As you ring in 2016 this evening, I want you to think of your favorite song. Play it out loud right now if you can. As you listen, try to become aware of all of the sounds it is compiled of. Try and focus on a background vocal or a quiet beat that you may have never noticed. While you’re deep in thought, ask yourself this question:
“Why is this my favorite song?”
Do you have an answer? Is it because of the lyrics, the beat, the artist singing it, does it remind you of a memory? Why do any of us have favorite songs? What is it about music that stimulates all sorts of feelings within us?
Have you ever thought about that? I have a lot, especially throughout the past year of 2015. Just what is it about music that seems to evoke such strong emotions out of anyone?
Before we venture any further into this post that is bound to be long, I want to introduce you to Matty Healy, lead singer of The 1975. What he has to say at minute 6:33 of this interview is why I wanted to write this post in the first place. Here it is: (you can stop watching around 7:11)
While Matty is discussing the rapid success of the band and what that has meant to him personally, what he says in those 38 seconds resonates with me when I think about why we feel so connected by music.
It’s when he says, “Regardless of whether you’re religious or whether you’re in fear. . . the only thing that’s ever going to happen is like a genuine human connection, a human interaction with somebody,” that my brain starts going, “WRITE A BLOG ABOUT THIS. DO IT NOW.”
Music connects all cultures, races, ethnicities, religions, genders, etc., etc. because it is the universal language. It allows people that normally don’t share the same beliefs, culture, or tongue to form a bond that breaks the barrier of any aspect that makes us different from each other.
Does that make any sense? It’s hard to explain, but music is the one thing that I believe creates that human interaction regardless of background.
Also, Matty Healy talking all intellectually makes me smile. 🙂
That being said, music has impacted my life in this way for years, but in 2015 music’s influence on me seemed to multiply, and multiply, and multiply some more. It didn’t stop. It still hasn’t, and probably won’t in this new year either.
On one of the last days of of 2014 I spent the night at Maddie’s house. We had taken a trip to Barnes and Noble, and when the night got too late we just hung out in her room, talking and emptying an entire box of Capri Suns. Kodaline’s album, In a Perfect World was on shuffle all night, and even still when we both eventually fell asleep. I woke up probably four times in the middle of the night because my feet were freezing (like always), and each time I did I heard that album softly playing through the speaker that was right next to my pillow. For some reason that night sticks out to me, I was so content and the music was so comforting. As I rang in 2015 a few days later, In a Perfect World was my soundtrack for a new year. Throughout January and February I went on a lot of drives with my mom. Every time I sit in the passenger seat of her car I turn on a CD. At this point in the year One Republic’s Native, Taylor Swift’s Red and 1989, and Ed Sheeran’s X were the albums I played when we got settled in our seats. Every time I’m on a car ride with my mom she just lets me turn the volume way up and sing, no questions asked. I sometimes even serenade her and she pretends like I have a good singing voice!! Amazing!!
I also took myself on a lot of drives. To and from school, to and from cheer, to and from Panera, etc., etc. It’s during these car rides that I really began listening to The 1975. At stoplights and on highways alike, I racked my brain with lyrical possibilities because, in all honesty, Matty Healy is really hard to understand when he sings. I bounced back and forth between 1989 and The 1975 quite a bit, and those are the songs that I hear when I think back to the beginning of the year. In a time where everything was cold, (especially my feet), I used music to push me through winter and into my favorite spring.By March I was immersed in my playlists on Spotify. When I went to Gulf Shores with Maddie for Spring Break I was listening to a lot of Kodaline and One Republic. Each day when we got ready Maddie would connect her phone to this portable speaker and we would dance and sing all over the giant master suite of the house we stayed in. When we went into town we had to drive down a 10 mile stretch of road before we reached any sign of civilization, and so many of those drives turned into mini concerts with rolled down windows and in-seat dancing. At night I fell asleep listening to the ocean waves, a sound that is arguably better than lyrics that get stuck in my head when I am trying to drift off.
Toward the end of the month the first trailer for Paper Towns was released, and along with it came the song Smile by Mikky Ekko. That song embodied the end of my junior year of high school, and I’m not even remotely kidding when I say that it was all I listened to for a week straight. No Taylor Swift, no One Republic, no Kodaline, just Smile. I was a woman possessed.
