Which Came First - The Music Or The Misery?
A recent conversation with a friend regarding our respective love lives took a turn for the dismal (as such conversations so often do). “At least there are some songs that are helping me get through,” he said. “Have you seen High Fidelity?” “‘Which came first, the music or the misery?'” I replied. Long after our conversation ended, the question stuck with me.
I’ve thought it to be a great question since I first watched the movie in college. “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” I’d never given much thought to actually figuring out the answer to the question until now, but having spent some time mulling it over, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that at least for me, the music leads to the misery.
The fact of the matter is this: as much as I like to whine about it, my love life has never been that terrible. The worst thing that has happened to me, is being plagued with a series of nice enough boyfriends who didn’t like me enough to, in the words of Beyonce, “put a ring on it.” A situation I might have worried about less had their not been a pop song reminding me of this. I have a lovely life, but their are certain songs that inevitably throw me into a downward spiral of misery. My “bottom 5,” if you will:
Anything Taylor Swift, but mostly “Love Story“- Speaking of songs that make you think you need to be getting married, this one takes the cake. This song actually made me so crazy that I actually had conversations with my boyfriend at the time of “but whyyyyyy aren’t we more like that Taylor Swift song?” (Hint: This does not go over great.)
Most heart-wrenching lyric: “Marry me Juliet, you’ll never have to be alone.” If you’re going through a rough patch in your life where you don’t have a ton of close friends and your boyfriend of two years is aggressively refusing to even discuss the possibility of marriage, this will reduce you to tears every. single. time.
Ke$ha, “The Harold Song“- You’d think a Ke$ha Pandora station would be safe from sad songs, wouldn’t you? You want poppy, bubbly, energetic songs. And mostly, you get them. And then, this song happens and all of a sudden you’re scheduling an emergency girls’ lunch or a manicure or whatever your misery coping mechanism of choice is.
Most heart-wrenching lyric: “I still say your name when I’m talking in my sleep.” This makes me want to just take Ke$ha out for like a cup of tea so I can be all “I totally get you. It’s not all brushing your teeth with Jack all the time. Feelings! They’re the worst!”
Adele, “Someone Like You“- Yes, this is cliche. But it is a cliche for a reason. You have to have a heart of stone not to be miserable listening to this song. Everyone has that ex who told them they just weren’t ready to get married, and ends up married to someone else six months later, and if they don’t have that, you have that ex you’re terrified is going to do that, and this song just preys on that for me. There’s a reason there’s a whole SNL skit about listening to this song and crying. That happens.
Most heart-wrenching lyric: The entire song, guys. Don’t make me pick a line. I can’t do it.
Maroon 5, “Payphone“- I have to change the radio station every time this one comes on. Nothing ruins your big dramatic cross-country “I”m going to start over and it’s going to be great!” move like a song like this becoming super popular.
Most heart-wrenching lyric: “You can’t expect me to be fine. I don’t expect you to care.” And you’re all, yeah! I’m not fine! Sing it, Maroon 5! And then you remember, yeah, that person totally doesn’t care…and then you frantically start surfing radio stations and hope that someone is playing “Call Me Maybe” to snap you out of your impending melancholy.
The Postal Service, “Nothing Better“- I’m pretty sure I actually ended a relationship because this song came up on Pandora; I started crying, and I realized that I didn’t want to be in the sort of relationship that made me weepy every time a slightly sad song came up on the radio.
Most heart-wrenching lyric: “Tell me am I right to think that there could be nothing better than making you my bride and slowly growing old together?” With lyrics like those, you are kind of forced to face the reality that maybe the person you’re with can think of about a million things better than that, and that you deserve someone who at least puts growing old with you in their “Top 10” list of things it might be cool to do someday.
In conclusion, music is a dangerous and evil force that might ruin my life. Or perhaps I’m just overly sensitive and need to stop putting so much stock in songs. Are there any songs that completely mess with your emotions, or is everyone else just judiciously listening to Adele for 10 minutes when they have a bad day and then getting on with their lives? Is pop music making everyone miserable, or just me?