In the past five years or so, no band has captured my ears and heart quite like The Gaslight Anthem.
The blend of Springsteen-esque, melancholy storytelling combined with punk inspired instrumentals was impossible for me to resist. Yet despite my Herculean effort to introduce all of my friends to the joys of Brian Fallon and company, only one has spent any extensive time listening to their songs. At first I was profoundly hurt by the lack of interest I encountered at every turn. How could they not appreciate the earnest lyrics, finding meaning in every line about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss (important topics for most successful pop bands)? They were missing out on four albums and a handful of EPs worth of essential music, and it pained me to no end.
However, as time has passed, I came to accept that the rest of the musical morons I call my friends might not connect with The Gaslight Anthem the way that I had and at the end of the day, this might be a good thing for me. As Brian Fallon himself asks, “What can I keep for myself if I tell you my hell…What’s left for only you to take if I put too much blood on the page?”
Is there merit to keeping music that you have a strong personal connection with, or should you at least only share it sparingly? In my self-proclaimed expert opinion, the answer is: yes.
Certainly sharing music can be a positive experience and shouldn’t be completely ignored. It is a great way to build and strengthen friendships, grow a blog audience and find a community to belong to, whether online or in person. Passing along a mix CD, sharing a Youtube link on someone’s Facebook wall or placing a hot, fresh album in a Dropbox folder can be a satisfying, rewarding experience. It provides a catalyst for conversation about a new release, an opportunity to discover an artist or genre you have never heard of and a chance to get classic music that has been missing from your iTunes library.
However, there is something lost when you spread songs around too much, especially when you forge a strong, deeply personal connection with a particular artist’s work. When someone that you hold in esteem and respect their opinions tells you they do not like a song that has made you reminisce, cry, or stay up at night evaluating your life choices cuts deeper than listening to Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.” Don’t worry, I won’t post any sad videos of abused animals, but I am fairly sure we all know that feeling. Many times, hearing a friend’s negative reaction to a favorite song can unintentionally downgrade the tune, and make it less likely that you will want to share any new music with them for awhile. This sensation is only worsened when you tell them about the emotions and thoughts you experienced, making that time you started crying in the Green Bean or Academic Commons seem even more trivial and ridiculous.
How do you remedy this unpleasant situation? For me, the best response is to keep the most important songs and artists to yourself, or at least only give an overview about why you think their music is the greatest thing you have ever heard, saving the intimate thoughts for trusted friends only. For instance, my desert island, all-time favorite song is Bruce Springsteen’s, “Racing In The Street.”
There is a long, complicated story as to why that tune will always make me emotional and reflective, but only a handful of people know the whole tale. For everyone else, they only hear how the instrumentals are expertly layered together, that it is some of The Boss’ strongest lyrics, and the somewhat lengthy explanation about the song’s status as a spiritual sequel to “Thunder Road.”
Yes, it reinforces exclusivity, but in this case, it can be a good thing.
In no way am I suggesting to internalize all your emotions, since that is typically only going to be self-destructive, but I am advocating selectivity about who to share some songs with. One of the greatest things about music is the myriad of ways it can affect us, and only sharing some experiences with others you already know feel the same way you do can strengthen the impact and importance of those songs.