How I Regained My Love of Music

It involves four straight days of Bon Jovi

Today was my fourth day of Bon Jovi, listening straight through all of their studio albums and a bunch of unreleased, live and some remixed tracks. Now I understand what people see in Bon Jovi. I totally get it now. Then I moved on to Bonnie Rait and Bonnie Tyler. Boston is now playing as I write this.

I bought my first CD player along with a copy of MC Hammer’s Please Hammer don’t Hurt ‘Em when I was in seventh grade, around 1992. A year later a friend gave me Pearl Jam’s Ten and not too long later, I bought Nirvana’s Nevermind at the height of their popularity… though I had to hide it from my peers because everyone in my school listened to country. Nirvana was my guilty pleasure in eighth grade. A few years later, Tool’s Aenima changed the way I saw reality. I became obsessed with rock music and music in general, spending a significant portion of my income on CDs.

When Napster and Grokster came around, it got even better, as I was able to branch out to genres that I would not have paid money for. I started collecting just about anything that crossed my path, downloading whatever someone might recommend in passing and dramatically expanded my appreciation of music.

But after I got my first smartphone around 2009 and loaded all my favorites on there and had instant access to everything I might want, I entered a slump. I got in the habit of listening to what I wanted to hear, whatever song seemed perfect for that moment. I would listen to only my favorites and skip everything else.

What I found was that I was listening to the same music over and over again. Back in the ‘90s, you didn’t have much of a choice. What was on the radio was what you listened to. You could go out and spend a huge portion of your day’s wages on an album, but then you kinda had to listen to the whole thing, to avoid getting up and switching discs every four minutes. Even with a disc changer you only had a tiny fraction of the choice we have now.

For me all that incredible choice and convenience has caused me to become less and less interested in music. I recognized it happening, and it was easy to figure out why, but every time I told myself to go listen to something different, I just didn’t feel like it. I even stopped listening to music while driving and riding the bus because it just didn’t have the pull that it used to.

But two months ago I decided to try something different. I bought a 256 gigabyte micro SD card for my phone so I could finally have my entire music collection in my pocket. Then I started with 3-doors down (numbers come first in alphabetical order) and began my trek from “A” to Z, listening to every album that I’ve acquired over my lifetime. I do allow myself to skip greatest hits, live and remix albums if I have already heard the songs. I realized I had to make these exceptions when I saw that I had several hours of Sail by Awolnation.

I have one other exception that I allow myself. I get to listen to whatever I want if I’m drinking. The strict musical rules that I’ve been enforcing upon myself during working hours has made these drunken moments far more exciting than they were just two months ago. It reminds me of the excitement of finally hearing my favorite song after waiting all night for it to come on the radio.

I’ve created a self-induced musical prison. Right now I have two choices: I can listen to Boston or nothing. I intend to continue like this through ZZ Top. Yeah, I know it’s going to take a year or two. I’ve found this strategy is changing the way I experience music. I’m no longer trying to decide what to listen to and instead I get taken on a journey with daily surprises resulting in a deeper appreciation for each musician’s style.

Here’s some things I’ve learned so far in the last two months:

  • I get why The Beach Boys were so popular. I thought they were a one-sound band because all their hits are the same but if you listen to their popular albums like Pet Sounds straight through you’ll find they actually have some pretty creative stuff. It reminded me a lot of The Beatles for some reason.
  • Similar experience with The Beastie Boys. Very experimental, always trying something new, never taking themselves seriously. I remember being really impressed with the creativity and refined sound of one album in particular. I told myself I would remember but did not. On the other hand, they also have some stuff that just is not fun to listen to.
  • I’ve realized there are some styles that are simply never going to work for me. I’ll admit there has been a few moments where this musical prison was rather painful. Andrews Sisters and Bill and Taffy are two that I remember wanting to give up on. But I stuck with it. Bob Marley is one also that I still just don’t understand. All his stuff sounds the same.
  • I have a lot of great music on my phone that I’ve never taken the time to appreciate. I’ve already found a bunch of hidden gems like the comically evil death metal of Amon Amarth, some Big Wreck albums I’d never heard before, a couple B-sides from Awolnation that are just as fun as their popular songs. And earlier today, Bonnie Tyler’s Greatest Hits. I don’t know who she is or how she got on my phone, but she came out of left field to really impress me.
  • For me, music is best experienced in the form of full albums. This provides the entire experience, allowing me to become immersed in one set of emotions and perspectives and ride the artist’s story from beginning to end as intended.

So I should conclude that in this one particular case, freedom is bad. There are probably some other areas too. It would be nice if I could take away my own right to eat candy and potato chips or smoke tobacco but I have yet to find a way to make that work.

I should also say that I don’t know why I’ve never taken the time to listen to Boston before. It’s not too shabby when you give it a chance.