I’d usually never minded being alone. Yet, over the past year, I had spent the most time with myself than I ever had before. Confined to the walls of my bedroom, I was overcome by a feeling of isolation, overwhelmed by my thoughts the more time I spent away from people. Since March of last year, my days were struck with monotony. My phone had become useless to me then, and I could feel the distance growing between me and some of my friends. As summer approached, I longed to feel something, to distract myself from an impending junior year, the SAT, and AP classes.
It was late June when I’d found myself falling down a Youtube rabbit hole. The clock on my bedside table read 3:00am, and the next video in the queue had caught my eye: EDEN – 909 (official video). I’d listened to EDEN before, but his name had been sitting in the back of my mind for over a year.
As I pressed play, my ears filled with the solemn tone of a violin. The song suddenly picks up with a few drum beats. “Last year was a long one,” EDEN sings at the start. “And these days are reruns, a fine time for a breakdown.” There was an echo to his voice, as if he was singing from a place of emptiness. The production was captivating — the sounds of knocks, whispers, and electropop-esque sounds hid behind the main vocals. There was an emotional depth to the song I’d never seen before. It explored emptiness and strength simultaneously, feeling stuck between surrendering and persevering.
Minutes passed, and the song was over. “The lone and level sands stretch far away,” EDEN ended. Part of me felt full. I’d found a place of comfort in 909. The other part of me felt lonely, deserted, far away. I didn’t know music could do that.
And so marked my journey with time travel. I wanted to hear everything that music had to offer, so I started with the 70s. There, I found The Jacksons, Earth, Wind, & Fire, and ABBA. I was fascinated by the variations of funk, pop, and soul, the genre’s ability to make you want to get up and dance.
Oddly enough, disco led me to rock. I binge-listened to the classics: The Beatles, Aerosmith, Oasis, The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The rock music of the 80s and 90s brought me to the alternative rock-era of the early 2000s: to Arctic Monkeys, Gorillaz, Green Day, the Strokes. There was something charming about the energetic vocals, the lively guitar solos, the exuberant instrumentation.
Later, I rediscovered the music of the 2010’s. The pop songs of Lady Gaga, Maroon 5, and One Direction brought me back to elementary school, back to when I thought I would be a kid forever. I reminisced over its catchy melodies, upbeat sound, and anthemic choruses. It reminded me of the 8am bus rides to school, when playground gossip and the lunch menu was all that was on our minds.
I found the soundtrack of my own coming-of-age movie in the voices of Wallows, Dayglow, Declan McKenna. The genre seemed experimental, versatile, undeniably warm and happy.
Soon after, I fell in love with the playful productions of R&B, hip-hop, and rap: Mac Miller, Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean. I lost myself in Daniel Caesar’s Freudian, Jaden Smith’s ERYS, The Weeknd’s After Hours. The soft vocals working with sudden audacious musical and lyrical shifts excited me, taught me that songs were meant to be dynamic.
I’d always perceived music as more or less linear— devoid of variation, of impact, of meaning. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s an outlet for storytelling and commentary. It’s a way to cope, to become introspective. It’s both a way to escape from reality and find a piece of advice on how to deal with it.
In short, healing presents itself in many forms. Who knew I’d find mine on Spotify.
Picture Source: Jericho Tang/The Daily Californian