Music is salve for the soul. My soul, at least. I can’t speak for yours. If I live through a million failures, a thousand accomplishments, a multitude of heartache, I’ll still never be able to dip my pen into the inkwell of my soul and articulate my thoughts to you in verse. Not ever.
A dozen people can listen to the same song and generate from it a different feeling. That’s the beauty of music. It plays for us all on our own individual turntables. We walk this way surrounded but alone, each on a different path to the same destination. How we get there is a journey no one can share. We can commiserate, we can empathize, we can love, but we are ultimately alone.
Music unites us at the same time it separates us. How many times have you tried to share your favorite song, your favorite artist with someone? You can’t. We can listen to the same song together in a space as confined as a car and each be a million miles away from the other. You can’t make someone see the world through your eyes, make them feel the pain from the wounds that reside beneath your flesh, make them hear the unique rhythm of your heart beat, or have them traverse the valleys in your mind. We each hear the music in our own way. Where one of us sees darkness, another sees light. Where one of us hears a melody in the breeze, another is lost in silence. Where one of us is crippled by abuse, another is made strong. (I suppose, if you are very lucky in this lifetime, you may find one or a handful of people who get it the same way you get it. And if you are ever so lucky, you should probably hold on real tight to that shit, maybe triple wrap them up in that bubble padding stuff and super glue them to your body.)
And still. Even though we know all this. Even though we know that music is our own personal antidote against the world, against this life….. we still struggle to share the songs we hear, the artists we love. We (or at least I) want to know… what’s in your headphones right now? Maybe it is something so inconsequential that it requires zero thought because you can’t think another minute today. Maybe it is something that pierces your soul so harshly that you can’t help but think of last summer when you should have done something but didn’t. Maybe it is something that renders you so helpless all you can do is press rewind…. again and again. Maybe it is none of those things. Maybe it’s just a good time. Whatever it is, what is it? I’ll tell you what’s in my headphones right now and why. And maybe you will feel inclined to share with me what’s in yours?
Eminem: For enduring a lifetime of bullshit and persevering; for baring his soul naked to the world and standing unabashed underneath the giant stream of piss that some of you aim at it; for bringing me to tears and then drying them with laughter in the space of one song, fueling and then quelling the despair inside of me; for the sense of humor he aims at himself to drown his insecurities; for shoving his dick up our ass and daring us to critique him after he’s already critiqued himself in a light far harsher than ours will ever be; for his vulnerability and his strength; his angels and his demons; the hurt, the anger, and the love that are in a constant state of battle for primary residence inside of him; for wrecking himself completely for his art, giving every part of himself to the music and not ironing out the wrinkles in his soul or washing the dirt off his psyche before he steps out into the world; for showing us the darkness because without it the light would have no meaning; for allowing us to gather as bystanders on the sideline of his life; for being so painfully and completely real and not giving a shit if we can handle it or not (can we?); for being a complete jerk one minute and a sentimental fuck the next and never requiring forgiveness because the music is his own, not ours; for never just skimming the surface but going down deep where it’s dark and muddy and resurfacing in a shower of complex brilliance – showing us the prison bars of his freedom and giving us more in his one lifetime than we can ever give back; allowing us to kneel hungrily at his feet and suck him dry, taking everything he offers, inhaling the very life out of him while begging him for more….
Shit. Do I sound obsessed? I am simply amazed. Amazed that there is a person sharing the space of this earth with us who is swimming so far out in the deepest part of the ocean without a life jacket on, cut and bruised, bloody and worn. (Isn’t he afraid of sharks? No. He isn’t). The rest of us are wading here in the tide with our feet planted firmly in the sand, our life jackets strapped tight around us. Do any of us have the courage to untie these straps and swim out there into the deep water, too? Will we risk being beaten up and spit out by the world if we unlock the demons that reside in our closets? Will we risk getting to know each other? Or will we shrivel up and die here on this beach, trading weather stats and baseball stats and what we ate for dinner stats?
Dear Heaven: Just off me now if all that is in store for my life are fucking plants from the Home Depot and shopping for antiques (Did you know I fucking hate antiques?.. Or maybe I just hated antiques with you).
Ani Difranco: for her wit; for her balls; for refusing to sell out; for daring to be different; for never diminishing her art by shaking her ass just to sell a few records; for a middle finger turned up to the record labels; for the complexity of her lyrics; for wearing out my rewind button.
Bright Eyes: For flawed perfection (is there any other kind?); for hearing Conor’s voice crack in the middle of a song and knowing he’s real; for simple lyrics that hold so much depth, especially for I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning.
Keb’ Mo’: For finding me at the nature store. You were just sitting there on a rack filled with CD’s that promised to play bird songs, orca whale songs, rain forest lullaby’s. What were you doing there, Mr. Mo’? You were waiting for me, I know. Thank you for telling me about Henry and his steel guitar; for still climbing up the mountain top; for giving me back a sense of forgiveness; for showing me love and pain and pleasure with the strings of your guitar.
I know I did not do justice to a single one of these people. But I know they won’t hold it against me. They are all out there in the ocean, some not quite as far as others,but out there nonetheless. I am standing on the shore and this is as far as my shore-weary eyes can see.
Just turn the fucking music up already.