Listen Carefully

Written by Rebecca Young



My favourite bonding activity has to be showing someone my favourite song. Sending someone a song or recommending an album and watching them fall in love, all the while feeling happily responsible for that, is wonderful. However, if they don’t receive it in the way you hope, it can be the most frustrating thing for all parties involved. You know that moment when you’ve sent someone a song or played them an album and they just don’t get it. You sit there with wide eyed expectation; as if them liking this song is some sort of friendship test, as if they can only hope to truly understand you if they shiver at that lyric or gasp at that riff, as if knowing they feel the same way about it will validate every secret and unspoken feeling you’ve ever had in all your years on this earth. That can be a lot of pressure on the other person.

When you develop a connection to a certain song it can be stronger than anything you’ve felt before. For me that was the first time I heard Jesus Christ by Brand New. The hollow click at the beginning still triggers a rush of emotion moments before the first chord is played. Throughout the layers of sound (that still manage to surprise me) are insightfully dark lyrics, hopeless and questioning. The song’s overall feel is reminiscent of walking alone on an autumn evening, the air so still and calm you can hear every tap of your foot on the pavement. After listening to this song over and over I was struck by so many questions. How can lyrics written by someone you’ve never met feel like a diary entry you wouldn’t have the courage to write? How can a riff feel like an emotion you’ve been storing away for a stormy night? How can a song feel like home?

My friends, family and acquaintances have all endured my anxiously eager attempts at introducing this song to them. The starring for any glint of reaction, the “shh you have to listen to this bit, this lyric is perfect” and “wait, wait, it’s not finished yet” and “If it was possible to get a song tattooed on me it would be this”. Many, if not all have responded positively which should be enough. But it never is. They then deal with the disappointment on my face when they weren’t fawning over certain sections and the almost anger that there isn’t even a hint of tears in their eyes. The truth is sharing your favourite song can be an exhausting and upsetting act. So why do we do it?

For me it is almost a compulsion, a need. I need them to hear it, I need them to understand it, I need them to feel it, how else will they know me? There is something so personal and vulnerable about sharing music, especially music you feel such a strong connection with. It’s as if there is something inside that song that is so you, it would be a crime for them to miss it or, heaven forbid, ignore it. It can be a window into a person’s very being, the most basic and fundamental form of them. Sharing your favourite song with someone can be a way of reaching out to them. Maybe if we paid more attention to each other’s favourite songs we would understand each other better or maybe I’m just an idealist? But next time someone shows you their favourite song, pay attention because that act probably means a lot more to them than they are letting on.

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