I just watched this fascinating video on why “today’s music” sucks. The gist of the video was that almost all the biggest pop hits are written by the same 2 dudes. Each popular song has an entire marketing machine behind it, and in truth, they all follow the same formula for success. Admittedly, I do like a good amount of pop songs, but now I’m wondering how much my enjoyment is mine and how much has been shoved down my throat by the marketing machine. The video was pointing out how these songs play everywhere constantly, so after awhile, it grows on you.
I’m eclectic – I will listen to anything but country, and there are even a couple country songs I can tolerate. My first loves, however, are metal and rock. Right now, I’m on a HELLYEAH kick because I’ve been so sad about Vinnie Paul dying. For the last few days, though, it’s been weighing on my mind how metal is ostracized by the majority while pop is so embraced by the majority. I listen to the magic these musicians create, and I’m overwhelmed by the talent, feelings, and places this music can take me. I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon, but I struggle to understand how a drum machine is more popular than the incredible beauty Vinnie Paul created, or the raw, beautiful power of Chad’s voice vs the autotuned crap on constant rotation. There is so much talent kind of ignored.
Then I wonder, though, if that is actually an industry tactic, to make metal fans believe we’re rebellious outsiders while being fed the same type of formula. Maybe that sounds tinfoil hat mentality though. It just confuses me how a two chord song can outshine the deep complexities of melody, harmony, and a full band experience. In order to hear my favorite music, I have to go to YouTube or Spotify, because it’s never on the radio.
Pop music works for me if I’m in a good mood, bored, or if I’m trying to ignore my problems for a bit. Metal, on the other hand, makes me feel the shit I don’t want to feel. Ponder realities I shy away from. Admittedly, there are metal songs that are just heavier pop, feeding that mentality of fuck ’em all, etc. Despite my eclectic ways, I am picky about vocals and lyrics. Rap, Rock, Metal, Pop all can fall into repetitive traps of “let’s get fucked up and party” I prefer shit that makes me think and feel. The music industry now tells us what we like and plays repeated hits to the point of nausea. Anytime I turn on the radio, I hear the same songs from 3 or more years ago. There’s been no change, save 1-2 “monster hits of the summer” or whatever.
I love to disassociate from reality. I spent many years feeling like a caged up bird looking in this world. I can still shut myself down effectively to the point I am numb. When that happens, I have no personality whatsoever. The only way I can help myself snap out of it is listening to music. I’ll find the song that sings my feelings until my feelings come back. I love songs that make me sob or make me feel less alone. I don’t often get that depth from Pop music, though. Pop lets me stay in a disassociated state, because it has no emotional resonance for me. My life has been very fucked up for a long time, so fucked up people are who I love to hear. I think everyone is fucked up to varying degrees, but not many like to admit it. Yet, our scars are what make us unique, precious beings in this world. Why do we try so hard to be the same, when not even our fingerprints match another person. This is how creativity changes lives: we tap into what makes us feel like ourselves. The more I can express myself here in writing, I am even more expressive in life. The very things I tried to hide away before are the things people like to read or hear about. Because we all feel less alone when it can be related to.
My idols have all taken their demons and painted beauty. In Jungian terms, their creative self expression brought light to the darkness, and released them from the past. Every time I create something – hell it can be a good dinner – I feel better. Even then, I fight myself and fight my creativity. I get scared to write, because I don’t know what I want to write about. I feel like an imposter attempting to follow a dream half-assedly. I doubt myself because I can come up with things to write about so easily, and create it in 15 minutes. That makes me believe I suck, it shouldn’t be this easy. But what if that is the essence of our gifts? With practice and expression, it falls out of us like water poured out of a pitcher. What if we all lie to ourselves about our gifts, keeping them pent up inside, leaving us feeling hollow and lost?
I learned awhile ago that the only way I can heal myself is to express myself. Talk about what is actually on my mind, write what is actually on my heart. No masks, no social media perfection, just who and what I am at the time of writing. I’ve grown up admiring band after band, author after author, yet always telling myself I cannot possibly be like them. The proof of my self-delusion is constant: every band I love takes pain and transforms it to something beyond themselves. It’s alchemy, it’s transformation, it is the power of creativity and self expression.
I’m going to go on a limb here and wonder if the rising rates of mental illness and deaths by suicide is correlated with an inability to express ourselves. Doesn’t anxiety often feel as though you have a million things caged up inside you? Doesn’t depression often feel as though you have no purpose in this life, so why go on?
Isn’t this a war most of us have? Jekyll and Hyde? Yin and Yang? I feel as though I have two diametrically opposed me’s in my life. I feel crazy admitting that, but it’s the truth. There’s one who digs the shit out of life, and the other one that likes to tell me how much everything sucks. Music is the only middle ground for me. Music takes analytical precision (left brain) with infinite creativity and connection (right brain). I suspect most of us suffer from being too left brained, leaving our very notion of creativity up for analysis and speculation.
