Thoughts on Music

musicBeing on furlough means access to fast, reliable internet that doesn’t cost $0.025 per megabyte to download. Because of this wonderfully amazing fact, a bulk of my furlough will be spent watching (and downloading) as many YouTube videos as humanly possible. It also means I get to indulge in one of my favorite past times: Listening to cover songs.

I. LOVE. COVERS. Sometimes more than the originals. (Most of the time more than the originals… don’t punch me, please!) The creativity of these endeavors just makes me happy. One song can be done in dozens of different ways and evoke dozens of different thoughts and feelings, even when using the same words, and, usually, the same chord progressions and melody. It’s fascinating.

The catalyst for this train of thought is a video I saw a couple of weeks ago: Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own”, covered by Pentatonix. The moment the song started, I knew I was going to be obsessed with it. And, yes – I’m listening to it as I write this post. Take a listen for yourself:

After watching this video, I looked up the original by Robyn. I like it, too, but it doesn’t hit me in the gut like the Pentatonix version. The two styles are VERY different – Robyn is “dance-pop/electropop” and the above version is, well… not that. I think both versions tell the same story, but it’s the emotional state of the storyteller that is vastly different. So let’s start with the story…

A girl hears that her ex (or maybe even just a guy she’s loved/crushed on from a distance) has a new girlfriend. She goes where she knows the couple will be (a club), watches them from the corner, and has to deal with the fact that she’s not the one who has been chosen. She keeps dancing on her own.

That’s it. Not very complex. But it hits me to the core. I hear this, and I’m like, “YES. This person GETS IT. They understand.” Or at the very least, “They are correctly conveying how this feels.” … But I’ve never had an ex-boyfriend or an unrequited love that I’ve pined over… So what the heck am I relating to? I asked myself this very question, and here’s what I came up with:

Worthlessness and Desperation.

Even though I’ve never literally gone through what this song is about on the surface, I have 100% felt the core-ripping, gut-wrenching, crazy-inducing spiral that is the feeling of worthlessness and the desperation to stop that feeling in any way possible. I’m sure we all have in one way or another.

For me, this song is a metaphor. The chorus literally says…

I’m in the corner, watching you kiss her
I’m right over here, why can’t you see me
And I’m giving it my all, but I’m not the girl you’re taking home
I keep dancing on my own

But I see this as a word-picture of how I used to exist/have to continually fight not to exist in my relationship with God. (All metaphors break down when you pick them apart. I’m not a heretic who thinks God dances with people in clubs, don’t worry.) So, even though this song tells a specific story, when taken as a metaphor, it evokes a feeling/situation that anyone can relate to, whether or not they’ve gone through a break-up or whatnot.

I love it when music is able to give substance to and a means of expression of thoughts/feelings that were (or at least felt) unable to be conveyed. It helps bring clarity to the crazy mess that is my brain and is also helpful in giving me another way to  communicate my thoughts to other people. Well done, music, well done.

This then gave rise to another train of thought: How often does this “substance giving” happen with the specific genre that is “praise and worship” music? Should it happen more often than it does? Should this even be one of the purposes of praise and worship music? How do the goals of a gathering of people to sing praise and worship music differ from the goals of a gathering of people to attend a concert? Why does praise and worship music often evoke this kind of mentality:

Short answer: I don’t know. I’ll have to have a think and get back to you on those. Part II of “Thoughts on Music” coming soon…