The connection to music is not at all what people think it is.
It’s being said all the time that rock music, which boasts songs about anger, hate, aggression, self harm, suicide etc causes these things to manifest in its listeners. Like teens are brainwashed somehow.
After a teenage boy takes his life, after a teenage girl overdoes. After the kid nobody knew existed hits the first page for shooting his classmates. After kids are found with cuts on their wrists. After so many of these things and more we, as a society, try to find tangible things to lay responsibilities into. And it’s easy to do that to something that uses the words that fill the headlines.
When one of my best friends took his life it was pointed out by the crisis counselor at school that he had a favorite band with lyrics that proudly resound “cut my life into pieces. This is my last resort” and that it must have been the music that made him do it.
The first time I saw a girl overdose in person, rather than on the news, the soundtrack to the evening shouted insistently “I don’t like the drugs but the drugs like me.”
I used the word soundtrack on purpose there. I want you to really get immersed in this narrative. Because I think back on those moments and I hear these songs playing in the background as if I was watching actors and actresses dance across a screen at the local movie theater.
So sit down with me a minute. Have you ever watched a movie and thought, it must be the soundtrack that told the guy in the mask to run a chainsaw through the housewife’s stomach. Surely it was the music playing that convinced the little boy to toss the alien in his bicycle basket and ride across the sky.
Of course not. Because we know that the actors can’t hear the music. It’s to help us get involved in the story.
Now that metaphor being what it is, I submit this for your consideration. Is it the music we hear that makes us do what we do, or do we instinctively enjoy music we relate to while doing the things we do?
So did the suicide anthem make my best friend kill himself? You’ll need to excuse my French when I say abso-fucking-lutely not.
It’s quite the opposite though. It gives kids who are already feeling this way a connection to other people. A community they can rest assured will understand them. An anthem they can scream that will both echo aloud their inside struggles and at the same time help to hide them.
“It’s only a song Mom”. I said that exact thing to my mother I don’t know how many times. Even though the words of the song are the words in your head already. Like telling the truth but continuing the lie. All the release, no repercussions.
I’d love to sit here and tell you that my musical tastes changed over the years. That I no longer listen to songs about death. No longer partake in the rhythms that effortlessly articulate the best in being an addict.
I’d love to, but I can’t. The soundtrack to my life is riddled with anger, with pain. With suffering. Simultaneously infected with and enriched by yelling, angst, drugs, fighting, drinking, cutting, suicide and so much more. It’s full of expletives. Bursting at the seams with inappropriate content.
And you know what? It helps. Not by encouraging those behaviors. I think I’m a pretty decent reflection of overcoming obstacles like the adjectives I just finished so gracefully listing for you (that didn’t sound arrogant at all did it?).
No it helps by letting another person’s poetry fill my head instead of my own. It allows a different narrator to tell a tale. Let’s me feel like I’m amongst friends.
The truth it, rock music is as it is because of the raw emotions the musicians evoke and that doesn’t need any help from me. It will go on, as it always has, rolling and rocking
I began writing this thinking it would pull the veil away and everyone would see the truth. That I’d somehow change the perception of rock music. It turns out though, that I don’t really want that at all. I want generations of kids like me to have that connection. I want parents to dislike it. I want teachers and preachers and all sorts of grown up creatures to call it the devil’s music.
That’s what I needed it to be. And having had that realization, I probably ought to simply delete this whole thing. And if I’m honest, I did, for a second, have the entire thing selected and my finger hovering above the delete key.
And then it hit me, perspective. That’s what this is all about. And I concluded in that instant that it was that I’d had the wrong perspective. It wasn’t just a genre of music that I liked. It was therapy. The whole damn time that I’d been fighting with my mom, with my guidance counselor, with everyone about going to therapy I’d been taking my self to therapy constantly, every time I put a CD in my Walkman. And now every time I click an mp3. Every time I hear a rock song playing in my car, on my phone or in a movie I am in therapy. I am reviewing what’s out there, validating my feelings, group sharing, feeling better and moving on.
I don’t know if you’re going to have an emotional connection to this post like you might have with some other ones. I can’t help but wonder if this sounds too much like a political soapbox speech. But I am nothing if not an open window. And today, there was music playing in the room inside that window. And I felt better after hearing it. Like I said, it’s about perspective.