The ego – the talking voice in our heads – will never let us feel sufficient. The ego was formed to protect us, keep us alive, and analyze the environment for threats. The ego is our problem solver, so when we stay stuck in ego-based thought circles, we lose connection to our intuition and inspiration. The ego can’t trust that, because there is no past data to support it. If anything, ego compares others to make us feel defeated before we began.
I’ve been reading a lot on hemispheres. The right brain cannot speak in words, but can recognize faces, images, and so forth. The left brain can communicate and problem solving. The problem stems from the fact most of us don’t understand the ego is your conscious attention. It analyzes everything for potential threats. So then, the ego attacks our creativity in the same way the music industry is attacking music. The ego wants predictable and safe. If they are investing 500k to 3million dollars in marketing, they want a guaranteed hit. The problem is, they just repeat everything. Lyrics, backing tracks, personas, etc. The only way we can truly express our creativity IS to take a leap of faith. That’s not something the ego is capable of doing, but every artist, actor, musician, author, business owner, inventor, etc. had to take a leap of faith to get to the other side.
What the music industry is doing to music is what the left brain attempts to control our lives. Analyzing the past to predict the future outcomes. This makes us completely batshit crazy, because we have no sense of reality. We live in two states: past or future, with no eyes on the present. I’m not surprised that music is this way anymore, because we are all choosing to ignore the present moment in order to feel safe. Life and music have the same purpose: experience. Music has no purpose beyond listening and enjoying. Great music makes you think bigger than your problems. Great lyrics can make you think and feel that you are not alone. Music quiets the perpetual argument of left and right brain, which is what I suspect is the constant chatter going on in my head. Ego doesn’t want us to express our feelings and truth, because that transcends the idea that we are weak and in need of protection.
Music can unite people – how many friends have you made because you both like the same band? I met my husband at Ozzfest. Our relationship started with music, and fell apart when we stopped listening to music. We both were so miserable, we disassociated from our primary coping skill. Music can unite your left and right hemispheres, because both are needed to enjoy the experience. It’s theorized music existed before verbal communication. I personally think life should be like music, a perfect balance between analysis and logic from the left brain, and creativity and expression through the right. “A perfect union of contrary things” is what Pythagoras defined music as. It is math and creativity brought together in harmony. I also think that’s a metaphor for all our lives, but most of us eschew creativity for the safety of logical analysis, which will all tell us creativity is not part of survival, of what needs to be done, etc. The left brain limits self expression because it lacks emotional resonance and looks for sure bets.
How many of us stay in jobs we hate, because we don’t know what to do with our lives? How many of us have something they’ve always wanted to do but told ourselves they couldn’t? I listen to so many metal lyrics telling all of us, essentially, you can do this too. Anyone can do this. The biggest hurdle is the fear of the unknown and the fear of failure. Yet failure is a guaranteed outcome if we don’t express ourselves, if we don’t allow our unique gifts come to light.
I don’t have any answers on how to change the music industry from cookie cutter manufacturing personas, lyrics, and beats. I do, however, believe very strongly everyone needs to take their creativity back. As focus and attention span are being undermined, it is harder and harder to find the courage to just be yourself and express yourself however is fitting. Hell, look at the formulas so many of us are trying to follow with blogging. Keeping word counts in certain ranges so people will pay attention. Fuck that, I’m done pandering. I’m just writing what my fingers want to write, and if someone enjoys it, cool. If someone doesn’t, cool. My measurement of success is achieved every time I push “publish”
I think a lot of us get defeated by measuring ourselves to the end goal. No one picks up a pen and becomes Stephen King or the lead singer of ___. Everything about transforming life, focus, and mental health is a process that is ripe with ups and downs. Life progresses like music. The low notes offset high notes, the progression of chords, lyrics, and beats flow together, just like our lives.
I believe each of us has a gift, and it is our duty to ourselves and happiness to express that gift, whatever it is. I believe anxiety is often unexpressed creativity. If any of this makes sense or resonates, then go back to childhood, pick the thing you loved then, and start there. The best way to not make a dream come true is to say “I wish I had just ____” Look at how the world has changed now, anyone can create an account on WordPress and be able to write. Anyone can create a YouTube channel and put their songs, thoughts, animations, whatever up. There is no barrier into the creative world. If anything, the only barrier to creativity is the belief we can’t do it. The more I express myself authentically, I am getting healthier. I don’t care what happens with my writing, all I care about is that when I write, I have peace. Buddhism taught me to have no attachment to outcomes, and no expectation of outcomes. So I write whatever I feel like writing, because at least I have honored my gift.
What lies are you telling yourself about your dreams? What limiting belief can you let go of to start working towards a dream? What small act can you do today that may influence a better tomorrow? What part of you are you disconnecting from reality? How often do you listen to the opinions of others versus yourself? No one broke through by playing it safe and predictable.