I’ve been dealing with music for the last few weeks. What it means to me. What it means to other people. Why it means that to me. Why it means that to other people. It’s such a strange conversation, right? There is probably a longer post in this post, something about culture, what we like, what we don’t like. Why do we become defensive about these things? In five hundred years, the music we love will be forgotten, along with us. Our very bones won’t exist anymore. And, yet, if I like an album and you don’t like the same album, there’s something horrible wrong, isn’t there? And inconsistency has developed, the monster of a missed connection. If I say, “I love The Kills,” and you say, “I hate the Kills”, do I get upset because you don’t share the joy in something that I find joy in, or is it like looking into a mirror, and I discover my faults because you suddenly have shown them to me? Saying that it doesn’t matter what music you listen to is one of those statement that is simultaneously right and wrong. No, it doesn’t matter in the long-term, we are all going to die one day sense of things. It does matter because music is a form of art, and art is a wonderful thing. Lately, I’ve chosen the “I don’t like it” option as opposed to the “This is bad music” option. I might not understand how you see the world, but that doesn’t mean the way you see the world, or the music that helps you understand the way you see the world, is faulty.
I was hanging out with my sisters in my room one night with the radio on. I’m not sure why we were listening to the radio, but there is was, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was playing and I turned it up, listened to the whole thing. Why did I like it? Honestly, before that album, I never listened to anything, really. Why should I? Music never connected with me. My nose was usually stuck in a comic book or a novel, and I never bothered to worry what music I listened to. Most people get their music interest pinged by their parents, but my parents never really listened to anything either. There were rare moments when my mother would play Sade, while cleaning the house or whatever, and that would bring me an intense amount of happiness. But until I bought the album “Nevermind”, music never concerned me. It was optional. At best, a distraction.
Months later and, of course, I changed. My clothes were different. How I interacted with people was different. I would put a tape in, drive and drive just to hear the music, sit in my car and listen to music, get into other people’s cars and listen to their music. We traded tapes, we talked about albums, we talked about bands, we went to shows. It was as if, for the first time, I was apart of a world. Before, I was in on the world, moving over it like an ant. And then, with some effort, I was apart of it, and the more I knew, the more apart of it I was. My hobby was knowing the name of every member of a band, knowing what they did before the band, what their idea of music was, where they got their inspiration. Kurt Cobain was the perfect source of concepts, a place I could anchor my growing fascination. I had listened to all the albums, knew the importance of them, listened to live shows. Nirvana was a band as much as they were my friends. I grew my hair out and got dreads. I wore flannel and baggy jeans, t-shirts that were too big. I hung out with people like me and it was the happiest days of my life.
I read somewhere, who knows where, that when you are a teen, acceptance is extremely importance but so was rebellion. You have to rebel from your parents but be accepted by others, people that weren’t your family. As a small black kid, I can think of no better rebellion that listening to rock music as loud as possible.
It wasn’t just rebellion, though. It couldn’t have been. Yesterday, I was sitting in my room listening to “In Utereo” again and, I mean, that album is fantastic. It is perfect in the way that seldom things are. Just the ability to deliver an emotion, what emotion, lack of emotion, just the powerful, oozing desperation that comes out of Cobain’s voice. I was too young then to understand it. I’m too old to ignore it, now. If I liked Nirvana because I was rebelling, that should have been over with years ago, right? That should be said and done. Instead, it lingers, surrounds me, makes me wonder what else did I pick up in my youth that hangs with me, still. The old school of thought that what we do in a youth fades into adult hood is wrong. The albums I loved then, I still love now. Maybe it was rebellion then and now it’s an attempt to stay nineteen for the rest of my life. That music was me, man. I was that music. If I keep listening to it, keep enjoying it, it’s as if I’m not getting older, that the world isn’t changing.
This is probably the reason why I think the music that “the kids” listen to today is utter crap. All of it, song after song of just really, really bad music. Or maybe it’s just bad music and I understand that it’s bad. I used to love Madonna. Remember when we all loved Madonna? She hasn’t stood the test of time. Her music has aged horribly. Perhaps her music is the same as Lady Gaga’s crappy music. And people can say they like it now, that it’s good now. But in twenty years, will they think her music is good? And did I think I wouldn’t like Madonna’s music twenty years ago?
More and more, I think about the decisions of my life. Those days that I sat in my room, my headphones on, laying on the floor, listening to “The Downward Spiral”, “Little EarthQuakes”, “Bleach”, those days where I would let the words and music of others wash through me. And then I see boys walking down the street, their pants low, the hair all funky, listening to music, doing the exact same thing I did. To be in that position again. I don’t miss my youth. But I do catch myself thinking about it, often.