I moved to North Carolina in 1996, attempting to get a fresh start after a career setback that at the time seemed monumental, but now seems silly. This should have been a solo trip, but the guy I was dating at the time accompanied me, also looking for new opportunities. However, after a few months there, he met someone, and I experienced my first broken heart. I was in a strange town, I knew no one, and it was Christmas. Talk about a perfect storm.
One of the hardest parts of the situation was that every other song on the radio reminded me of him, and evoked feelings of sadness, anger, loss, loneliness, and even revenge. “For You I Will” was one of the worst, and turned me against Monica for a short amount of time, even though I genuinely liked her music. The Space Jam soundtrack did not get much play in the music store I managed as a result. Even Christmas music affected me (see “When Love Is Gone”). While those songs stand out to me, the one song that really defined that whole breakup was “Unbreak My Heart”.
Picture it…you’re at a club a couple of months on, and you’re having a good time with a couple of acquaintances. Toni Braxton comes on, and you head to the dancefloor to let your demons go. Suddenly, it’s as if you’re in a music video, with a camera that cuts through the crowd, focusing on two guys dancing slow to the hottest club jam of the moment. It’s your ex and the new guy, and you’re just stunned. Next thing you know, you’re out on the patio, pacing at 80 mph in the February cold, experiencing every emotion available in record time. (My friend Chris must have thought I was Sybil from the way I reacted.)
While the breakup obviously is memorable, it’s in moments like those that I recognize just how much I am touched by music. For me, music acts as a time capsule, storing bits and pieces of memories that a couple of chords can unlock in a matter of moments. So often we hear a song and think “it’s as if someone wrote it just for me”, but I’ve come to the understanding that it says as much about the common feelings and emotions we all experience as it does about a specific event. Music really is a uniter, no matter how much we bicker about who’s got the better b-side or who sold more records last week.
Madonna says it best – music makes the people come together. I love these kinds of posts – keep them up. As I have said before to many people, anyone can write a review of an album or talk about the merits of this or that song. But it isn’t until it is personal that it is *really* interesting.
John, this is a really beautiful post.
I love the way that music can capture a memory – be it good or bad. I still can’t hear Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like A Bird” without thinking about a certain someone and breaking into a cold sweat.
However, I only have happy memories attached to “Unbreak My Heart” – mostly because a drag queen friend of mine used to perform it, complete with a giant dildo and strap-on for props! I’m guessing Toni would be proud.
i still think of my first smooch with la dazpants everytime Never Be The Same Again by Mel c plays.
Mike chose exactly the right word for this post: “beautiful.” Yes, please, when the moment feels right or when you feel inspired, keep these posts coming! There is something so incredibly…vivid about music, something that allows it to capture slivers of life better than maybe any other medium.
Great post! Music’s ability to evoke the good and the bad memories is like a time machine (as you mentioned), drawing you back to the experience, almost out of the blue when you hear it. It’s especially magical when you hear those special songs you’ve shared with others or that surround a memorable experience.
In your post, it sorta worked in the opposite direction. I wish we could shut off the ‘music memory making place’ in our brain or be able to delete the connection to those unpleasant events, but I guess that’s now how it works, is it?
Great post John–very vivid. There are certain songs I strongly associate with people from my past, and whenever I hear them it really takes me back. A song I avoided for a long time was “Damn I Wish I was Your Lover,” as it reminded me of a bad date. Thankfully, that was long enough ago that I can enjoy it again now. Thank you for sharing.
Music really is bittersweet,
I love the way you noted that even the remixes evoke memories for us, maybe even more so because they remind us of specific moments,
Toni’s remixes were amazing, I adored that mix, there is also a great mix of Hit The Freeway, do u remember that one,
I love your posts,
Hit the Freeway didn’t really have a huge impact for me, but I do like it. The Frankie Knuckles remix of “I Don’t Want To” is another amazing remix. And thanks so much for the compliment.