Music Is Like…!
I was sitting around trying to think of ideas for music posts, and thinking about my experience writing them for Mindless Diversions, and decided to try something a little different. It is a little silly, I know, but I hope it causes you to crack a bit of a smile, if only because I pulled it off so poorly.
That song’s not completely safe for work. The video is fine, though.
The more I think about it, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot with these posts, the more I think that sharing music is like having sex.* I know, I know, that’s a little bit crazy, but bear with me for a moment. Consider this: As with sex, when we’re sharing music, we generally have both selfish and unselfish motivations. Yes, we want to share something that will give others pleasure, but at the same time, we also want to satisfy our own needs. There’s a delicate give and take that, if it’s done just right, works out great for everyone. In music too, I mean.
Of course, our motivations for sharing music aren’t always strictly dual. Sometimes we share music mostly for the other person. For example, I’ll occasionally hear a song and recognize that, though it’s not my style, it might be perfect for a friend. So I’ll send it to them, and if they like it, that feels really good. If they don’t, ugh, it’s time to update our knowledge of their preferences.
Of course, we’re more likely to share music for reasons that are mostly about us. You just get that itch to share, and you have to scratch it right now. Maybe we want to project an image ourselves that we feel is furthered by a particularly type of music or song or artist. Or maybe we want to steer someone towards liking what we like (for a variety of reasons, most of which have little to do with the idea that what we like is so good that, if other people just give it a listen, they’ll inevitably enjoy it themselves). Or perhaps we just want the other person to be in the same mood or head space that we’re in.
Take my posts about hip hop here at MD like, say, the one I wrote last week. With those I’m being mostly selfish. I mean, know most of this blog’s readers aren’t hip hop fans, but last week I wanted to talk about Kendrick Lamar’s music, and damn it, I was going to do it. I felt a little guilty about it afterward, but I then was raised Catholic (no religion!).
Argh, see how selfish I can be? The only person ’round these parts whom I know for sure likes Kanye said just last week that he’s not a big fan of the album from which I took that song! I’m a jerk, I know. Here’s one I know he’ll like:
Anyway, being selfishly unselfish, or unselfishly selfish, or, er… you know what I mean… aren’t the only ways in which sharing music is kinda like having sex. We, or at least I, often feel insecure when sharing music. Or at least when it’s over. You know that awkward moment when you’re just waiting for the other person to say something? Anything. SAY SOMETHING, DAMN IT! Wait, I’m just being insecure. I’m sure you liked it. I mean, I have good taste, right? RIGHT?!
I suppose insecurity is an inevitable feature of any social activity, but with something as intimate as music, it is all the more… present. Whether it’s done selfishly or unselfishly, sharing music is putting yourself out there.
Hell, every time I write one of these posts I get little nervous, first just before I publish it late on Tuesday evening, and then even more so when I wake up Wednesday morning. This is due at least in part to my being painfully aware that I can’t write about music well to save my life. Most of the nervousness, however, stems from my musical choices. Are people going to like them? How will I know? I don’t listen to much radio, and most of my offline friends are hip hop fans, so I can’t really talk to them about half of the music I listen to. That means that I really have no way to discuss my music and determine to whom it might appeal, other than me of course. For example, does anyone besides me like this?
I don’t know! I mean, I know I love it, and can listen to it over and over and over (like I’m doing right now). I also know that I’m not all that unique, so someone else must like it, but do any of you? Aaaaaaah, why did I post that song? I should have posted a different one, a safer one, based on what I know about the musical tastes of the readers of this blog. What was I thinking?! (Also, that video is awesome!) Here, forget I posted that song and listen to this one. It’s got like 16 million views, so I know people like it:
Of course, when you make a musical connection it can feel really good. When I got such positive feedback from some of you about Hem a few weeks ago I was beaming all day. No really, I kept telling people how good it made me feel. If someone likes the music we share with them, a little bit of that chronic, nagging sense of alienation and existential loneliness that we’re burdened with simply for being human is diminished, if only for a moment. You’re like me, and I’m like you, and we’re not alone in this world. That feels great. Let’s try it again (I don’t know about you, but I can do this all night):
Sorry that only lasted three minutes. I can do better, see:
OK, maybe not that much better. But that was pretty fun, eh?
While we’re just here doing nothing, how ’bout a little pillow talk? I’ll tell you something about myself, a story related to Robert Earl Keen. Keen used to play Austin a lot, and I went to his shows whenever I could because they were a lot of fun. More than that, the people who used to go to REK shows were a lot of fun. Many, many years ago I went to an REK show at Stubb’s, a popular BBQ and live music joint in downtown Austin, and ended up standing next to a beautiful woman. You know when you see someone and you think to yourself, “How the hell do I meet her/him?” It was like that. I smiled at her; she smiled back. We danced by ourselves next to each other, smiled at each other some more, and then, still without exchanging a word, we started to dance with each other. Finally we introduced ourselves between songs. Hi, I’m Chris. Hi, I’m H…
And we danced to some more REK:
A few songs in we decided to take a smoke break together, so we walked to the back of the crowd, where we smoked a couple cigarettes and chatted. Hey, we’re both post-graduate students, what a coincidence. Oh, you like poetry too? What about Wallace Stevens? Oh my god, “The Emperor of Ice Cream.” Yes! (I might have recited it.) And that one about the jar in Tennessee. (I’m from Tennessee! You’re from McCallen? What’s it like down there? I’ve never been.) “Death is the mother of beauty.” That’s so true. Nobody gets that but us (the two of us, right here, in this moment).
I bought her a beer, she bought me one, we danced to some more songs. At the end of the show we walked out into the cold, chatted a bit, exchanged numbers, and I started to walk away. Then she stopped me and gave me a kiss that left me warm for a week.
After that saw each other for a couple months, always having a blast. I don’t know that I’ve ever known anyone else with a spirit like her’s – pure energy and affirmation of life. Then she graduated from law school and got a job back in McCallen. She moved, I stayed. We talked on the phone a lot at first, then less, then less still, and then barely at all. I guess there wasn’t much to talk about when we weren’t out listening to music, dancing, drinking, and reveling in each others’ company in the moment, touching, seeing, laughing. It has been about 10 years since we last spoke, but she remains one of my favorite people on the planet. I smile now just knowing that someone like her exists. I was happy a few years ago when I ran into one of her friends who still lives in Austin, and she told me that H. was married, had a young son, and was enjoying life down on the border.
Wait, is it bad to talk about exes when we’re sharing music? Should I not have done that? Oh well, what’s do be done? Now I’m feeling all nostalgic; I think we need some more music.
You know what? I think it’s probably better if I just shut up. It usually is. Let’s just be silent together, with the music:
Nice, right? Is it weird that I kind of want a cigarette now? I haven’t had one in years. Also, while you’re up, can you get me something to drink? Ah, I’m feeling kind of sleepy.
Now that we’ve gotten this far, why don’t you share some music back. It will make you feel good. It will make me feel good. Hell, write a post and send it to me. I’ll post it next Wednesday, or the one after that, or whenever’s good for you (actually, next Wednesday’s taken, but whenever’s good for you after that). Then you’ll get to share with a lot of people.
And call me, K?
*Yes, I understand that this analogy suggests that every time I write one of these posts, it’s like I’m having sex with all of you. I also understand just how disturbing that thought is. And that it means I’m really promiscuous, musically.