Music is serious business. The music you listen to says a lot about the kind of person you are: your values, beliefs, hopes, desires, and fears. For some of us, music plays a fundamental part in our lives—not simply reflecting who we are, but shaping who we will become. Unsurprisingly, many people take it very seriously.
In high school I self-identified as a punk, proclaimed to listen to nothing but “punk rawk,” and developed a serious distaste for anything that wasn’t punk related. I pierced my ears, bleached and spiked my hair, hung dog chains around my neck, and wore a perpetual frown on my face. I was a dissatisfied youth, though dissatisfied only because I couldn’t think of anything else to be.
And so I can’t help but wonder what my fifteen-year-old self would have to say about the person I’ve become and the music I listen to today. Case in point: my sister was recently married, and at her reception I was “that guy” dancing to all the top 40 hits. I was that guy bellowing the lyrics (which I knew by heart) to Britney Spears, Usher, and Lady Gaga’s latest singles. I was that guy who started the impromptu conga line to Adam Lambert’s infectious hit, “If I had You.”
I should, however, mention that I am by no means good at dancing. In fact, my repertoire of “moves” often leaves me looking more like a spasming wallaby than any kind of skilled dancer. But I’m energetic and heartfelt—I have that going for me, I guess. Thank God I’m already married. And, yes, I still listen to the music I did when I was younger (much to the chagrin of my wife, I assure you), but the pop punk of yesteryear is far from the only genre in my musical library, as Adam Lambert (not to mention everyone at my sister’s wedding) can attest. (That’s me at the far left)
But I do sometimes wonder if it matters that I don’t have “informed” musical tastes. Generally, what I stumble upon (and almost always by accident) is what I listen to. Most times, the music I really enjoy and form an emotional attachment to is music that most of my peers dislike for one reason or another. As a teenager, this mattered a great deal to me; being a so-to-speak musical outcast is never a fifteen-year-old’s ambition.
These days, however, I say to hell with it. I still listen to the same pop punk that I did in high school. The only difference is that now I also rock out to Rihanna and Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. It is a discordant mix that is baffling, but it seems to work for me. And maybe that’s enough. Maybe that’s all music was ever supposed to be.
And I know that most of you figured this out back in high school. I’m late to the game, I know. But I’m here now, and I guess there’s still time to do my thing, wallaby-inspired though it may be.
And so if I were to meet my fifteen-year-old self and if he were to turn up his nose at my choice of music, I’d probably tell him to lighten up. Life should never be taken so seriously. Maybe all that sulking as a teenager is why I’m going bald today.
Yeah, that’s right—I’m blame my baldness on punk rawk. So there.
Rowing For Pleasure is a weekly opinions column written by Z S Roe. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.