My parents are both professional musicians. Since birth, I’ve been listening to countless different kinds of music. For many people, the first concert they attend is an unforgettable milestone. I honestly cannot remember what my first concert was, though, I think I’ve always leaned towards the artsy music. My Freshman year of high school, I decided to try something new and I tried out for cheerleading. I made the team and fell in love instantly with the sport. Though I listened to the top 40 songs throughout my formative years, my interest in pop music grew immensely as I learned dozens of routines to the latest hits. My dad would roll his eyes at my juvenile taste in music and I would turn Jessie J up louder in the car. You could say that I was your average thirteen year old. I knew every word to every song in Pitch Perfect, and ‘my jam’ changed by the month (the only consistent being that I would squeal whenever it popped on the local teen radio station.)
Now, nearly five years later, I’m on the front end of a second musical revolution in my life. The folk, americana, and indie music my parents played for me throughout my childhood, is coming back to me. Yuna and Cohen make me feel more than any of the hits I danced to ever did. As I sub out Nikki Minaj for The Lumineers, I have noticed a dramatic change in my inner monologue.
The voice inside my head is just as chatty as I am, she’s just used to be a whole lot meaner. At 13, I struggled with all the cliche body image problems of a teenage girl. I hated my body. I hated that I never felt like the girl in the Bruno Mars songs, no matter how many times he told me I was a treasure, I truly believed that the songs on the radio pertained to other women. Women who were so much better than me. Why couldn’t I be like them? My butt doesn’t look like Nikki Minaj’s. My smile was so much more awkward than Rihanna’s. I figured that since I could never be like those celebrity icons, I should just remain a member of the peanut gallery, quietly observing the way men in music doted over all the perfect women. Nobody ever told me that no woman is perfect, and that’s what makes us beautiful. Nobody ever told me that we ladies come in every shape and size and color and spirit. I listened to so much music in those years of my life, but none of it taught me anything true. Musicians have every chance to change your life for the better, but it seams the more famous they get, the more distant the music feels, and the more you begin to think that you are, in fact, not good enough. That is dangerous.
Enter folk music. My realization came when I was riding in the car with a close friend of mine. He was blaring a song I didn’t recognize, and I realized that I didn’t want to be the girl in ‘Gorilla’ by Bruno Mars. I want to be like the woman in ‘Bonfire Heart’ by James Blunt. The people writing folksy music are under no pressure to be perfect. They sing, and they relate, and they changed my life. Examine the difference in lyrics between the two aforementioned songs.
“Oh, look what you’re doing, look what you’ve done
But in this jungle you can’t run
‘Cause what I got for you
I promise it’s a killer,
You’ll be banging on my chest” (Bruno Mars, Gorilla)
Nothing is said about the relationship between the two people in that song, that isn’t sexual. The thing that I’ve learned is that sex is only a seed. Anyone can write a song about sex, and it will probably be a hit. But, not everybody can write a song about actual and real love, or about a purely human relationship.
“This world is getting colder, strangers passing by
No one offers you a shoulder, no one looks you in the eye
But I’ve been looking at you for a long, long time
Just trying to break through, trying to make you mine” (James Blunt, Bonfire Heart)
Think about the two relationships built in the excerpts of these two songs. Which is more human? Which is more conducive and relevant to an actual relationship? Which guy do you want? I can’t answer those questions universally, but I do know that I spent most of my teenage years thinking that being in a relationship was being the subject of a Bruno Mars song, because that was the only relationship I ever heard about through my earbuds. But, in reality, folksy music is as diverse as relationships are. Women in folk music are all beautiful and unique and independent and human. I wish I could go back and tell myself to not compare myself to Taylor Swift anymore and to strive to be a perfect blend of all the women of music, not just the women I saw on the VMA’s.
Since I’ve cut myself off from top 40, I’ve noticed many changes in my personal energy. For one, problems in my life don’t make me feel alone. I know that not every situation is he loves me/he doesn’t love me. I have music to run to if I just need to be sad, or if I want to celebrate, they aren’t mixed together anymore. I look in the mirror and am able to say calmly that someday I could be the subject of a love song, I don’t have to change a thing. Relationships to me are as diverse as humans, and that is exciting rather than unnerving. Folk, Acoustic, Americana, Coffee-Shop, and Indie music are largely to thank for my new psychological and emotional maturity. When the voices in your head are singing, don’t you want them to be helpful?
Once, a friend and I had a long conversation about her love for country music. She loves it for the same reasons that I love folk music and some people love classical music. There is more to it than hurt and partying, the musicians are mature, not that they don’t have fun, but they are good minds to turn to you when you want to use music to feel something.
I could wish all day that I’d ditched the pop music sooner, but that wouldn’t change anything, so I had better just turn up my playlist a little more and soak in what I missed. Actually, I think I learned that from an Indie song. Go figure.