What was the first concert you ever saw?
Bob Dylan at Centennial Hall--my parents took me when I was in middle school.
What CDs are in your changer right now?
Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Wu-Tang Forever and Iron Flag; and Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue. I am writing a hip-hop-oriented chess book with WuChess, so I have been listening to their old albums in search of inspiration and chess references.
How many total albums do you own (CDs, vinyl, cassettes, 8-tracks)?
Around 300 CDs.
Do you download music, and if so, legally or illegally?
I used Napster during college, but these days, I am all about the iTunes store.
What was the first album you owned?
Paula Abdul, Forever Your Girl.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
The Pogues, "Body of an American."
Musically speaking, what do you love that your friends don't know about? What's your favorite guilty pleasure?
I'm the kind of person who shamelessly forces my friends to listen to my favorite pop songs. Recently, my brother refused to drive with me if I played Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" one more time. If I had to pick a guilty pleasure, I guess it would be either Tracy Chapman or R. Kelly. I used to be an outspoken advocate of R. Kelly's genius, but now consider myself more of a closeted fan.
What band or artist changed your life, and how?
Liz Phair. When I was in seventh-grade, my godfather gave me Exile in Guyville for my birthday. ... I think of that album the same way I think about my favorite books, in the sense that no matter what is going on in my life at the time, I can revisit it and appreciate something new.
Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?
Paul Simon, Graceland.