Thursday, December 6, 2012

"I Have a Few Songs Stuck in My Head," Adam T. Smith

I Have a Few Songs Stuck in My Head

Adam T. Smith

Thinking about this paper, I had about 5 or 6 different ideas while I brainstormed listening to a medley of Coldplay, The Killers, and Matt & Kim. I realized all of my ideas had to do with the music recalling certain memories and inspiring me to write something awesome. Then it hit me to write about the really interesting effect music has on your conscious mind. I always listen to music when I feel stressed in order to calm down, or when I’m happy in order to progress to a kind of elated feeling. I listen to music when I work out too, as the power songs I listen to help to motivate me to work harder. For me those are extremely upbeat songs that get the heart pumping. Music has a powerful effect on the human mind. It’s very much like the mood organ from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a device that allows humans to alter their mood be it ready to do business or desire to watch TV (Dick, 2007). Music plays an extremely valuable role in my life, evoking memories and changing my emotion when I want or need it to.

Upbeat songs can be great for a mood lift if I’m feeling down, or inspirational if I’m working on something.  By upbeat, I mean genres like faster alternative or pop, not like techno or dance music. For me, my ideal upbeat songs are anything by Matt & Kim, and several specific songs from other artists, like “On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons, or “Lisztomania” by Phoenix. The actual music itself in the song may be what lifts my spirits, or perhaps the joy of the singer themselves.  There are several examples of how these songs affect me. A few weeks ago, I studied really hard for a psychology test, and thought I knew all of the material well. After getting back the test grade, I was extremely disappointed with my performance. Normally, I am an upbeat and happy person. So whenever I’m sad, I use music to try and uplift my spirits. I went on Pandora internet radio and listened to a Matt & Kim station for about 45 minutes. One line I remember very specifically was “Now take it in but don’t look down/ ‘Cause I’m on top of the world, ‘ay” (Reynolds, 2012). Afterwards, I was pretty calm and positive. I looked at the test as a way to improve for next time. My general optimism was enhanced by the positive music.

Slow and downbeat songs can have both a positive and negative effect on my mood. If I’m just lying down, listening to slow or dramatic music will bring back memories of times when I was happier or people I miss. For instance, I listen to a lot of songs from TV show soundtracks. A lot of the slow ones from Scrubs remind me of my once best friend Kaitlin McClamrock. Specifically, “Fresh Feeling” by The Eels, “New Slang” by The Shins, and “How to Save a Life” by The Fray. Whenever I hear these songs, or songs by Keane (just came on while writing, remembered they do it too), I remember how I came to know her, and even though I was only in the 11th grade, thought I had fallen in love with her. I know it was probably impractical for me to think that, but I did at least like her a ton and care about her. We were really good friends for only 3-4 months, and I can’t help reminiscing about that time whenever these specific songs come on. Some of the songs are just associated with her and things we talked about or even just songs I started listening to during that time. A line that always seems to get to me, “Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend” (The Fray, 2006) Others just make me think of when times were better, and so far, those months are the Golden Age of my life, for a myriad of reasons, but I know she was the main one.

Another good use of upbeat and slow music for me is when I’m trying to work on a paper or other work; it really helps me think of good ideas. For every paper I’ve ever written, I listen to music while I brainstorm, while I write, and while I read back over it. It speeds up my work too, because I don’t get distracted by everything else like I usually do. I once had a history essay to write and I started out without music. About an hour and half after starting the paper I had written the intro and watched about 3 or 4 episodes of The Office. I realized I needed to work, put on a playlist of whatever my current favorite songs were and got it done within the hour. I’m sure Coldplay was probably in that playlist at the time, as I was learning a few of their songs on piano. It definitely helps my productivity, and I can’t even imagine how to get work done without at least starting out listening to music.

Another huge influence I get from music is how I feel with techno songs and other high beat dancing songs. Songs like “Feel So Close” by Calvin Harris, “Hello” by Martin Solveig, and “Levels” by Avicii get my heart pumping. When I listen to them I have a huge urge to go do something active like racquetball or dancing like a maniac in my room. If I’m running on a treadmill, every time the drop comes in a techno song, I know I run harder and faster than before, moving to the fast-paced rhythm of the song. Techno songs make me feel like I need to be doing something worthy and awesome. A great example of this is a food run I went on with my best friend Ian Wright. We had to go to two places to pick up food. We figured we’d order online at the second place so we could go to the first place and have it ready for us when we got there. The second place told us it would only take 10 minutes. We sprinted to the car (I did a flawless slide across his hood, and still very proud of it) and sped off to the first restaurant, Tokyo Grill. This is where the music comes in. We put on Pendulum, a techno band, to be the soundtrack of our drive. We were probably speeding, but you can blame him for that one. The music had us put in the zone, driving fast but smoothly, swerving safely in and out of lanes to get around cars and speeding up to catch lights. We got to the first place with ease and in time, got out of there in a minute and half (it was ridiculously fast, and it’s not even a fast food restaurant), and sped off once more to get to the second place, a Five Guys, in time. Did we have to be in time? No. But Pendulum was playing, and man, were we motivated. We got there with seconds to spare, as they were finishing up the burgers. We were very proud of ourselves, but I know that the music had everything to do with it. Now Pendulum is ideal when I drive home, I just get through traffic easier and find good pockets where I can go a little faster.

Music plays a very important role in my life. I couldn’t imagine a world without music quite honestly. It is so integrated in everyday life, I feel like a lot of people might not even notice. Like at the grocery store, they play slow steady music in the background so you walk slower, see more, and consequently buy more. If there were no music, people would certainly notice how eerily quiet it would be, but they don’t take much notice to the music anyway. Try an imagine how different the holidays would be without the special overplayed holiday music. I for one like Christmas music, but not all of it, and certainly not 24/7 everywhere I go. Though Christmas music gets me in the mood for the holidays, a time right around the corner from when I type this. Music is extremely influential in how I think, both about myself and other things. It can change my mood with the click of a button and even change how complex my thoughts are. If there were ever a way to realize that mood organ from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I truly believe music will be involved. Imagine how much more this influence could be utilized in the future. I for one look forward to the advances.


Dick, P. K. (2007). Do androids dream of electric sheep? London, Great Britain: Orion Publishing Group
Imagine Dragons. (2012). On top of the world. On Night visions [CD]. Santa Monica, California: Interscope Records.
The Fray. (2006). How to save a life. On How to save a life [CD]. United States: Epic.

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