SoML: Song Meanings Unplugged

One night on the way home from dancing, I was talking with Kaetlyn about how we relate to music. Or rather how I relate to music. Kaetlyn loves dancing and has eclectic taste, but she doesn’t make the connections to songs that I do.

Connecting Through Music

I connect to music but I also connect through music. Songs can bring me to a moment or remind me of a person. “Me and Bobby McGee” makes me think of Jen, one of my best friends from childhood. “Smooth” by Santana w/Rob Thomas makes me think of my mom rocking out in the Plymouth Voyager any old time, but “6 Underground” by Sneaker Pimps reminds me of a specific stretch of tree-lined highway we traveled between college visits.

When I’ve been dating, I found that the guys I clicked with most were those with a similar passion for music. Give me someone I can trade lyrics with and you’ve got my interest.

The three longest relationships of my adult life all had strong connections through music (and all lefties, go figure). The downside to that connection, of course, is what happens when the relationship ends. Or when songs are connected to memories that don’t feel warm and fuzzy. Either the song is “ruined” in a way or I have to break the connection that was made. Sometimes the Soundtrack of My Life has some deep cuts…

The Ex Husband

Aaron and I met at an 80s night. We connected right about the time he started getting into Alternative Rock, which had been my genre since high school (his was hip hop – in Central NY. What?). He made me my first ever (and last) mix CD with songs from bands like Staind and Boy Hits Car. During our nearly 14 years together, we never went on any big vacations, but we saw damn near 40 rock shows. Music was always in the mix.

There was a moment towards the end of my marriage where I played “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon and tried to engage Aaron in some silly living room dancing. He didn’t join me. It was a small moment but it hurt my heart and is part of a collection of small moments that told me my marriage was broken. It’s been about 4 years and sometimes I can dance to that song. But most of the time I change the station or skip forward rather than being brought back to that moment.

The Ex Boyfriend

My relationship with Dave practically revolved around music. We traded songs and lyrics frequently during the early days. Concerts were a huge part of our social life and entertainment budget. We quickly collected a list of songs that we favored for one reason or another. He was so passionate about several bands that all of their songs are at least a little linked with him in my mind – U2, Dave Matthews, and Queen. Right after the breakup I told Erin and Jen that I couldn’t bring myself to listen to DMB. Erin said she thought about him when she heard U2 and joked he’d “ruined” them for her temporarily too. Afterall, when you go through a breakup, so do your besties.

While we had a larger collection of songs that we favored, there were only 2 that I would say were “our” songs. “18 Days” by Saving Abel, which we saw performed live on the 18th day we knew each other. We were falling hard and fast and it seemed like fate that they played that slow song in their high energy set. “You and Me” by Dave Matthews, which I first heard with Dave though I can’t recall exactly when. “Wanna pack your bag, something small”… travel was a topic between us from the get-go and we imagined ourselves visiting enchanting locations across the globe together. To me, those songs are permanently linked to him and those 2+ years together. They are “off” my playlists for good unless I’m trying to feel nostalgic about our time together.

The Recent Heartbreak

My last relationship, both ill-advised and painfully brief, was also my most intense experience of connecting through music. He relates to music the same way I do and I was his first experience of relating through music in a significant way. The sheer volume of songs we shared with each other or listened to together was staggering. He introduced me to bands I’d never heard of or lesser-known songs from bands I knew & vice versa.

Connecting through music became so second nature that one of the hardest parts of the breakup was not sharing songs with him. I could immediately connect new songs to him in my mind. I spent the first week or two skipping nearly more songs than I listened to on every station and playlist in my rotation. 

There was an ever-changing list of songs that I related to the dynamics of our relationship. Early on, it was “Conflicted” by Halestorm. Towards the end, “Miserable” by Lit. (A bit telling, don’t you think?) And there are slew of songs that bring me back to individual moments in time – everything from a first date to a quiet moment with a glass of wine. I’ve been able to reclaim those songs. He might still be tied to them in my memory, but it’s no longer painful to listen to them in the present.

One song, however, stands alone in its significance. It’s still too painful to share the name “publicly.” It spoke to the sameness that we felt, the way we saw each other from a different angle than others. That song is off my playlists and banished from “My Music” on Amazon. Maybe I’ll listen to it some day… but maybe not. 

Relating to Songs: When words fail, music speaks
Photo Credit: Unknown

Right now, I cannot imagine connecting with someone unless we connected through music. It’s a vital ingredient to my life, so follows that it’s a vital ingredient to my love. Even if it means I “lose” a few more songs along the way. 

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