Monday, August 15, 2011

The analog hearts

What makes a great song? Is it the lyrics? Is it the beat? Is it the voice behind it? Your favorite artist? The personal story you discover behind the writing? Once during an American Idol season, one of the judges said Siobhan has a quality that just eats up the entire stage. And that's true. But when the show's done for the night, who do you listen back to? Which song would be put on loop on your itunes, which would have a quality that just eats up your entire room, and would have meaning when all the lights are gone, and there's just you and the music?

I got my first walkman when I was around 10. My tapes were mostly Spice Girls, Cranberries, Lionel Richie, and (of course) Freestyle then. That was the time of appreciating albums, listening to every track. The difficulty of getting through the next songs made it inescapable to listen to the whole thing. Now it's just always that one song you google to get the title of, download, and between everything we have to get done in a day, we miss out on the other songs in the album, or the other albums from the artist.

And then there was the discman. I got mine at a very pivotal moment of my life: my grade school graduation. It was a graduation gift. That was my Westlife era, I had all the albums, and though I didn't quite relate to all of them at the time, I felt like I did, and they were the only thing that made me feel better. My sister then introduced me to Edwin McCain and Goo goo dolls. It was my understanding that High School girls during that period had - they just had to - listen to 'I'll be' and 'Iris.' So I did, I liked Iris. Everything was changing at the time, I was leaving my childhood friends, my family, and changing continents. Could you imagine how uncomfortable it was to sleep with the discman playing overnight? I never found the right place in my bed where it would not poke me and jolt me awake in the middle of the night. But for all the comfort it offered, I can't really complain.

I miss CDs. My mom always hated the fact that it doesn't take more than 2 weeks for me to break the CD case, and lose the disc amid a pile of indiscernible stuff inside my room. Do you remember the CD pull-outs? How it's terribly disappointing to find only pictures and not song lyrics? And when you do find lyrics, it feels almost an obligation to pore over the words. Of course it helped that there was MTV, who provided us with the must lists. For some time, it was a dictator of taste among the young generation, and it did a good job. At least for me, it introduced me to Coldplay.

What were the hits when you were in HighSchool? I remember it was a big time for the OPMs. Sponge Cola had just released its first album 'Palabas', and boy was it brilliant. I have never really gotten over Neon and Gemini enough to carry on with them through their succeeding releases. It's just that when I think Sponge Cola, "I know I can never be enough to replace your whatever" automatically plays in my head same as when I think of Hale, I sing "I really really need you here tonight" even when at the time, I knew squat about needing somebody. I just knew that whatever those words were, it might mean something enough to affect me.

I think song's meanings aren't absolute. My best friend's happy song is One Republic's Apologize, as one of mine is Snow Patrol's You could be happy even if to the majority (or to common sense) they are heartbreak songs. But you can't really fight the feeling inside you - if it makes you happy, it's a happy song. Augustana's 'Boston' is close to the hearts of many for its moment-stopping piano intro, and for most, it could be that. To me its the getting of lover and moving out to Spain thing. That line just says so much about all the frustrations in my life that sporadically finds me in the most inconvenient times of the day. And just to listen to it, even without the piano, it makes sense to me probably not in the way it makes sense for some.

My friend, who is a Sara Bareilles super fan, told me Sara wrote 'Love Song' as a protest to the record execs who kept telling her to write a Love Song, when she didn't want to. When I first heard it, I thought it was a modern theme for feminism, and it probably still is despite Sara's intent otherwise. Isaac Slade was also quoted as saying that 'You found me' is dedicated to the moments when he wanted to meet God in the sidewalk to ask why life was that way. Weird that I also connected to the song like that. Though for some, it's hopeful. Whatever it means to you. As long as it makes sense, right?

And then comes the ipod. God in the form of Steve Jobs' gift to mankind. There was the shuffle feature, the itunes genius, the most played feature. It was the golden era for the music lovers. Not discounting the influence of TV Shows, movies that led the way to a google search of a song, which ends up to a whole weekend of indulging in an album from a newly-discovered artist. One Tree Hill gave me Keane, Nada Surf, Jimmy Eat World, Gavin DeGraw, Wakey Wakey, Kate Voegele and so many more. Sometimes I look back to the days when we didn't have ipods, or the internet, would I have discovered the music I have, would I have owed so much to songs as I do, would I have grown up depending heavily on it? Or would I have carried on with my McCain stance of loving a song for its fuzzy exterior? I don't know. But I'd like to think I would have still loved it as much, no matter how.

So I go back: What makes a great song? It's when you hear it, either for the first or the thousandth time, and everything around you just falls apart so nothing in the world exists but just you and the words that make that moment worth staying alive for. Even if it's just for a moment, even when you press stop, the sorrow resurfaces and you're back to being terrified. What matters is you had that moment, of clarity, of tranquility, of assurance that this world is not so much a bad place.

I have not had an iPod for 5(?) months now. I have also not had the chance to download and restore my music library. There was a night when I had to get up at 1 am in the morning to turn my room over to try and find that iPod, which never turned itself in, and which rendered me sleepless that night. I needed my music so much that when a taxi radio played U2's With or Without you the next night as I was pulling in to the door of my building, I almost didn't wanna get out. Speaking of U2, I once walked the stretch of Ayala Ave. in Makati aimlessly with only 'Beautiful day' to assure me that I was not lost. And that I'll probably find my way back.

Last weekend, I began the work of downloading. By Saturday I had almost 10 albums and 30 songs of variety. I woke up Sunday morning doing nothing until sunset but lay in bed and listen. I just kept still, and immersed as if I was meeting a special friend for the first time and rediscovering things about myself in the process.

It was a great day. They were great songs, and they tell me that this is probably a great life.

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