I am feeling strange talking about this. It’s like going to the doctor about a weird ailment in a part of the body no one talks about, other than in the context of a joke to encourage adult camaraderie. You can say what you like about the pimples on my face, but we can’t ever refer to….
Now, just to be clear, I don’t actually have anything going on, covert or not, that needs a doctor’s appointment. I do have a tooth issue going on for months, but who has ever felt shame talking about their teeth? No, what I am going through, and it must have been about a year (strangely, coinciding with the duration of my tooth issue), is a music identity crisis. I can’t decide what I want to listen to.
Yes, I can’t decide what I want to listen to.
Yes, I can’t decide what I want to listen to, and I could keep on writing that
confession sentence for the length of this blog post and you wouldn’t need repetition to feel concern and ask me, “What has happened to you, Amrita? How are you surviving?”
Usually, I go about a genre or an artist like this: I don’t always discover them. I sort of know about them because my eyes and ears are always peeled for any information relating to music. But, I get into them when the stars align, and by getting into I mean, listen to everything, watch everything, read everything, read+watch+listen relating to everything, get bored and move on. If I never get bored, then they have found a place in the Hall of Fame located in my head.
So you see, it’s a dual-paced thing. There’s some casual dabbling around, and phases going on simultaneously, with also a third strand of dependability on solid favourites. Now, most of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while will say, yeah Amrita, we know what your listening life is like: defending 80s artists people destroyed in the 90s but no one should feel sorry for them because they made a lot of money at the time. And Kate Bush.
Now, that is true, but that is also 20% of the situation. I don’t use the word eclectic, because I don’t want to be one of those obnoxious music connoisseurs who judge you on your preference because it doesn’t match theirs. I also hate to use the word connoisseurs to describe them (though most of them would not have a problem with that), but they sell themselves off as experts because they’ve dabbled a lot, spread themselves widely, surveyed the seven seas with Google Maps and they think that is enough qualification to say what’s best. You can see I have a rather big chip on my shoulder about this.
The easiest attack on them, while we’re on this tangent here, is to say they’re not real musicians. They listen to their vinyl records in the living room with an acoustic guitar aesthetically placed, and serving mainly, as decoration. (I’m not criticising you if you a) listen to vinyl and b) have a guitar. As long as you don’t c) judge people on their taste, we’re cool.) Most real musicians, in fact, have quite limited interests, and perhaps that helps their musicianship. We’re always surprised if they profess to like someone from a different genre, but I can vaguely surmise that real musicians aren’t too concerned with whether they’re listening to a lot of different stuff or not.
And so aren’t most people. They’re happy listening to the Top 40, or the radio, or music they listened to as teenagers. There are contrasting studies that suggest music that you listen to at age thirteen OR music that you listen to in your late teens and early twenties is the music you prefer. Now, that puts me in a difficult position because music I listened to as a thirteen-year-old was very varied but also, mostly crap. And music I listened to in my late teens and early twenties was almost exclusively cool, but I’m not sure if I would like to stick to only that for the rest of my life. You don’t read five books and say, ‘Yeah, that is all that I’m ever going to read, again and again and again.’ You want fresh ideas, fresh sounds, things that challenge you, things that surprisingly fit with what you want for the moment.
Like they say about relationships, there’s plenty of fish in the sea.
I’ve tried everything. And you’d be surprised at the results. I played Beatles baby albums for my nephew. He didn’t get on with them (might have something to do with either being hungry or sleepy. Shouldn’t be anything to do with The Beatles.) but I have started to listen to them, no baby in sight. Rockabye Baby!’s “In My Life” is particularly brilliant. Just put them on, do some adult colouring books, and there you have a lovely, stress-busting session just before going to sleep. And way better that putting on generic ‘Music for Relaxation/Meditation/Sleep’ etc. I like Bach’s Preludes, especially on the cello, but I’d rather listen to Macca’s “Golden Slumbers” baby-album-style.
And the other artist I’ve been listening to is, drum roll please, Troye Sivan. My 30+ year old reading audience is mostly going, ‘Who?’ He’s my latest venture into contemporary pop, one of those dabbles that is slowly transitioning into a phase. I discovered him through his video for “Bloom” and if you watch it, you’ll understand why I like him:
And it’s not just because of all the androgyny and sincere vulnerability and perfect choruses, and competent pre-choruses. Sivan just has some cracking tunes like the one below which, among a sea of collabs that are often so full of striking images and ideas, is simple and effective, two traits that make a classic:
But, these are the only crests. Everything else I’ve tried are troughs. I go back to the solids, of course, for I do need to sustain myself. I’m not going to be King Lear, shirking salt. But, don’t you just want to try new cuisines? Or different flavours of the same thing?
But, who do you turn to? I stopped watching TV after I left school, so I no longer have something like VH1 to seek inspiration from. I could turn on the radio, but Sivan-like accidents don’t always happen. Everyday, I go through my catalogue of artists and genres I know of through space and time, trying to hit upon what I’m feeling. Today, as I had a half-hour of chores to do, I thought to myself, “Hmm, I want guitar, but not someone who’s trying too hard to prove themselves, or not someone who’s too much of their period…” until I zeroed in on Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? I’ve listened to this and his other albums several times over the years, but it has never been a bonafide phase. But who knows? This could be the start of something.
So, you see, music itself is not the problem. And we can’t trust my moods and feelings either. I’ve lately felt as though I’m “sinking” by which name and mood there is a Cure song, but usually I like to listen to the opposite of what I feel. Currently, I need something with life. And when there’s too much of that, I feel the need to listen to something that’s sobering. Often I’m scared of listening to something I might really love when I’m not feeling up to it. And especially listening to something I really love, because it might possibly have no impact. I’ve even put on ‘Music for Relaxation’ because I couldn’t bring myself to listen to David Bowie.
And you wonder why I call this an identity crisis?
What music makes up your identity? What music would you recommend me to get out of this funk?