There’s an odd comfort to rediscoverment. Sometimes, it’s a worn plushie or a ratty blanket. Other times, it’s an old letter with a former lover’s name or a now defunct address. Regardless of quality, there’s an indisputable charm to our memories. When they’re good, we’re filled with fondness. When they’re bad, knowing the fact that’s over can feel quite comforting.
I’ve made a Spotify playlist for each semester of college. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but the months I spend making them usually result in a smorgasbord of music that somehow forms a tangible sentiment.
Quite literally, it’s a vibe.
By the time the semester closes, my exhaustion has exhausted my playlist as well. I let it sit for a few months until I’m ready to come back to it on the odd day I’m looking for a change. No matter the situation, my playlist favs put me In My Feelings™.
Studies have proven that music evokes an emotional response from its listeners. Research by Kawakami, Furukawa, and Okanaya concludes that despite sadness existing as an “unpleasant experience” it can also be “somewhat pleasant in the context of art” (2014). In almost everything we do, humans delegate a unique breed of emotion to our pasts. Personally, I rediscovered the Sims after ten years of dormancy. Following the death of my grandmother, my mother refused to cook. Everyone with a heart tears up at the slow drawl of Sarah Mclachlan singing “Angel.” It’s natural. In so many situations music is a vehicle for inconspicuous depth and emotion. There’s a reason why film and television soundtracks are a multi-million dollar industry.
We extend our emotional attachments to the artists themselves. When musicians die, the world mourns. When bands disband, the stans throw hands. Our culture reveres musicians like we revere their music. This isn’t always the best case scenario.
Every time Cher has a farewell tour, a white gay gets his wings.
A friend of mine recently asked to stay with me in November to attend Elton John’s Farewell Yellowbrick Road. After seeing the cost of tickets, I was forced to decline. Farewell tours elicit a twisted blend of existential dread and excitement in addition to steep ticket prices and broken promises. Cher and KISS have become notorious for their multiple “farewells” and Paul Simon tickets are re-selling at upwards of $5000. Artists begin playing with our emotions long before their retirement, yet we buy into it every time.
I felt giddy when Vampire Weekend released two new singles a few weeks ago, despite telling myself that I had long outgrown the boxycharm of @arzE. I felt camaraderie and warmth as an old friend commented that the last time we had listened to new music from Vampire Weekend we were 13 and listening to pirated versions via iPod touch. When the songs finally stopped streaming (it took a while), it took a while (even longer) for me to realize that it was the same sound I heard at 13. The difference—in addition to the upgraded technology—was that I hated it.
After spending the rest of my afternoon questioning the validity of my taste at 13 and now at 20, I realized that, like most things in my life, I expected too much from a few Spotify singles. I don’t know if their new album will disappoint me or make me feel 13 again or if it will teach me how to be 20, but I do know that no matter what I will want to listen to it. Not because the singles were promising, but because I will always have a soft spot for the band. It’s not about sending Elton John off into the comforts of retired knighthood, it’s about the feelings that come with remembering all the times I begged my dad to change the radio to something cool from the backseat (almost the exact same feelings that came from watching Eighth Grade).
Nostalgia is normal. In the case of music, it might just set you up with a dose of disappointment. I wish that musicians wouldn’t use this as a means of extreme profit maximization, but I also know that murmurs of anything involving Fiona Apple put me on a high for days that could honestly result in the pledging of my minimal financial resources. Though extreme, I like to think this feeling is very human and that one day I’ll find myself endeared by my past tenacity. Farewell tours and comebacks and remasters may be capitalistic ploys, but they are an easy trap to fall into.
To be positive, I’ll chalk it off to the fact that humans love to love.