For the rest of spring and the end of the school year I continued to have moments that stick out to me as I reflect on my year in music. On a bus ride back from Columbia in April my friends and I played a game, guessing a song by watching someone mouth the lyrics with headphones in. It was intense; we were so sweaty because the bus didn’t have air conditioning, and we all got scarily competitive.
By May Taylor Swift had kicked off the 1989 World Tour, and the morning it began (the 5th in Tokyo, Japan) I woke up at the god-awful time of 4:30 A.M. and watched the first show unfold on Twitter. I will never forget when I smeared mascara all over my face when I heard she was mashing Enchanted with Wildest Dreams. That was a truly iconic moment.
On May 9th I saw Ed Sheeran in concert in Tulsa with Sam, Maddie, and Kenia. That night is one I don’t think I will ever forget. When Ed played All of the Stars, the four of us held each other while we cried and cried and cried, and I just took in every moment of that show. If I close my eyes I can still see it.
When we got stuck in the Kickapoo parking lot traffic on the last day of junior year, my friends and I rolled down all the windows in Maddie’s jeep and screamed lyrics at the top of our lungs. We were serenading random people and yelling about how we “ran the school now!” I don’t think a smile ever left my face that day.
In the summer I began counting down the days for my first 1989 show in Chicago. I spent late nights in my room during the first two weeks of vacation listening to the handful of songs that had been released on the Paper Towns soundtrack, trying to fight boredom while all of my friends were traveling.
My mom and I took a thirteen hour road trip to Texas to visit my cousins, and on the way I played The 1975 for her. Besides the occasional F-bomb I think she actually enjoyed it.
In mid-summer I picked up The Perks of Being a Wallflower and read it in one sitting. After reading it I completely immersed myself in that story, which meant I went out to Target wearing sweatpants and no makeup to buy the movie. Come on Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners plays during the homecoming scene in Perks, and after I heard it it became my hairbrush song and the soundtrack for my senior summer.
I can’t forget Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, because that song became an anthem for my cousins and I. I specifically remember one night in mid-July, when my cousins from Texas were visiting in Springfield, we went on a drive around town, blasting music with the windows down. When Home came on it felt like that moment, of us being together and laughing in the car, was going to last forever. I will never forget that night, and I don’t want to. I have a video that I put on SnapChat of us singing, and in the middle I scream, “In this moment, I swear, we are infinite.” And we were.
When I went to Chicago for my first 1989 show, I never could have imagined how it would impact me. The album in itself has helped me grow and accept change in my life for numerous reasons that are actually located on an Instagram post from a few months ago (lstock29, if you really want to go find it). But when I was standing with 55,000 other people in Soldier Field on that summer night, I didn’t feel alone in the sense that every other person had a connection with 1989 as well. Why else would they be there? 55,000 people were singing back Taylor’s lyrics for 55,000 different reasons, and I felt so comforted by that thought.
When Paper Towns premiered in theaters in late July, a song in the movie entitled Taxi Cab by Vampire Weekend caught my attention. There’s a line in that song that really resonated with me (Nostalgic for garbage / desperate for time) at the time because I was fast approaching the beginning of my senior year. It really made me realize how quickly my life was going to change throughout the next school year, and after I found that song I streamed Vampire Weekend on Spotify for weeks on end.
On one of my last days of summer vacation I went floating on the Buffalo River with my cousins. My cousin Makayla and I went down together in a pair of kayaks and got into a discussion about Vampire Weekend. She has loved them for a much longer time than me, and she told me what was happening in her life when she listened to certain songs and when their newest album was released. I remember thinking that day that it was amazing that I have all of these personal stories to go along with the music I listen to, but so do other people, and when they share those stories with you it can change your perception of a song and turn it into a completely new memory.
The beginning of the school year brought an indefinite countdown for my next 1989 show in Nashville; however, the Friday after senior year started provided me with yet another night I’ll never forget.
Makayla (previously stated cousin of mine) has a band called Blue False Indigo, and that Friday after school started they were having a show at a local coffeehouse. I gathered up some friends, some of which were leaving for college in the next week, and we crammed ourselves into this tiny table in a corner and listened to music for three hours. We danced, and laughed at a drunk guy that had found a slinky, and marveled at the blacklight in the bathroom.
