At 29, I’ve Finally Begun To Appreciate Music

Most of my life, music hasn’t really been something that I would consider essential. Sure, it is something that I use on a daily basis, but not anything that would make me emotionally invested. During my teenage years, like most other asshole kids, I thought the music that I listened to was bad-ass and untouchable. Who would have thought that bands like KoRn, Limp Bizkit and Staind would actually turn out to be rather shitty? Not me – at least not until I was roughly 16. Hey, everyone makes terrible choices from time to time, and that was an age where a lot of people liked awful things. A lot of people thought Pearl Harbor was a decent movie, okay? Think of when you were that age and what you liked at age 13. I doubt that that stuff had lasting staying power. And you know what? It’s totally okay to like terrible things at that age. You don’t know any better. It’s like when you’re 5 and your family takes you to Chuck E. Cheese’s. Remember how you thought that was like the most amazing pizza ever? Do you still think that now? Of course not – you’ve grown as a person – just like I don’t listen to ICP anymore, because good God, they’re fucking awful. Insanely rich, all things considered, but fucking awful nonetheless.

Throughout my life, I could appreciate the emotion that music was supposed to make you feel. NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” or Rage Against the Machine’s “Bullet in the Head” were songs that I could tell were powerful and made you feel like you could take on the world as if you were an actual gang member or part of a protest. But I don’t know if I was emotionally mature enough to know or appreciate how music made me feel.

During my late teens and early 20s my music taste grew minimally. By that I mean that I stopped really caring about music and my tastes turned more towards podcasts instead. I found that I cared more about learning about the world around me than learning more about myself. I still listen to a lot of podcasts in terms of hours spent listening to them (from the PBS NewsHour to the Giant Bombcast to Smart Wrestling Fan), but very recently I found that music moves me on an emotional level. Furthermore, my taste in music has gotten better, I think anyway. For example, I’ve swapped out Limp Bizkit for Action Bronson, Dropkick Murphys for Staind. But that I’ve let the music I listen to move me emotionally…I think I can pinpoint where it started: trailers. Movie trailers, when done well, always made me feel something. I eventually realized that it was the music they featured that did it. This eventually moved on to music that moved me period.

The very first piece of music that I can remember really moving me comes from the soundtrack to Friday Night Lights – the movie, not the show. The movie came out when I was 18 but it’s the first time I can remember music really having an emotion effect on me. The soundtrack, which was primarily songs performed by Explosions in the Sky, is my favorite soundtrack of all time. I remember sitting in the theater watching as Charles Billingsley (Tim McGraw) puts his championship ring on his son Don (Garrett Hedlund). “Sonho Dourado” by Daniel Lanois was and is a song that moved me in a way that no song had before. Like a drug addict, I wanted more of the feeling I had when I listened to that song, which brought me to the entire Friday Night Lights soundtrack and Explosions in the Sky, and there it stayed. I’m a creature of comfort and habit – if I find something works, I tend to just stick with it until something else comes along and slaps me across the face with new awesomeness. So for almost 10 years, when I needed something to give me that emotional heroin rush, that soundtrack did the trick. But more songs and artists would change that.

As previously mentioned, movie trailers are the best way for me to discover pieces of music that really move me. In 2012 I got really into watching nearly any movie trailer that came out. It was a way for me to get away from the grind that had become my life – going to school in the day, working at night, and finding sleep whenever possible for five years at that point had made me a pretty energy drink-dependent asshole. I had in a way replaced my emotional high from the Friday Night Lights soundtrack with a physical addiction to caffeine. All of this made me somewhat of a zombie, walking from class, around work, in a mindless state, too tired to really care about anything and really beginning to question what I was doing with my life. Movie trailers gave me that avenue of escape in just a minute and a half, sometimes two if I was lucky.

Originally, I thought that it was the trailer itself that gave me a bit of my humanity back, that feeling of caring about something in an otherwise emotionless husk. Then one day, the trailer for Moneyball came out. I was super pumped because I am an Oakland A’s fan and was in high school during the 2002 season, so a trip down nostalgia lane was much appreciated. But there was something about that trailer, something that moved me, more than the movie did – something that made me feel triumphant, inspired, reminiscent. Call it whatever you want, there was something. But I knew about the ‘02 season; I lived it for an entire summer. I read Moneyball when it came out and knew what the movie was going to talk about, so there had to be something else. And like with Friday Night Lights it hit me: the song in the trailer. This Will Destroy You’s “The Mighty Rio Grande.” It was like a new shot into the arm of a tired addict to wake me right back up. Something that made me feel alive. Much like its predecessor, it remained the one and only champion of my emotional arena.

Then, another trailer, for X-Men Days of Future Past, which combined “Journey to the Line” from Hanz Zimmer and “Sunshine (adagio in D minor)” by John Murphy. “Interstellar,” from Hanz Zimmer is another great example. There’s been plenty more trailer music too but the point is that I finally began to realize the music in the trailer is what got me emotionally invested and from there I would seek out the music associated with the teasers for those films. Down the road I began to take inventory of how I felt at certain times and what made me feel that way. When listening to Death Grips I began to see just how aggressively minded I would become and how much it really helped when I am working out. Listening to Kanye I noticed just how much my thinking resembled that of an arrogant asshole, and yes, I listen to Kanye solely because I think that he’s a heel – in the wrestling sense of the word – and I love heels. Symphony X, specifically 2011’s Iconoclast, in ways makes any job or activity I am doing feel like the most epic thing ever. Run the Jewels’ “Blockbuster Night Pt. 1” has an influence that makes me want to fight someone. There are more examples, of course, but I think you understand my meaning.

As I’ve gotten older, maybe I’ve become more sentimental, or maybe I’ve just learned more about who I am – either way, I’ve realized just how much music means to me. Am I saying that my music is the most eclectic taste ever? Of course not. Besides, what’s “good” and what is “bad” is entirely subjective. The point is that for the first time in my life I’ve begun to appreciate just what music can do emotionally. It can make me feel nostalgic, powerful, sad, or arrogant – a wide range of emotions really. It gives me, or allows me, to feel emotions that I don’t feel on a regular basis, emotions that I sometimes seek out intentionally, or just by happenstance, but in the end it makes me feel.

Better late than never I suppose.

Written by guest contributor Buckley Collins

Brian Leak
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