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.