September 20, 2011

Pause, Rewind, Play

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Back when I was fourteen, I was a straight-up music maven. I made millions of mix tapes.  I printed out tabs of my favorite songs and tried to learn them on the family guitar my dad bought for Christmas. I once lost a shoe in a mosh pit during Hawthorne Heights and paid a girl five bucks for her left sandal so that I could go back in for “Ohio is for Lovers.” I wore Paramore stickers on the pockets of my tiny pre-teen shorts before anyone had ever heard of them. My AIM profile broadcasted my relationship status to my 224 friends through the lyrical stylings of Jesse Lacey. My bedroom back home is covered with all kinds of groupie memorabilia from capos to ticket stubs to indie record label compilation CDs to autographed Etnies.

I’m not saying my taste was particularly high-brow, or even that good, but my adolescent years actually could have been soundtracked by those songs you used to love but are now slightly embarrassed to still know all the words to.

To this day, listening to those songs can bring me back to specific points in my short life. For example, I distinctly remember laying on my bed after some failure of a gym auditorium school dance, surrounded by stuffed animals and wishing that someday someone would stand at the door with his hands on my waist and kiss me like he meant it. And I’d know that he meant it. Dashboard Confessional aside, music was there for us in all of those semi-lame moments of despair, triumph, and general confusion.

Think about the first time you ever went crowd surfing (Hellogoodbye, Bamboozle 2006). Or the first concert you went to with a guy you liked and spent the entire show literally attached at the hip in that awkward spooning-standing-up position. You probably still remember that one song you couldn’t listen to without crying after your first real break-up.  And I might have napped through the Motion City Soundtrack show this past weekend but you can bet that hearing “The Future Freaks Me Out” would have reminded me of the first time driving by myself after getting my license.

Fast forward a few years.  Think about yourself today, the songs you listen to, the shows you go to. Just as a particular album can remind you of an entire era in your life, someday you’ll look back on your current playlists and they will remind you of the very mindset you’re in right now. They will remind you of the people you hang out with, the crushes you have, the friends you couldn’t live without.

You’ll never be able to hear “Shawty’s Like a Melody” without mentally traveling back to the packed basement of an open frat party (sorry freshmen).  You’ll remember when the clocktower played the Harry Potter theme song in the afternoon right before the alma mater.  You’ll feel a little weird getting nostalgic over tracks from the Phoenix CD your sophomore-year booty call played on repeat. You’ll laugh about the time you drove over an hour away to see a show with relative strangers who are now good friends. You’ll bask in the great life choices you made after taking shots, shots, shots, shots, shots! Ah, memories.

Music has the ability to literally draw up raw emotions from the depths of our detached, too-cool-for-feelings souls. It is a tangible way to chronicle our personal histories. A particular song can unite us with the rest of our generation, but at the same time, we all have our own stories, our own milestones and our own specific memories. The same song can mean one thing to me, another to you and another to the guy sitting across from you right now. You undoubtedly have a unique, meaningful relationship with this song and yet, so do a million other people.

Songs can be seen as a mini cross-sections of our lives. We can piece together the rising action, climax and falling action of all major transitions in our lives by listening to the music that got us through them in the first place. With this insight into ourselves, we can see where we’ve been and how we’ve grown and maybe even where we’re going.

The music industry changes as fast as we grow up. We phase out the old stuff for the new, going back and forth between loving the  mainstream and whining that nobody makes real shit anymore. It’s important for us to hold onto the music that defines us at this moment because in a few years, our lives will be completely different and so will the music that gives it meaning.

Music is the closest thing to a time machine we’ll ever have.  Go back in your iTunes and make a mix CD of your favorite songs from high school. Now make one of all of your favorite songs now.  In one, five, ten years, pop them into your car (if cars even still play CDs then) and you’ve got yourself a regular DeLorean, no plutonium necessary.

Original Author: Rebecca Lee