Generally, if I have to cook, I would just prefer to cook alone, so in the same way that convenience stores use classical music to scatter loitering teens, I occasionally use music to drive people out of the kitchen, or to create a din so that I don’t know they’re there. I also try to find something that will occupy the most squirrelly part of my mind, the part that constructs a big argument against dumping cumin in every pot and then gets contrarian and makes a counterargument for the cumin, so I end up putting just enough cumin to give every dish a uniform flavor that’s part dust, part oak tag paper left out on the stone patio where chiles get dried. The sweet spot is like a musical lobotomy, but I can’t always get there. If I am allowed to fully observe how I feel during the cooking process, it gets hairy, because I feel exactly like this:
So, what to do? You would think any kind of radio station with the word “lite” in it would resolve the issue, but I have found it is not so. Certain music leads to the preparation of certain foods, for example: if a Megan Trainor song comes on, somehow, you just get vanilla pudding in a nice cup, with tangelo sections on the side. For any of the various teenage boy singers who make videos of themselves in football pads and cargo pants in vacant rain-glazed airports at night as they sing about never leaving you alone, girl, not ever, under any circumstances, no matter what kind of solitude the girl might desire, or maybe just some time in a space free of the smell of hair product, you end up holding a plate consisting of a refrigerator-chilled tortilla with a scoop of ice cream, shredded cheese, dollop of expired chutney on it. Coldplay leads to mayonnaise with a side of toast. Plus half a cherry tomato. And if you listen to Selena Gomez, you end up eating one of those giant ring pops followed by an asthma attack. And then, if it’s Blink-182: No.
So although I would like to hear John Tesh vs. Delilah in a debate over who is more sonorous, easy adult lite FM for your continuous workday music doesn’t really help you accomplish anything. If I venture around in iTunes, I find that M.I.A. results in mango with salt and pepper, thrown hard at a glass sliding door and then served on a bed of marijuana the size of a Christmas wreath. After listening to Fugazi, you just eat an apple, while The Gourds’ meal is an entire wheel of cheese, melted, with a brisket on top and some fried catfish bites plus gin and juice. Cesaria Evoria equals a bowl of nuts and two bottles of wine and nothing for anyone else, and if I land on the playlist called “Run” from 2003, I just plant my hands on the counter and do donkey kicks for a half hour and then hydrate.
The ideal music for cooking might be No Diggity, by Blackstreet. Like Dre says, it’s an eargasm. It’s also very easy to tailor the lyrics to whatever you’re making. Yo celery, I’m gonna chop gonna chop you up-ah. I like the way you work it, yo celery… Paprika in full effect. Potato in full effect…
I did discover that Hozier is pretty good to cook to, for a number of reasons but not least because there is a kind of moribund defeatism under the musicality that jibes with my general vibe in the kitchen. He talks a lot about being buried in the yard, and also about no one knowing where he and the person he’s singing with are until “the cattle show fear,” presumably because the cattle have to graze over their shallow graves. And then he also notes that love can help him revivify (“no grave can hold my body down”), so there’s some perseverance there. Also you can ignore the lyrics, and just let the music wash over you and it is pleasant, like a complexly intelligent person complimenting a mellow dog on its glossy coat.
Also, I submit that Hozier is the exact opposite of David Lee Roth.
This is a supercut of David Lee Roth doing high kicks, spread eagle jumps, and karate moves:
And this is Hozier cutting loose:
Did you see how fast he got to the microphone at the beginning there? yes.
I also discovered something else, and this is where it gets real. You know that song by Rihanna from Anti, where they lyrics are just her singing, “Sex with me is amazing,” over and over? Well, there is only one way to read that. Rihanna has no sex drive. I’m sorry, but this is an open letter from her chaste heart. Her libido is dead, she feels insecure, and all we can do as members of a supportive public is try to meet her thoroughgoing lack of erotic vitality with understanding. It’s okay, Rihanna. You just do you. Monasticism and pop star status do not need to be mutually exclusive. Plus, we know from Golden Girls that Rose, who never talked about sex, had sex every night with her husband when he was alive, and Blanche, who talked about nothing but sex, was shocked by that frequency of coitus. Coitus, yes, it’s a good word. Say it. SAY IT! COITUS. Anyway, Rihanna, you stay celibate as long as you want to. We will all send you books and puzzles and gardening manuals. We too are sometimes not so hungry.