Coming off the heels of last week’s detour, writing about Britney Spears (interestingly one of my most popular articles of the year), I got caught up in a social media thread about my Top 30 albums.
I was able to fly through the first ten to fifteen rather quickly and then it all started to get messy. The easiest thing is to rattle off thirty albums one truly loves but once you’re getting towards the last four or five, you start playing mental gymnastics about which album, which genre, what if you never heard another song from this artist again?
Music inhabits a place where you can escape for 3 minutes, 30 minutes, 70 minutes and be transported. It’s not that a book or a movie can’t do the same, but the time invested in those forms of expression is much longer.
Do I commit myself to three hours of The Godfather because it’s a cinematic masterpiece or do I turn on Led Zeppelin II and lose myself for 40 minutes?
Give me enough time and I can spout off 100 albums I can’t live without and still have room to flex and breathe with more. That doesn’t mean that the same 100 will apply to you. We may be of different eras, we may fall in love with different sounds and, if you can connect an album to a concert experience, how does that change the way the album sounds when you revisit it?
Concerts aside, music can transport you to a kiss, to a long-distance drive, to the time you cried so hard at the steering wheel you thought you’d get lost on the way home…
Music, for those who can appreciate it, will dig into your soul and change you. It will alter your life perspective, it will change the way you communicate, it will inspire the way you make love.
One of the most surreal experiences is hearing music for the first time and knowing that before the song is over, you’re going to be playing that song on repeat until it makes your ears ring.
Conversely, some music takes longer before it worms its way in. There are bands and artists that I’ve heard hundreds of times, always reaching to turn the dial (or hit skip) because I don’t (or didn’t) want to listen to them and then, all these years later, I come back and think: How was I so deaf to this?
And so, like a lightbulb switched on, you devour every note, every syllable, every melody and you can’t get enough until…
Until it’s time to cleanse the palate and change the groove.
There are bands that you’ll listen to and they can’t possibly stay in the same place twice. If you hear one album and you love it, they may never make another album like that again. Fortunately, it’s there for posterity and you can always go back.
And there are bands who can’t seem to get out of their own way and continue to make essentially the same music but with different lyrics or a different producer.
Who am I to say which approach is right or wrong?
Good music, timeless, classic music will never leave you. It may get remastered over the years and repackaged with lots of extra goodies for the next generation to consume and appreciate but it is always there, faithfully lingering waiting for you to just “press play”.
You get your pick too: will it be the purist’s pick of vinyl or the always flawless sound of a compact disc or the digital code of an mp3?
No matter what you choose, music is your passenger or your driver, it can lead the way or it can be your co-pilot.
And, wrapping this back around to the health side of things I typically write about, music can make you want to conquer your workout or it can be the driving pulse to your run.
Years ago, I thought the only way to work out was to listen to loud, aggressive music like punk, rap, or metal. Then, a coach friend was telling me that he intentionally listened to slow jams because it made him focus more on how he was lifting and his tempos. Initially, I thought he was crazy, until I tried myself and, I’ll be damned, he was right. Lifting to softer music can indeed make you focus more on the quality of your reps rather than wanting to demolish every weight that’s put in your face.
Music has been my most cherished therapist, it has figuratively saved my life, and, on more days than not, I tend to wake up first thing in the morning with a melody rolling through my brain.
Alas, I fear I’m wasting your time because the more time you spend reading this, the less time you’re spending listening to something spectacular.
Go find that song, drop the needle or just press play.
Pictured below, three albums I admittedly came late to the party over: (Steely Dan-Aja, Joy Division-Unknown Pleasures, and The Stooges-The Stooges)