It started, as so many good stories do, with a dare and a Phil Collins song. It ended with an emotional breakdown over a game of miniature golf.
After falling into a Genesis/Collins K-hole — I inherited a genuine love for him from both my parents — I ran my mouth on Facebook, saying something like, "I'm going to listen to 'Against All Odds' for the rest of my life."
My sister countered my statement and said I wouldn't last a week.
But what if I did? I thought. What if I listened to this song for a week? I've done dumber things! I gleefully accepted the challenge.
First, we formed a game plan. As a music critic, I knew I couldn't listen to the song endlessly every day; I had albums to review and blog posts to write. And if I wanted remain mentally stable, I knew I wouldn't be able to listen to the song every hour, either. So we decided that listening to it at least once every waking hour would have to do.
Next, I knew I'd have to prove it, so I set up a Tumblr blog and connected it to my phone. Every time I listened to the song, I could take a photo as evidence and upload it from wherever I was. That way the few people who were following along could track my progress.
I started on a Monday and intended to finish the following Sunday night. I'd listen to the song about 16 times a day. I was pumped.
At first, it was hilarious. I listened in the movie theater, during a staff meeting, and while having dinner with friends. I watched the Live Aid version on YouTube — the one where Collins, sporting a curly mullet, cringes and grins after hitting a bum note. At one point I missed an hour, and in a panic I decided that I had to listen to the song over and over again for a full 60 minutes as penance. After a few days in, I wasn't the least bit tired of the song. (Though I did really start to hate the 10-second keyboard intro. That fucking note that's higher than all the rest? Fuck that note.)
Surprisingly, the project was also sparking a new kind of creativity. I did some research on Collins and discovered that he's actually a very self-aware and smart person with a pretty good sense of humor about where he stands in pop culture. I started to really dissect the song, and think about how we digest music in general.
I thought of all the other things I could do every waking hour of every day for a week. It became a game to try to get a semi-interesting photo out of whatever listening scenario I was in, and I involved my friends, boyfriend and co-workers. This was the most fun dumbest thing I've ever done.
A couple more days into it, though, my brain started to do weird things. I noticed a general melancholy had come over me. I became convinced that no one would ever love me as much as Phil Collins loved the subject of the song. Despite having a pretty fantastic boyfriend, I started to feel increasingly sorry for myself. I began to listen to the song several times an hour because it felt like the only thing that could comfort me. It was as though I couldn't turn it off.
Then the inevitable happened. It was Saturday — a gorgeous, sunny day, and the second-to-last day I'd have to listen to the song. I was supposed to go play mini golf with some friends, but they were running late. They called and promised they were just 15 minutes away. Thirty minutes later, however, they were still MIA.
After almost an hour had passed, I listened to the song once more. In that moment I felt every ounce of desperation that Collins musters as he cries, "SO TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT ME NOW!" My emotions came pouring out of me. I yelled to my boyfriend about how disrespectful my friends were for being so unapologetically late. I ranted about how they're taking my friendship for granted. I started crying. I couldn't believe they were so late! How could they do this to me? How could they not understand how important this was?
I just needed them to be there for me, just as Phil Collins wanted that woman to be there for him. And the worst part was, they had no idea! They didn't know how upset I was, they weren't paying attention. THEY WEREN'T LOOKING AT ME. I JUST WANTED THEM TO LOOK AT ME.
In the midst of my hissy fit they texted to say they were across the street. I wiped away my tears and went and played mini golf. Everything was fine.
The next night, when I got home from work, my boyfriend had celebratory cupcakes waiting for me. They were decorated with Phil Collins' face and the song's lyrics. I listened to "Against All Odds" one more time, while licking frosting off Collins' face, and I fell asleep. I had done it. It was stupid, but I did it.
And I still love that song. I do. I even still love those jerky friends who showed up an hour late to our game of mini golf.