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Tavi Gevinson is a respected blogger, style icon and editor of online magazine Rookie, all at the ripe age of 16. From strong women talking about love and survival to indie rock heroes Pavement and Galaxie 500, she picks storytellers with a unique point of view and interpretation of the world around them. She’s made Forbes “30 Under 30” list twice and recently edited her first book, Rookie Yearbook One.
1. Bob Dylan - Desolation Row
2. Pavement - Spit on a Stranger
3. Taylor Swift - Sad Beautiful Tragic
4. Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine
5. Galaxie 500 - Strange
Anne Litt: Hi! I'm Anne Litt, and I'm here with fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson.
She's only a teenager and has already founded the hugely successful Rookie site and recently released a book called "Rookie Yearbook One". Today we'll be tapping into her musical sensibilities and playing some excerpts of songs she selected that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW's guest DJ project. Hi Tavi, Welcome!
TG: Hi, thank you for having me
AL: First up is Bob Dylan's song "Desolation Row", which is a pretty intense song. Tell me about that.
TG: Bob Dylan was sort of the first artist I discovered - as much as you can discover Bob Dylan - that felt like my own. It was separate from my friends and my family and everything. "Desolation Row" is not even in my top 20 favorite Bob Dylan songs, but I chose it because at that time, it was the same time that I started - I swear all these things will tie together, they sound random, like the first time I started getting interested in Edward Gorey, and the Virgin Suicides and sort of realizing that when it comes to something like storytelling, it's not only the happy stories that should be told, or that can be interesting or heartwarming or powerful. And I think "Desolation Row" is a good example of that. It's very long, but I don’t know, that song stuck with me a lot.
Song: Bob Dylan – “Desolation Row”
AL: Being a writer, and being someone who loves music and who loves art and design and fashion, tell me how storytelling has evolved for you.
TG: I mean when I was younger, I still am in a way, but I was especially obsessed with musicals and I did community theater. For some reason I haven’t read that much fiction outside of school lately, all of these personal essay collections. But I used to read a lot more fiction, and did reading Olympics and all that in 5th grade…Yes, I know.
So I guess, between that and theater, it just became a sort of exciting way to feel that some whole other world is created and my favorite fashion designers do that with their clothing and my favorite photo editorials and fashion magazines from over the years, there is usually some kind of narrative.
AL: That was “Desolation Row” by Bob Dylan and, next up, you chose Pavement’s Spit on a Stranger. A classic in my playbook, but tell me what inspires you about this song.
TG: I love this song because I am a big Pavement fan and whenever Stephen Malkmus does sing about a girl, he is kind of a smug smartass about it. He won't fully admit to liking her or he kind of mocks her a bit and this song, on their final album, it's just completely sincere and completely genuine. He literally says the line, "I see the sunshine in your eyes". This song is the most played song on my iTunes and it has soundtracked a lot of my teen angst.
Song: Pavement – “Spit on a Stranger”
AL: That was “Spit on a Stranger” by Pavement. I'm Anne Litt. I'm here with Tavi Gevinson. She is KCRW's guest DJ. I am really excited that you are here. You brought such a wide spectrum of songs. And next up is Taylor Swift. Now this is something more of your era. I want you to talk to about "Sad, Beautiful, Tragic" by Taylor Swift.
TG: I am a big Taylor Swift fan and she talks a lot about feeling, the act of feeling, as a sort of means and an end. She talks a lot about looking back on a relationship and saying, "Well I felt something, and it may not have been happiness necessarily, but it was still something that made me feel anything, and made me feel alive, and so it's worth writing a song about". And I think this song, which is just her just saying; we had a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair, is a good example of that.
Song: Taylor Swift -- “Sad, Beautiful, Tragic”
TG: Her new album goes to a lot of places that the others didn’t, and I feel like the others existed very much in a vacuum of high school and fairytales. And I love that, but I love the new one too, because all the imagery in the new one is more in the outside world. And it's exciting watching her grow and everything through her music.
AL: That was "Sad, Beautiful, Tragic" by Taylor Swift. Now moving from Taylor Swift, to a very emotional woman: Fiona Apple. "Extraordinary Machine" is
the song you have chosen. What do you love about Fiona and the song? Tell us.
TG: Well, Fiona Apple is inspiring to me in general, just a whole. I just love her a lot. I chose "Extraordinary Machine" because I think it’s a good example of one thing I really admire about her, which is her attitude that -- it's not optimistic, because its more a means of survival -- but this attitude that’s just like, "give me whatever you’ve got, and I'll make the best of it." I think the line is, "be kind to me, or treat me mean/ I'll make the most of it/I'm an extraordinary machine."
I just like that because it's not sappy, and it's not necessarily optimism. It's just her really trying to understand the world around her.
Song: Fiona Apple -- “Extraordinary Machine
AL: Fiona Apple with "Extraordinary Machine" and we are here with your last song. It is a Galaxy 500 song, and I am going to guess it was written before you were born.
TG: Yeah, probably. (laughs)
AL: And I grew up with Galaxie 500. "Strange" is the name of the song. Why this song? How did you find Galaxie 500?
TG: One of my best friends at home and at school showed me Galaxie 500. And then we later, we have a fake 'band', and we played the song at our local V-Day. It was just a really special moment and I chose the song because its both a song that I have listened to while moping alone in my room on a rainy night and that I have sung at the top of my lungs in a room full of people.
It's just weird how it is both really sad, and really happy. And I think it’s sort of a weird kind of anthem among my friends and me, because it just really perfectly captures this feeling of being like, 'everything is really sad, but it's also really pretty, and its also just generally strange; and being alive is very weird". And it does it in a way, that the lyrics are so straight forward, but it just kind of wraps it all together really perfectly.
Song: Galaxie 500 – “Strange”
AL: Tavi, thanks so much for joining us on KCRW.com
TG: Thank you so much for having me!
AL: For a complete track listing, and to find these songs online, go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.