Hello to anyone who’s reading this. Before I get to my article, I’d like to introduce myself since I didn’t get the chance to last month. My real name isn’t actually Bee, but that’s what a lot of people call me. I decided to use my nickname instead of my real name because I do want some privacy, I also want to keep my zine life and my personal life separate from each other, however I’ll probably bring up instances from my personal life a lot. I live in Montreal, a city in the Great White North that is Canada. By next fall, I’ll be in CEGEP (a two year mini-college before university) studying Literature and Creative Arts. I spend most of my time buried in a book, shooting with my camera, playing Best Coast songs on my guitar or covered in paint and pencil marks. I also run a blog, here. I love my Bang and Olufsen turntable, my friends, anything vintage or organic (yep, I’m one of those people), my cat, anything and everything floral, having adventures, fun coloured hair, horror movies, French bulldogs, nose rings, boys, tattoos, and my roller skates. I like to pretend that I am Lana Del Rey, Grimes or Alexis Krauss sometimes. When I’m older, I want to see everything and do it all. I am not your typical teenager. Not even close.
I’m nice though, let’s be friends.
We’ve all had that moment. Maybe you’re listening to your iPod on the bus, or just hanging out in your room. You could be at a party or anywhere else when you hear it. The song that triggers the waves of nostalgia. In that moment you may catch yourself smiling as the warm feelings radiate through you, or on the brink of tears because maybe the memory wasn’t the best. The point is that music makes everyone feel something. I feel that music can alter us in a way that nothing else can.
I don’t know if it is scientific fact that memory is stronger when paired with music or not, but I for one will always remember the songs I danced to in High School (like Footloose), the songs I cried over boys to (like Francis by Coeur de Pirate), the first song I listened to after getting my double helix piercing (Repatriated by Handsome Furs), etc. And when I hear those songs, the first thing I think of is the memories I made to that particular song, even if my feelings about them aren’t the same.
I wonder if our strongest memories are triggered by our senses. It would make sense if that were the case; our brain remembers things more vividly when the memories are tied to a physical trigger and that trigger is later revisited. This seems to be more common in the case of music, probably because the majority of mankind is so in love with it. I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who’s hated music, we are so fond of it that we play it whenever we get the chance (I’m listening to Grimes as I write this article).
Because we are constantly surrounded by music, it’s easy for us to develop a sense of nostalgia for a song. But what makes good music, in relation to nostalgia? Not all memories are associated with good songs, which I’m sure we all know, but what does it take to make a song good as well as nostalgic?
We can look at the musical composition of the song: The textures, harmonies, rhythms, instruments, lyrics, etc. We can look at the time period: did that song play at a memorable moment for you? Or was it a hit during an important year? We can also look at the moods we get from a song. I’ll explain what I mean by this. Say you go out on a date with someone you really like, things go well and they kiss you goodnight. You didn’t hear any music during the date, but later on you hear a love song that reminds you of your time spent with that person. We can also look more carefully at the relationship we, as people, have with music and how heavily we incorporate it into our lives. From the time we were babies, we were sung to sleep by our parents almost every night. Then, we were made subject to the repetitive sing-songs and the impromptu Queen outbursts of elementary school. I don’t think I need to mention High School at this point. From birth, music has grown and matured with us. So, as a result, we have nostalgic songs from when we were three, five, ten, etc. Even our favourite songs now will become nostalgic for us later on.
What makes good music could be its essence of nostalgia, but it could also be its musical content at its bare bones. I believe that everyone’s idea of good music varies from person to person. Some people could think that Rap is bad music because they don’t like it. Others could not want to listen to something because it brings back bad memories. If you asked me, a girl who has no musical limitations, I would say that good music is something that the artist has created themselves for the purpose of expressing who they are in a way that is their own. Good music to me is original, though not necessarily unique, and it should leave a lasting impact on the listener, really grabbing hold of their core and rattling their bones some.
The notion of nostalgia, I feel, is just as personal as the question of what makes good music. What will be nostalgic for me won’t necessarily be for the next person, because our experiences are made to be entirely our own. In my opinion, nostalgic music is an acknowledgement of personal growth. Think about it: You’re twelve again (I know we probably don’t want to go there) and you’re listening to your favourite band of all time, for like, 5ever. Though you may or may not be embarrassed as to whom you liked to listen to, you can think to yourself: “Wow I was quite the obnoxious dork, look how far I’ve come!” I know I feel that way every time I land on a Tokio Hotel song on my iPod. Not only do I smile at my musical naïveté at the time, but I also notice how proud I am of myself. When I was twelve, I was super ratchet, but I was also terribly ashamed of my body and I hated who I was (I hadn’t yet discovered Tumblr or the Feminist community). I would often beat myself up about the way I looked and my confidence was at an all time low. I would dress how I wanted, sure, but I always tried to change myself physically and/or mentally for the boy I liked and I cared too much about what others thought of me. Fast forward to where I am now, my musical tastes have changed (thank god), and I have learned to accept and love myself for who I am. Sure, I am far thinner now that I lost my baby fat, but I realized that you don’t have to have the “coveted” thigh gap to be beautiful (just look at all the fine-ass honeys on the zine team who are beautiful at any and every size!) and you don’t have to be popular to be well-liked. My point is, that when we look back at the songs of our youth, we are reminded of how we’ve changed and bloomed into the lovely people that we are today.
The relationship we share with music is one of the most beautiful lifelong relationships we will ever experience. Music will always be there with us, holding our friends close, healing our wounds, congratulating us on our accomplishments, allowing us to express ourselves and fall in love with something new. It can unite people and make memories that turn into personal nostalgia, a song can trigger the mental photo album in our head and we are suddenly back at that place where we first heard that great song that we are listening to now. It could be anything that makes a song nostalgic. Good music, I feel that’s up to your ears to decide. One thing’s certain, however. With the amount of love we have for music, it can single handedly keep the good times rolling.