Sub Pop, or whatever.
I was reading this blog post earlier about Self-Actualization (a concept I’ve been obsessed about ever since psych class in high school), in relation to music. I thought that was interesting, just because I’ve always felt your taste in music was a reflection of your progression as a person. But self-actualization through cultivating taste in music?
I am a music lover in my late twenties. The other day, I was telling some friends how we should get our demo out there (we’re trying to do this band thing) by handing out CDs, and one of them laughed and pointed out that would be today’s equivalent of giving someone a record or cassette. And then two things hit me - I am 1) old, and 2) behind with the times.
I remember when I was 9 years old and Titanic first came out (please don’t do the math). I really wanted the soundtrack on CD but at the time they were all $20 or more, and despite my pleadings, my dad just wouldn’t budge with those two Hamiltons. So I had to go with the cassette instead. It had fewer pictures of Leonardo which made me sad, andI had to really work hard at getting in my requisite 10 plays a day of “My Heart Will Go On,” with all the rewinding and fast-forwarding and making sure it started at precisely the right second, but despite the torture, I remember my Titanic soundtrack fondly.
When CDs came along, I was in heaven. My dad got me a Walkman - technically it was called a SONY Discman, mind you- and I started saving up for those shiny plastic saucer braggables. Britney, Christina (before she was Xtina), Backstreet Boys, Weezer and at one point even 98 Degrees, for some reason. Suddenly, I could just press the forward arrow to pick my track number, and BOOM, I could listen to “Baby One More Time” over and over again. I mean, dude, I could replay, shuffle, play consecutively; it was downright insane. But of course, I was modest about it - when my cousin came over to try it out, I gave her a total of 3 songs to listen to from the CD of her choice, free of charge.
CD Incentives, or whatever!
Then came MP3 players when I entered high school. I eyed those chunky white bricks my classmates held (they called it an “iPod”) with the utmost suspicion, and trusted only this little rectangular thing the size of my thumb called an MPIO. It held about 15 songs at a time but soon it started to slow down and forgot its purpose and a year later it could only hold 7 songs. I think 3 of those were different versions of “Time After Time”; one was “Hashpipe”; another ws “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” Basically I tried to always have a track for each emotion I could possibly feel as an angsty high schooler. MPIO did its best, but I think I ended up killing it from an overdose of two many shades of gray.
I think from there I moved on to an iPod mini, to the next iPod mini, to an iPod touch, and that’s where things completely took a 180. Apple, are you telling me I can now listen to music WHILE on the internet WHILE on Facebook and AIM?? How on earth did you cram all that into something that only recently used to be the size of a brick?
Cut to now: iPhone, MacBook Pro, iPad, and some part of my old music fanatacism feels like it’s died. I know I can easily go to Best Buy as I’d used to and blow $10 (come on, half the price of what it used to be!) on a CD, but why should I, when I could find a torrent or download a digital copy of the specific songs I WANT to listen to on iTunes? Why should I sit in front of my stereo with the CD booklet, following the lyrics to American Idiot from start to finish then all over again like the devout Green Day fan I was, when I can just look up a lyric video, sing along, and repeat, as needed?
Sub Pop vs. Pop Pop vs. Whatever
When people used to ask me who my favorite artists are, I thrilled at the buffet of answers I had to choose from. I recall the alphabetically-stacked CDs on my shelf and mentally tallied which artists I knew best or had the most of, and voila, I REALLY like Death Cab for Cutie like in a really unhealthy dosage. Now, it’s more like I’m naming an artist just because I know they put out that one really good song that took all of 30 seconds for me to download and drag into my phone. Or I’m answering with a certain level of wariness, in case they’re testing me on whether I was a Pitchfork or MTV kind of person.
On my self-actualization as a 90s baby (technically 80s; again, please don’t do the math), I’d say my taste has evolved from that terrible, terrible earworm infection song from Titanic. But on tracing my own genealogy as a music discoverer and fan, I don’t know. At the moment, the most-played song on my iPhone is Foster the People’s “Houdini,” because my iPhone said so, so right now I’m telling people who ask that FTP is my favorite band. Spotify also told me that because I listened to The Joy Formidable, I might like STRFKR, so I’m looking forward to “discovering” them later.
I was feeling nostalgic earlier so I put on the ABBA station on Pandora and all I got were songs from the Grease soundtrack and more ABBA songs, and I’m pretty sure I even heard some ABBA songs played more than once. With each subsequent offering, I felt like I was belittling Pandora’s ability to think of similar artists, so after a while, I just told it that The Killers station would do just fine, and it did. I hope Pandora felt better about itself after that.
Is it considered self-actualization and evolution if you go from from proudly declaring that you’ve got your own “niche” of music favorites to liking “everything,” or is it the other way around? Maybe I’m just thinking too much and should just slap on these noise-cancelling headphones and mellow out to my “Most Frequently Played” list because I’ve been trying to decide what to listen to for way too long and no matter how much I scroll, none of these songs are speaking to me. There’s just way too many to choose from, so maybe I’ll just go with whatever.