Using Music

You all know that I listen to a lot of music; many days I listen to music almost all day. I take off my headphones for conversation only. I have about a dozen playlists that I cycle through plus lots of old and new albums. But I am not great at writing about music. I don’t play any instruments. (2 years of piano; I was terrible and hated it.) I sang in church choir, but I didn’t like singing solos. I was always self conscious about singing. I love to sing though. When I lived alone in college and grad school, I sang a lot. Loudly. At all hours. But my husband is a good singer, and it put me back in my shell. He’s the singer. So I dance foolishly. That’s my musical “talent.” 

But recently I have been singing more. And it is an emotional feeling to sing. Especially if you feel some—even insubstantial—connection with the song. It’s not easy to sing. It’s a deep feeling sometimes. But I listen to a lot of music. That is emotional, too, but not as deep as making music. I think it’s why, in my daydreams, I often fall for musicians. If I feel moved by listening to their works, how much feeling must they be capable to make such music? 

Music is powerful. All kinds of music. I tend to listen to pop music to feel happy, hip hop to feel powerful, R&B to feel sexy, alternative rock to feel moody, acoustic rock to feel sad, indie rock to feel “special” (ha!), and The Cure every moment in between. I don’t like all kinds of music, but I do like a variety of music. And I used it purposefully. If I don’t, then it uses me. Music directs my feelings. It is why I use it as a tool. When I need to feel elevated, I just put on headphones and let happy music carry me away while I dance like a fool. (Dance break; no, really, I just took a dance break.) 

And not all music makes everyone feel something. I recently asked my facebook friends what their current favorite songs were. And I got at least 20 different songs. A few I already loved, a few I had heard of but didn’t care for, but most I hadn’t ever heard. So I made a list and went to youtube. I didn’t listen to every song in it’s entirety, but I tried each one. And, honestly, most of them were not really my thing. But I was so fascinated at how so many cool people could love such a wide variety of songs. How so many people’s favorite songs did nothing for me, but were favorites for them. And it was cool. I didn’t feel like I needed to judge other people’s taste; I already like and respect all of them. I was interested, though in how many people were ready to share their favorite song and how different they all were. Music is funny that way.

One song suggested was from a musical theatre piece. And it was beautiful. And I couldn’t make it through. I loved it too much, and I loved the person who sent it too much. It was so moving. So emotional. So touching. Sometimes it’s lyrics; sometimes it’s music; sometimes it is a perfectly wonderfully woven combination of the two. But music makes us feel things. And we use it to enhance or change our feelings.

I have a few feel good playlists, and a few moody playlists, but no sad playlists. I can’t do that anymore. I can only get moody. Sadness mixed with anger and discontent. Sadness that does more than wallow. I used to wallow, but I can’t do that anymore. I usually use music to change my mood. If I feel sad then I decide if I want to feel happy, strong, or thoughtful. How do I want to use music to work with the sadness. If I want to feel happy then I go to pop and dance. If I want to feel strong I go to hip hop. If I want to feel thoughtful and moody, I go to alternative rock or, of course, The Cure. 

I don’t really like to tell people what to do or what to listen to, but I genuinely believe that what you put in will come out in some way. It is why I blast positivity into my head all day sometimes. I put in messages of love and strength and emotional intelligence to help me handle my depressed feelings with those messages. It is good to use music to help you process what you are feeling, but it is also possible sometimes to tip the scale with something to change your mood. Sometimes freaking Ke$ha makes me feel so happy because she sings stupid songs about feeling free and in love and young, and it makes me dance. Sometimes I am blown away at Frank Ocean’s ability to say such beautiful things about love and loss at such a young age. Sometimes I feel like Robert Smith is talking about my life and breaking my heart. Sometimes I feel like Adam Duritz is reading my mind. Sometimes I think that Kanye West is a creative genius. And what matters isn’t whether any of those artists are really great or not; what matters is that music has power, and we can use it. 

We can use music to enhance or change our moods. We do it already, but putting more purpose or intention into making music a tool can be useful. Have playlists or cds ready for whatever mood you might find yourself in. Make youtube playlists or subscribe to a streaming service (most have free trial periods). But make a project out of it—a mental health project—to use in times of crisis. Find good music that makes you feel calm. As a teenager I used James Taylor. Now I prefer Angelo Badalamenti. But make different playlists for different moods. And get headphones or earbuds. Then you can listen wherever you are. 

The most recent song to make it on one of my favorite playlists (titled Feel Good) is “Glorious” by Macklemore. It just came out last week. And I’ll leave you with some lyrics and a link. Happy listening!

“You know I’m back like I never left

Another sprint, another step

Another day, another breath

Been chasing dreams, but I never slept

I got a new attitude and a lease on life

And some peace of mind

Seek and I find I can sleep when I die

Wanna piece of the pie, grab the keys to the ride

And shit I’m straight

I’m on my wave, I’m on my wave

Get out my wake, I’m running late, what can I say?

I heard you die twice, once when they bury you in the grave

And the second time is the last time that somebody mentions your name

So when I leave here on this earth, did I take more than I gave?

Did I look out for the people or did I do it all for fame?

Legend it’s exodus searching for euphoria

Trudging through the mud to find the present, no ignoring us

Got 20,000 deep off in the street like we some warriors

My mama told me never bow your head, woo!

I feel glorious, glorious

Got a chance to start again

I was born for this, born for this

It’s who I am, how could I forget?

I made it through the darkest part of the night

And now I see the sunrise

Now I feel glorious, glorious

I feel glorious, glorious”