I can’t decide if it is my musical taste or my personal life that is stuck in a rut. Whenever I get in one of those moods that requires a little emo music and some wallowing, I turn to the same crop of 20 songs or so. For convenience sake, I’ve even compiled a playlist, entitled “The Mopiest”, for easy access to the songs that I feel capture my mood and the situation that drove me to this self-indulgent pity binge. Over the years, new songs have made the cut, but there are also tunes on there that I listened to back in freshman year of college after a bad break-up. So, we are talking about some sad songs that I have listened to hundreds of times for over a decade.
Whether it be Jimmy Eat World’s “If You Don’t Don’t” or Ben Folds Five’s “Evaporated”, for years I have found the solace I am seeking in emo-ing out to this music. I would contend that both of these songs are amazing independent of my personal attachment to them. Still though, there are always alarm bells ringing in the distance that the same song that summed up my life at age 19 is still what I turn to at age 29. I suppose part of this is how pop culture is intended to function. You develop a special attachment to these texts, you ascribe your own memories into them, and revisiting them, at least for me, helps me to reflect back on the past and, in theory, learn from it.
How much I am learning is up for debate though. The beauty of great pop songs is their universal accessibility. So, I guess it makes a certain amount of sense that the songs I love and lean on the most always seem to find a way to be fitting. On the other hand, as someone who pays such close attention to the lyrics, I have to pause and be slightly concerned at how precise some of these sentiments seem, yet how often these sentiments seem to apply. It isn’t even inadvertent. I can identify mid-situation exactly which song I am going to immediately put on in the car. I feel myself in these down moments in my life thinking, “Well, it has been a while since you’ve dusted off Jason Robert Brown” as they are happening. I am basically one step away from responding to people in these conversations in my life with song lyrics instead of my own original thoughts.
What I’m getting at is this: I don’t know if these songs are helping or hurting. Each time that I cue up The Mopiest, am I just setting myself up for another situation that will lead me to listen to the three (that’s right, three) different covers of “Someone to Fall Back On” that are on this playlist? I say I learn from this process, but here I am reviewing the same material. I’ve learned the lesson this four minute song has to offer. I love this song. In my mind, it is one of the greatest songs ever written. I owe a lot of good cries and pensive moments and long drives to this song. And I think, as long as I live, I won’t be able to listen to it without reflecting back on numerous moments in the past ten years that have hurt, but helped me grow up. I’m grateful for this song.
But I am ready for this playlist and this song to stop defining the personal moments of my life over and over again. I am ready to learn the lesson. I am ready to fuck up my personal relationships in a new and inventive way. I am ready for new songs. They don’t even need to be happy ones. They just need to be different.