a young lady whose voice I had heard multiple times on my own personal music station but had not paid an ounce of attention to had forced her way into my conscience only after Jim Carrey, Radiohead, Conan O’Brian and YouTube had made their own peculiar contributions and told me that I would not find what I was seeking here.
But I did. Say whatever you will about my musical tastes (for instance, I’ll admit I have an over-affinity for female-singer songwriters, acoustic covers, and Radiohead songs that are not from any of their good albums and are called “Creep”), but this version just captured me, took me away, knocked me off my feet… all those phrases. I think it’s because I wasn’t lulled into a music trance and I wasn’t expecting it and it punched me in the gut when I wasn’t ready, but it was just as effective listening to it now, as I write about it.
Well now she was in my head. I checked out her other covers, of which her best is obviously Cee Lo, by a long shot. I Spotified her album. I checked her out on Wikipedia. (Turns out the Eliza Doolittle thing is intentional, which is a nice cheeky reference that I like.)
I just like her, you know? She’s cool, and she’s got a musical sensibility that matches up nicely with mine, and she’s got a recording (and modeling!) contract which means I can expect more material from her soon. Which makes me happy. But she’s not a whole different from a lot of the other artist’s I make a point of listening to. She might have just become a part of my musical tapestry, not much talked about, if not for Jim Carrey, king of the hams. It’s thanks to him that she became special. He made it so she caught me off gaurd. He made it so she made my first encounter with her music special. He made it a story. Everyone likes a story.