I have long believed that music is a language which can communicate emotion despite its multiple translations. These nuanced interpretations make corresponding bouts of anger, nostalgia, or euphoria all the more worthwhile. Music serves countless purposes in my life, and meeting someone else who shares that enthusiasm supposes less of a common interest and more of an incomparable emotional connection.
At a young age, music was a bonding agent between me and my family: Mom would put in a Fleetwood Mac cassette and I’d gently lull to sleep on the way back from the beach, — sea salt drying in my French braid and under my tiny fingernails. In a New York taxi, my granddad would serenade my mother, myself, and our courteous and accommodating cabbie to ‘New York’ by Sinatra — shamelessly unoriginal, but relentlessly joyful. My dad would be quick to play “Stairway to Heaven” as the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico after a weekend fishing trip. Those hues of scarlet have calmed me ever since. Needless to say, I had an eclectic playlist and I loved every track.
Even after childhood, songs have continued to act as placeholders in this journey of mine—starting with my purchase of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Justified’ and rounding out last night with ‘Second Heartbeat’ by Shy Girls. I had my introduction to rap and country at a young age and thus respect a world where they coexist (see: ‘Over and Over’ by Nelly feat. Tim McGraw). I can join a chorus of woo-girls hitting the dance floor when Luke Bryan echoes through the room, and will never take for granted the multiple renditions of ‘Get Low.’ Conversely, middle school saw my intensive Panic! At the Disco and Say Anything phase: Simple Plan and Blink 182 fans, I see you, too. Misunderstood, dark, sarcastic, “coming of age”: we were the original Tumblr. No ra-grets.
As you grow, every moment will not be marked by an achievement, but will oftentimes be marked with a memory. Perhaps your hindsight forever recall a poignant anecdote from a coworker, or awkward exchange before grabbing one’s hand as a symbol of comfort, perhaps romance. Even still, these recollections offer shifting thoughts and emotions alongside evolving doubts and dreams. Just as we forget the name of our elementary librarian, we lose track of small portions of each day, every day. At the end of our lives, we have to dig and dissect for the details in a muddled memory. But a song can stop you — and bring you back to an instance of hope, anguish, excitement, and peace with a single note. Music is the closest thing we have to time travel. That explains why we consume the old tunes and pursue the new ones: they offer the chance for a new memory and perspective, morphing how we move forward in this perplexing journey.
Music and I have exchanged vows: for better or worse, it’s by my side. BearCat, Switchoot, and Parachute played at my first concert while ‘Kiss Me Slowly’ became the key to my heart for my lucky concert date—that luck was short-lived, however. ‘Heartbeat’ by Vicetone imprinted on my first memory of nightclubs as I transformed into a très yoncé reincarnation of myself, what the kids would call a ‘BAMF’. Waking up the next morning, I knew that wasn’t necessarily true. Nevertheless, I listened to the song on repeat for about a week, still feeling its confidence boost despite the reality that I was just a cheesy freshman flaunting in the wake of those before me.
More recently, ‘Big Poppa’ by Notorious B.I.G was the opening single on a radio show with my best friend. When we first met, we were elated to find that the other also enjoyed procrastinating with Jersey Shore and indulging in Katy Perry (we were simple teenage girls back then, so no judgment from you). Fortunately, we’ve branched out. I have healed personal heartbreaks with sentiments of ‘Shake It Off’ by Mariah Carey (sorry T-Swizzle) and a hot mess of Britney Spears, conquering sweatpants and demons; you’ve got to put an end to both at some point. Similarly, many late nights have been spent studying to Hoodie Allen when I demanded ‘No Interruption’ and begrudgingly brought back out the sweatpants. If ‘Kiss Me’ by Sixpence None the Richer is on, so are my rose-colored glasses, and I accept that. If ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay is on, music knows I need space and an entire pizza.
There is a middle-aged man somewhere ranting over the cultural significance of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ while his brother-in-law sides with ‘Sister Christian’ as being equally iconic. A toddler nearby wiggles to The Jackson 5 and an older brother pumps iron to an array of Chief Keef. These songs and their trivial plays are each – relatively — beautiful things. They represent a tidbit of sound and time that can come together to transcend personal experiences to impact millions and integrate into our stories, regardless of space and time. Like a drug, music will sedate you. It will get you high, drag you down, and seduce you with its capacity to manipulate emotion, buy you will love every second of it.
I owe a substantial portion of my life to this art form for letting me find meaning and understanding in my life and in others. I know many share my sentiments. Classical, French, Reggae, Folk, and Opera are all unique facets, but they collectively rest upon the endearing throne of ‘Music.’ It’s valued because it feels like it’s meant for you and you will make that belief true. When someone shares your music taste, it means they share a piece of you, which is a big deal no matter how you frame it. Music doesn’t speak to you. It does more: it sings to you. It’s been said that “people don’t remember what you say or what you do, but how you make them feel”; music can ignite feelings, which personifies it to a point. Music keeps you from feeling alone. She will satisfy your desire for wordplay and a steady beat when the world may twist your words and impose unsteady footing.
People change, and yet lyrics don’t. As I listen, hum, and unconsciously sing, I recognize that the songs that have meandered into my path are forever powerful — and I hope yours are as well. Thank you, musicians, for your generosity. Thank you, consumers, for your community. Alas, thank you, creative world, for creating mine. I’m forever grateful.