The year was 2007, we were all still recovering from Britney shaving all her hair off in a desperate cry for help and digital music as we knew it was on the verge of change. iPod sales that year were at a peak, something I knew first hand, having saved months and months to purchase a 6th Generation iPod Classic. And in matte black no less, which added a little sauce to the already cool factor I was going for. 80GB of illegally downloaded musical bliss. I quickly became accustomed to having that much music at my fingertips. I had upgraded from a 4GB iPod Nano, so I wasn’t a novice to the Apple family, but a whole 80GB?! The thought alone was unheard-of…
Until one fatal day in early October of that same year, while rollerblading across a main street in my neighbourhood, my beloved iPod flew out of the pocket of the Lululemon Wunderunder tights I was wearing (for maximum agility) and skidded across the road into the intersection. I’ve since learned that those tights are not foolproof athletic gear for accident prone people like myself.
In that moment, everything slowed down. My heart, pounding. I froze, eyes aghast as I watched not one, but two vehicles violently drive across the pride and joy of my life. When it was safe enough to do so, I ran into the road, fell dramatically to my knees and wept deep ugly tears for the atrocity of unrecognizable crackled glass and aluminum that my iPod had become. Why me? Why god, WHY? We had just begun our musical journey together. We had so much planned, so many things to discover. Hopes and dreams, dashed at the seams.
I hopelessly tried to resurrect what remained of my device; “reboot” I tried, but as the screen filled up with black liquid, I knew it was goodbye for my sweet friend. I also knew I was SOL for insurance, because I had upgraded from a Nano, and more over because I knew AppleCare didn’t cover stupidity, so my only option until I had the nerve to save for and purchase a new iPod was to kick it old school with my 2004 Sony MP3 Discman.
Thankfully I’m a tech hoarder and had it in pretty pristine shape in storage, but I was shocked at how archaic it looked in comparison to my iPod. Like a brick – not sleek, not new, and worst of all, could only fit one album. Heaven forbid. This was my life now. All my choices has led to this moment.
In an act of kindness and to soften the blow of the bus rides I’d have to take getting to and from my part-time job, my brother bought me Kanye West’s Graduation album on CD to listen to. It had been released weeks before, but I hadn’t purchased a real CD in ages. So one early morning on my commute to work, I inserted that CD, pressed play, and the unforgettable boom-dap beat of the drum at the beginning of “Good Morning” washed over my ears and into my mind, and I was taken into a transformative journey that I otherwise would not have entered had my iPod not gone kaput.
This song was never released as a single, but stands to be my favourite track on that album, and got me through many a morning that fall. I didn’t love it any less because of what device I was listening to it on. No, in fact, I think I loved it even more because it was my saving grace during that time of my life.
The thing about music – and the consumption of it – is that it doesn’t matter how you listened to it… all that really matters is that you did, and how made you felt the moment you heard it. Music has no ego. It really is powerful in that way. Sound has the ability unlike any other sense that we have to take you back to a single moment, like a time capsule that only you can unravel, no matter where you are. It can make you smile, perhaps even laugh, or it can stir up feelings of heartbreak and sadness in a flood of memories you wish you could forget. Either way it serves as a reminder that we are alive. That the moments we go through are made more significant because of it.
Since the influx of digital music, I admittedly listen to the same few thousand songs on a rotating loop on my shuffle playlist, many of which are throwbacks from my teens and early twenties. I do actively try to listen to fresh bops regularly, and am thankful for algorithmic data that curates playlists featuring new artists to my exact musical liking, but a study I read recently revealed that women who loved music in your adolescent years will love it forever. Ever wonder why you flip your shit when you hear an absolute banger from 2004? It’s science, that’s why. The formative years where you learn to love music impact your emotions and make seemingly meaningless moments significant.
My brother and I have always shared a love for music, and his gesture of giving me a CD after iPod-gate was an homage to the way we grew up. Many of our shared memories have music at their core. We can both recall falling in love with the Beatles, as kids during assembly when our headmistress at the school we attended would play “Yellow Submarine” on the piano as we sang along. To this day, over 20 years later, we both are brought back to those times whenever we hear the Beatles.
For you, it might be the memory of a trip you took abroad. Maybe it’s of a friend you lost. Maybe it’s just of your morning commute. Seemingly meaningless, albeit significant every days encounters. But music, oh music, has the ability to move you in ways that no person or no place ever will. The best day of your life could be black and white, but with the right soundtrack, it makes you feel like colour.
Shakespeare said it best in the opening line of his play, Twelfth Night:
“If music be the food of love, play on.”
So play on, players.