Jamming

I decided to post a short essay that I wrote for class recently. This is the first school related piece that I have enjoyed writing for a long time, so I hope you enjoy it too!


 

I encountered X Ambassadors in the later days of my transition from pop punk groupie to pretentious folk listener. I struggled to place their organic but still very rock sound, so I stood awkwardly cradling the Love Songs Drug Songs EP for several months, afraid to release the band to the void, but alternately unsure of where they belonged in my musical pantheon. X Ambassadors eventually slipped through the cracks as the number of artists in this middle ground grew, but “Love Songs Drug Songs,” the title song of the 2013 EP, stuck with me because no matter when or where I listened to it, I found myself within the song.

This connection has little to do with the song’s lyrics. They had nothing to do with me and, in fact, at the time I probably had no idea what half of them meant. But if the lyrics are the message, it was the packaging of “Love Songs Drug Songs” that enamored me. The pauses between the dominating drum beats and the raw sound of Sam Harris’s voice saying it is the last time he was going to “put you back together,” deliver a message no lyrics could. The brief, half seconds with no sound, no words or music, pause the moment and allow for reflection. Though the lyrics are angry and dismal, the pauses reveal the true tragedy of the song. The music stops, and the listener’s eyes flutter closed, wondering if this really is the last time. Then the drum pounds and your heart starts again and you are back in the music, away from yourself.

Such a moment of raw introspection allows every listener to connect with the song, regardless their current situation or past experiences. “Love Songs Drug Songs” becomes the universal truth all music promises to be. Because, in these silent moments, the listener puts his or herself into the song and the gritty narrative of the anthem becomes about him or her. In the quiet before the music transitions and Harris sings “I look you in the eyes” for the second time, the listener becomes immersed in his or her own story. We need the keyboard to come in with its quick trill, to pull us away from ourselves and on to whatever comes next in the song that has become the voice of our personal tragedies.

Rather than providing breaths of fresh air, the pauses in “Love Songs Drug Songs” yank the listener’s breath away. They force us to look at the tragedy. As with the split second before the car crash, you cannot turn away from the horror you know will occur. While the music plays we can dance or sing, “jamming,” to gloss over the true meaning, in the same way we live nonstop twenty-first century lives, always connected, always thinking about what comes next, but never focused on the present. But the pauses force us to stop and think, to fixate on what is currently around us. We may fear the tragedies that will come to light, but they illuminate glimpses of brilliant emotions. The silence of the music, in a twisted irony, forces us to open ourselves and feel what no tragedy can take away.


XX. Shelby Jo

Weekly Goal: 3,000

Weekly Count: 138

Total Count: 12,992

LOOK I WROTE WORDS THIS WEEK WOO HOO

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