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Secret Smiles, the Same 3 Chords and a Few Small Repairs: The Musical Stylings of T.J. Maxx

January 18, 2011

Raymond J explored grocery store musical playlists (in a post you simply must fall in love with all over again) now I’m tackling the musical oeuvre of discount chain department store T.J. Maxx and its constellation of brands (HomeGoods, Marshall’s AJ Wright’s). What better way to walk into a store hell bent on finding a pair of black pumps, but exit with a bench for the entryway and a clearance rack garden gnome (and no shoes) than with a playlist filled with Mom rock friendly, adult alternative hits (Fergie’s about as ‘hood as TJMaxx seems to go) from the the late 90s to now. Though, in most cases, TJ Maxx embarrassingly models my own engagement with popular music, and seems unable to move past 2007. Except in the case of Semisonic, Jewel and Elliott Smith, these are all songs I only know from frequenting TJM. I’ve never heard them on the radio; I don’t listen to the radio, unless it’s NPR or blathering talk radio. It’s not a snob thing. It’s just a habit. On the rare instance I do listen to music radio it’s usually either a Quiet Storm station or a Classic Rock station – can’t resist “China Grove, oh oh, China Grove,”! In any event, it’s unlikely I’d have occasion to hear any of these songs if I didn’t spend a considerable amount of time in discount retailers and such.


“Secret Smile” by Semisonic

Wow, I had no idea this band had framed themselves as hipsters. That must really make the sting of banishment to the Adult Contemporary end of the pop musical landscape extra painful.

“Baby Britain” – Elliott Smith

Granted, it has been seven years since his death, but I’m still not ready to hear Smith’s music – even his more pop friendly fare – while I’m digging through discontinued bottles of cheap bath and body products. Still, I always do jazz hands and grapevine on the lyric, “got a look in your eye like you wanna say bye…” In fact, I kind of act out all the lyrics of this song, so I guess I should be grateful, since it’s probably spared me a fate of bath and body products that make my bits and parts itch like whoa. Not much good can come from discounted bath and body products. At least not the ones sold there.

“Everything She Wants” by Vertical Horizon

If it wasn’t for T.J. Maxx I’m certain I wouldn’t even know this song. It started its relationship with the discount retailer while it was a fresh AC hit and has enjoyed long, loving partnership with the brand. Much to my chagrin. That said, love the “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” script flip in the third verse. Oh snap!

“You and I” by Jason Mraz

Ass, cash or Mraz; nobody rides for free! I love videos where everyone dances in earnest. Also dig his Rocky II go-on-job-interviews or Copland suit. Mraz resembles Sly in a sleepy kind of way.

“Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie

This is symbolic of TJMaxx like foul smelling clogged toilets. I swear I thought she was was saying, “like a baby misses that slanket.” Wow, Fergie really thinks she’s foxy as all get out. Good for her! Fergie has that same terrible disease afflicting Pink and Lady Gaga. Wannabesistaitis.

“It’s All Been Done” – Barenaked Ladies

Barenaked Ladies slipped in this Momrock friendly cut back in the day and it’s a staple of TJMaxx radio. One out of every four trips to TJM will provides opportunity to hear this song. I like this song because they talk about The Price is Right. Plus, I like BNL. Their songs are funny.

“Sunny Came Home” by Shawn Colvin

I won’t front. I have often paused during a fruitless bra and panty search to belt out, “Days go by I’m hypnotized. I’m walking on a wire. I close my eyes and fly out of my mind. Into the fire. Light the sky and hold on tight. The world is burning down. She’s out there on her own and she’s alright…”

“1000 Miles” by Michelle Branch…er… Vanessa Carlton

I totally thought this was Tori Amos kicking it old school, which is why I committed every single one of its cheesy lyrics to memory. This feels very much like the official theme song to TJMaxx. I haven’t gone into one recently without hearing snippets of this radio friendly confessional lady song hit. Damn, she is killing that piano!

“No Such Thing” by John Mayer

I used love this song – back when I thought STING or Dave Matthews sang it! It’s the soundtrack of waiting in TJ Maxx’s long and poorly staff register lines. You could make a video of Moms with bargain Willi Wear tapping their toes and bopping their heads. Including my own! Poor racist penisboy. I haven’t heard his music there lately. I think it’s been replaced with cuts from Jason Mraz.

“Down So Long” by Jewel

Jewel seems like an artist I would absolutely hate, but I like her a lot. She’s like the Naomi Watts of Pop Music and we all know I love Naomi Watts! The last time I was in Marshall’s I heard this Jewel cut and I booty popped myself from housewares to Misses clearance. I was a little cheesed the great breakdown part was interrupted by someone paging the jewelry counter associate!

As always with video posts, this is a group project. Don’t hold out! Share with the class

One Comment leave one →
  1. Vicki permalink
    February 2, 2011 9:05 am

    omg! I always hear this song from the 90s, i htink it’s called “insensitive”. don’t know how to put a video here. otherwise i’d post it. also, love your site so much. lurker on sp and loved your posts teh best.

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