Uh…hmmm…I don’t have a witty comment with which to start this thing off. I will say that the 80GB iPod I have now had for almost a year is approaching capacity, so I’m starting to uncheck songs that I’m sort of lukewarm on. Y’know, if, like, anything from Mariah Carey’s “Unplugged ” album comes on shuffle, I’m gonna skip it anyway, so why have it there in the first place?

Anyhow, you know the rules…7 songs, completely random fashion. Current tally: 16,794 songs (I have no idea how many of them are unchecked).

Track 1: “(They Long To Be) Close To You” by The Carpenters:

Actually, the first time I heard this song when I was a kid, it wasn’t Karen Carpenter singing it, but Diana Ross. Miss Ross hosted a TV special back in 1971 (it featured The Jackson 5, Bill Cosby and Danny Thomas), and she performed a rendition of this song on the show and it’s soundtrack. Her version has nothing on The Carpenters’ version, however. This is as good as 70s easy listening pop got. Karen was truly a great emotional singer, and you can’t beat the harmonies here (especially on headphones…fucking wow). I must admit, it’s so cool listening to this song without a video to latch your memory on to, because that way I can mentally picture a flock of birds buzzing around Karen’s lover when he pops up and giggle a little.

Man, I know it’s a cliche, but this woman’s voice breaks my heart every time I hear it.

Track 2: “Tasty Love” by Freddie Jackson

For those of you who weren’t riding the quiet storm in the mid-Eighties, Freddie was not a member of the famous singing family, but a New York City balladeer who basically went on to become a poor man’s Luther Vandross. Actually, for a period in the Eighties, he was BIGGER than Loofa, and if memory serves, he had more #1s during the decade than not only Mr. Vandross, but Michael and Janet as well. This smoove ballad was the first single from his sophomore release, “Just Like the First Time”, an album that spent a mind-boggling 26 weeks at #1 (that’s half a year, folks) on the R&B albums chart. Sort of funny to think that Freddie was the guy riding the top of the charts during a period when so many albums with less chart success have gone on to be more influential in the long haul-Janet’s “Control”, Anita Baker’s “Rapture” and Run-DMC’s “Raising Hell” among them.

I met Freddie in person six years ago, and I’d be surprised if he and Mr. Vandross didn’t have at least one other thing in common. That man was sweeter than a box of chocolates. Check him out with that woman in the video. They’re probably drinking Riunite on Ice. And he’s probably thinking about her hot younger brother.

Track 3: “Plantation Lullabies” by Me’shell Ndegeocello

The very brief (1:14) instrumental title track from the debut album by one of the most underrated R&B artists of the Nineties, and the best female bass player in history (granted, she’s at the head of a very small field). I love this album to death, although many others listen to this album and are a little freaked out by her militance (is that a word?).

Track 4: “Run Riot” by Def Leppard

Although I wasn’t familiar with the song, I recognized it as Def Lep within 5 seconds…those guys (and producer Mutt Lange) had a pretty damn recognizable sound back in the Eighties. Joe Elliott’s voice sounds a little higher than usual on this song, almost like he’s channeling AC/DC’s Brian Johnson.

Slightly related aside: I was at karaoke with friends a year or so ago, and someone decided to sing “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, a song I’d always enjoyed despite not paying a hell of a lot attention to the lyrics. As the song’s words flashed on the screen, I’ve gotta admit I was a little taken aback by how a song with such absolutely silly lyrics could have become such a big hit.

Hmmm…I wonder why “Hysteria” and “Pyromania” are not available on iTunes?

Oh, I saw their new video on VH-1 Classic recently, which features Tim McGraw. Definitely two great tastes that do not taste great together.

Track 5: “Magazines” by The Hold Steady

I actually just bought the latest Hold Steady album, “Stay Positive”, a couple days ago. I wound up buying their last album, “Boys & Girls in Amerca”, thanks to a ton of press hype and truth be told, it’s a pretty good record. This is my first taste of anything from the new album, and it sounds like…the last album. This song chugs along in a manner very similar to “Born To Run”-era Springsteen, although lead singer Craig Finn, despite being a good singer on his own (and pretty hot besides) doesn’t have half of The Boss’s charisma. Or Danny Federici on organ. Or Clarence Clemons playing the sax.

Track 6: “The Coolest” by Lupe Fiasco

Considering I went absolutely gaga over the Chicago rapper’s debut album, “Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Lquor”, his second album (“Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool”) has left me strangely lukewarm. I don’t think it’s bad. It just hasn’t grabbed me the same way. Maybe I haven’t given it the chance it deserves. Maybe it’s a grower? Maybe it’s just not as good. That said, Lupe’s one of the most talented new emcees out there, and the fact that this album was certified Gold is one of the few things that makes me feel good about being a hip-hop fan nowadays.

Track 7: “Now at Last” by Feist

I’m proud of myself for discovering Feist at least a few months before she became a star (thanks to the iPod commercial and that annoying-ass video). She reminds me of what Norah Jones would sound like if she took more drugs. Maybe it’s just because she’s Canadian and all of the Canucks I’ve met in person have a sort of warped, offbeat personality behind those square, polite exteriors. This is a pretty straightforward piano ballad. It could have been recorded in 1936 or 20006. If you haven’t checked her out, please do so, and check out her debut album, “Let it Die” before you pick up her more recent “The Reminder”. It not only contains this beautiful song (having her and Karen Carpenter bookending this setlist is strangely appropriate), but she does a killer cover of The Bee Gees’ “Love You Inside Out”, which was actually the song that introduced me to her.

Till next week, I’m shufflin’ off (oh, STOP! The jokes are KILLING me!!)