I love that feeling when I hear a melody that somehow causes butterflies in my stomach and it’s all I can do to sit still and not get up and dance with the music. A euphoric wave envelopes me for just a minute or two and I can’t concentrate on anything but rather devote all my brainpower to the song and extend that dopamine rush as long as possible, which of course means I play that shit on repeat.
According to Thrillist.com, music has the same effect as highly pleasurable things in life such as sex and drugs - which would explain the rush you get when you hear something that truly tickles your fancy and you get to ride that wave I just described.
It also has a strong connection with creating memories. My lifestyle of solitude encapsulates films and books, so songs often remind me of some of my favorite movies or films that left a solid imprint. For example, whenever I hear “If You Like Pina Coladas” by Rupert Holmes, I always think of Shrek, when Lord Faarquad chose Princess #3. When I hear “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith, I think of The Sweetest Thing - that scene when they sing this song in order to get their roommate out of a very painful (and rated R) predicament.
According to Allclassical.org, this is because there is a definite link between the long-term memory part of your brain and music. Petr Janata of UC Davis conducted a study using MRI technology to decipher which parts of the brain light up when listening to a song that holds a strong emotional connection or memory to the listener:
“This suggest that [the] upper medial pre-frontal cortex, which is also responsible for supporting and retrieving long-term memories, acts as a “hub” that links together music, emotions, and memories.”
“In this way, Janata describes that listening to a piece of familiar music ‘serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head,’ calling back memories of a particular person or place.”
It’s not just movies that are triggered if I hear the right song. Even if I’ve heard the song countless times I’ll always think of the first time I heard it, or an event that was significant for me when it came on. Example: during my gap year between high school and college, I worked in a restaurant and hung out with my coworkers almost every day. One said coworker had a big truck, and we would ride around town in it blasting songs (the truck was henceforth dubbed the “Party Truck” because of this). One such night, “Rockstar” by Nickelback came on and all 6 of us in the truck all sang along. Every. Single. Word. Now I get a solid flashback to that night and the Party Truck whenever I hear “Rockstar.”
More memories bombard me from my teenage as well as tweenage years because of the tunes I listened to at the time.
When I hear Shakira’s “Whenever, Wherever,” without fail I’m reminded of an era when I would sit at an old Dell desktop computer in the bonus room at my dad’s house, spending hours on YouTube watching music videos in early high school (circa 2010). I had a tendency to pull all-nighters during the summer, and I distinctly remember my dad getting up for work around 7am and asking why I was up so early. “I haven’t gone to bed yet!” I said. Amazingly, he was cool with it.
I spent so many nights at that computer. There was a night that in one tab, I was streaming YouTube listening to Cascada, Justin Beiber (right when he became famous), and anything Evanescence, and the other tab displayed the leaked version of Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer. This was the version that stopped around chapter 10 because she didn’t want to write the rest after it had been leaked. As a huge Twi-Hard at the time, I of course read the whole thing in one sitting. (Fast forward a decade, and I did the same damn thing and pulled an all-nighter to read the published version on Kindle last summer.)
I call this whole period in time as the Desktop Age. Notable YouTube music videos and lyrics that are forever burned into my memory from the Desktop Age are listed in this playlist (article continues after the playlist):
"Going Under" - Evanescence:
"Everybody's Fool" - Evanescence:
"Good Enough" - Evanescence:
"Call Me When You’re Sober" - Evanescence:
"Missing" - Evanescence:
"Hello" - Evanescence:
I really think it's worth noting just how much I loved and will continue to love Evanescence. Nothing gets the endorphins going like hearing these deeply depressing songs, and I have no idea why, but I love it!
"Every Time We Touch" - Cascada:
"Baby" - Justin Bieber:
"One Time" - Justin Bieber:
"Did It Again" - Shakira:
"Antologia" - Shakira:
Around my sophomore year, those days at the computer gave way to the cliche teen stereotype of staying locked in my room 24/7 blasting music on my stereo. I even started shopping at Hot Topic and Zumiez, rocking converse and heavy eyeliner to a point that worried my mom. I thought big, skater high tops were the shit, and I even went through a long-boarding phase.
Around this point, I had a friend burn the Twilight soundtrack onto a CD for me (Twilight was evidently a big influence on my adolescence, unfortunately), and I cranked up the volume while listening to "Supermassive Black Hole,” the only Muse song I’ve ever listened to, yet I still had the audacity to call myself a fan. Nothing really gets angstier than that - except maybe my deep dive into Evanescence. (But who didn’t have an Evanescence phase at least once in their life?)
So there I was in my wannabe-grunge style, locked in my room playing Mario Kart on Wii and listening to the Twilight soundtrack on repeat with the occasional Evanescence intermission.
The same friend who burned that Twilight CD for me also lent me her iPod Nano, which already had a lot of songs on it. This is how I became a closet Taylor Swift fan (PLOT TWIST), because it wasn’t “cool” to be a Taylor Swift fan in that era. Only when I was specifically locked in my room did I also listen to Taylor’s album Fearless on repeat - I would switch between Twilight and TSwift depending on my mood.
Little did I know I’d become such a huge Swift fan in my 20’s, also listening to Fearless on repeat only this time it’s Taylor’s Version!
Throughout my later high school years, my music tastes diversified to include more mellow, less angsty choices, such as Sara Bareilles, Christina Aguilera, and Beyonce, though I have to admit it was still mostly angst with my discovery of Coldplay, Fall Out Boy, Skillet, My Chemical Romance, and Panic! At the Disco, which became one of my all-time favorite bands (I about died when Taylor and Brendon Urie collaborated on “ME!”). I remember being very angry about something while sitting on the school bus circa my junior year of high school and blasting “Monster” by Skillet on repeat to intensify my mood.
By the end of my teens, the angst really started to wear off with my primary artists including the mellow choices mentioned above. Film soundtracks began to really sell me, particularly the ‘Burlesque’ soundtrack, featuring Christina. Some of those bands seem to have an eternal grip on my soul though - namely Evanescence and Panic! At the Disco (I will forever to have a deep love for both of these bands, I don't care how lame that makes me!).
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