There are few things in life that have the ability to unite people the way music can. Sometimes even the way we first get to know people is through music.
I believe this is especially evident in people around my age group—specifically on college campuses. Freshmen year of college, the first few days of living with a new roommate can be awkward, so a common thing to do is to turn on music to fill the silence. A conversation begins, “Oh you like this band? You should check out this other group I have.” For many, music is the beginning of friendship.
This is of course a positive thing; but sometimes I think we can use music as a cop-out to not be completely who we are. We can hide behind music and let ourselves be defined by the music we listen to. I personally think this is a kind of sad reality of our generation. It’s awesome that you were the first of your friends to discover the latest indie-band, but in the end…what does it really matter?
It is one thing to identify with the lyrics or message of a song; it is another thing entirely to feel that the entire meaning of your life is encapsulated within a 3-minute melody. But this is something we do. I know I am guilty of it. I will hear a lyric that really hits home at a specific moment in my life. A break-up is a great example of this. Your heart feels like it was trampled on the floor…you think that no one can understand the pain you’re going through when suddenly, just at the right moment, a song on your iTunes shuffle sums up exactly what you’re going through so perfectly and succinctly…and only in a few rhyming words. It’s cathartic. It’s beautiful. It’s healthy even.
But then I take it a little too far…
Instead of identifying with the line for a brief moment in time, I’ll listen to it over and over again, until before I know it (or really realize what I am doing), it is no longer I recognizing myself in a song, but the song dictating the way I am acting and viewing myself and my situation. I get stuck in a rut of sadness and borderline despair and wonder why my life isn’t getting any better.
We are a funny generation, because on the one hand we acknowledge the great power music has to influence the culture, but on the other hand we sometimes deny the effect it can have on each of our individual lives.
We can’t listen to music without being affected by it to some degree. So we need to use discretion when listening to music. It’s not that everyone who listens to angry rap music is going to go hold up their local AM PM; but the ideas and themes in the songs we listen to do affect us. To think that listening and rocking out to a song that speaks about women in an offensive manner won’t affect the way you view women is illogical. Just like the compulsive liar who ends up not being able to discern between even his own truth and lies, neither will we be able to keep a strong hold on our convictions if we constantly listen to music that celebrates going against them.
This of course implies that we have deeply-held convictions in the first place. What are yours? Where did they come from? Think about it. Decide for yourself. Don’t let the culture and the music you listen to decide for you.