Cover Girl

“Sex and Candy” also had the requisite 90’s alt-rock malaise, a too-cool-for-it-all sensibility I associate with my early adulthood. Back then I tried to affect adult ways of being while perennially broke from adult responsibilities. “Sex and Candy” tried so hard at the balance of moody and sexy, which is probably what made it a mainstream hit, and also made it fade from memory after 1997.

It was the high-pitched, dare I say nasal, sound of Adam Levine’s voice, which rampaged the top-forty radio after the release of V, as in fifth studio album, with all the testosterone a hummingbird might summon up for a big night with the teensy lady-birds. What disconcerts me the most about Maroon 5’s V is how many of their lyrics my elementary school-aged niece can sing by heart.  And there she was. Levine crooning the old Marcy’s Playground hit like double cherry pie. It made me want to vomit.

I think: Oh my god.

I think: not stoner. Pedophile.

I think about the original band’s name, Marcy’s Playground; holy shit, we’ve gone headlong into Lolita territory. I become itchy and uncomfortable and wonder how I could have been so stupid not to hear it before. And then I wonder the worst: did I ever make out to this song?

Rob Sheffield, wrote in Love Is A Mixtape that you always remember the Prince album you made out to (I’ve made out to all them, so ha, and yes, and glory, halleluiah, amen).  But who talks about those terrible songs you might have made out to? Your brain might decide to go blank about any trauma, the dot.coms that would all crash, or the thick soled Doc Martens you never really had the heart to give away.

Almost all the books I’ve read about listening to music—the Love is a Mixtape and Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life and Your Band Sucks type books—are written by music boys. The women-penned books are often autobiographies from the lone girl in the band, not about how other women listen to music, how it influenced their lives. What’s the girl-version of High Fidelity? Maybe my writing is a cover sung by a woman.

I remember, just before despair sets in, how much I love the cover of “Purple Rain” by Dwight Yoakam. If I didn’t know better, I might think that “Purple Rain” was always a country ballad. But of course, I love the original, Prince’s oversexed and hyper-charged simmer underneath the best breakup lyrics since “Walk Away Renée” for which I named. And, oh, his guitar.

Back in Indiana, my twenty-something self a pretend tycoon, fanning my make-believe money, watched Jeffery Michael Thomas Flannigan lunge for the stereo.

“Screw this shit,” he said and then DJ-ed a heady if angry medley of Primus and Rage Against the Machine.

Twenty something and all my life spanning behind and before me, a small dot on the western horizon of a Midwestern city that melted into flat farmland, isles and isles of corn stalks. When the ice came, we barely noticed until the next morning, scrambling eggs and adding in the sad chopped veggies from the night before. Pot and pot of coffee, as the sun glinted pink as cotton candy off all the ice on the trees and bushes and cars and powerlines. Gaudy and gorgeous, like one hit wonders of years past, like my body easing into its womanhood, surely a dream, a world I didn’t quite yet understand, if I ever understood her, ever, at all.


Renee K NicholsonA former ballet dancer, past Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State-Altoona, and author of Roundabout Directions to Lincoln Center, Renée K. Nicholson is assistant professor in the Programs for Multi- and Interdisciplinary Studies at West Virginia University. Her writing has appeared in Poets & Writers, Midwestern Gothic, Moon City Review, The Superstition Review, The Gettysburg Review, and elsewhere. Renée’s creative projects include editing prose for the journal Souvenir, co-hosting the literary podcast “SummerBooks,” teaching ballet and choreographing for young dancers, and collaborating with healthcare professionals in narrative medicine. Her website is