This night sticks out to me because the sense of acceptance I felt in that coffeehouse was one I had never experienced. We were all there for one thing, and that was the music. No one judged me for dancing like an idiot, or going to the bathroom 40 times, or yelling obnoxiously at Makayla when she was on stage. It was absolutely amazing. After the show Maddie and I drove around Springfield, and in one moment, driving down Republic Road listening to Smile, I stuck my hand out the window to feel the night air on my skin. Then I stuck my head out the window and let the wind tangle my hair. I do that a lot now; for some reason it makes the moment all the more real for me.
September brought my long awaited Nashville 1989 show, and another one three days later on my eighteenth birthday.
1989 Nashville was such a special day. The community surrounding Taylor Swift has been a constant in my life since 2013, and I met some of my close internet friends the day of the Nashville show. Taylor sang Fifteen that night on the b-stage, and when you’re almost eighteen and graduating from high school in seven months, that song really hits home. I cried so hard just thinking about how much my life had changed since I was fifteen. Maddie and I held onto each other through that whole song; she’s been my best friend since long before we were fifteen, so she understood. That was probably one of my favorite moments of the entire year.
After Nashville Maddie and I ventured to St. Louis on my birthday for our final 1989 show. In all honestly, the best part of that entire show was when we both went mad, like borderline insane, during Bad Blood. I was scared of us, and I was part of us; I can’t even imagine what the other people in our section were feeling. (It was so worth it though). After the show I cried for an hour straight in the car. The three 1989 shows I attended lie among my favorite days, and not just my favorite days of 2015. I was sad to let them go.
In October I fell back in love with Red. There was a day that I was upset, just about life, and my mom took me to get ice cream. On the way home I turned on Begin Again, and I cried. I cried a lot. I cried because that song reminds me that even when I have bad days a good day will come along soon, and to never give up on the concepts of love and friendship, because those make life worth living.
November is when One Direction came into my life. I took a school trip to Orlando with all of my friends, and by that point I was already in love with one of the songs off of their new album (Made in the A.M.), Infinity. At midnight on November 13th, MITAM was released, and Maddie, Sam, Kenia, and I listened to it in the darkness of our hotel room, squealing, and laughing, and saying “OH MY GOD,” when we approved of a Harry Styles high note. Little did I know that that night my “I’m not into One Direction” exterior cracked, and suddenly I was in deep.
I listened to Made in the A.M. religiously throughout November and early December, leading up to my final concert of the year, The 1975 in Kansas City.
On December 11th I witnessed Matty Healy’s awkward dancing. I heard Robbers, Menswear, and Medicine live, all songs that I love with every single inch of my being. I fell in love with an unreleased song called Change of Heart from the band’s upcoming album I Like it When You Sleep for You are so Beautiful yet so Unaware of it. (say that five times fast). When Matty asked us all to put our phones away for two songs, I obliged. He told us to live in the f***ing moment, and live in the f***ing moment I did. I cried, I sang, I yelled about Matty knocking his knees together far too many times, and I felt the floor bounce so much during their final song that I thought the balcony was going to collapse. That night was one that felt completely unreal, but it was perfect.
A man called BØRNS opened for The 1975, and after the show I decided that his voice is about as close to angelic as you can get without being an actual angel. I closed out the year with a playlist on my phone called “BØRNS and 1975” that I listen to pretty much every second I can get.
Okay, wow, you’re probably about as exhausted after reading that as I am after writing it. But I needed to tell you about my year to prove my point.
Without music, so many of the memories, conversations, feelings, and connections I made in 2015 would not exist. I wouldn’t have danced with Maddie in Alabama, or cried with my mom in the car, or felt infinite on that summer night with my cousins, or learned any more about myself and the people I love. Music is the gateway to the soul, and the songs that shaped 2015 shaped me as well.
Music gave me those unique human connections, but it also gave me a deeper connection and understanding of who I am. The lyrics that I hold close to me are not just words, they are everything to me. When I got lost at any point during 2015, the one thing that I always turned to was music. I used it to express the feelings that I couldn’t explain myself, and I used it to remind myself that other people had gone through the same circumstances that I was facing.
If anything, that is the most comforting aspect of music. To know that you are never alone.
It’s that human connection. It’s inevitable and it’s beautiful. And it’s because of the one thing that connects us all: music.