Monday, October 4, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

It's happened to everyone once.

You hear a song on the radio or in a store or on a commercial and it sticks there. Not immediately of course, but a few days later you find yourself humming it, or repeating a line or phrase from that song.
"Huh," you think, "that's kinda catchy. Where did that come from?"
You go about your business, generally unperturbed. A few days later you hear it again. You are unconscious of the fact that you recognize the song until just before the end.
"Hey!" you think, "that was it! That was that song! Huh, catchy song."
Later that day you hear it again. This time you catch on quickly and try to remember specific lines of the song to look up later, to put an artist to the song. But you have a short attention span and there is a lot going on in your life. So, naturally, you forget.
But then you start hearing it on the radio more.
"Ah! This song!" you say to yourself sagely, "I know this song." and you smile smugly while humming along.
And then you're into it. You're into this song. You flip through the radio stations, hoping to hear it again.
"What?" you reply defensively, "I kinda like this song."
Now it's started running through your head at odd points in your day. In fact it's running through your head quite a lot. You still don't know the whole song, but whenever you hear it, you stop immediately, even just to catch the last verse.
"Oh man!" you say aloud in the car, "I love this song!" You get so excited when it randomly pops up in your day. If you have the opportunity, you'll belt along in a halting, stumbling manner because this song GETS you! You've finally figured out enough of the lyrics to know that this is YOUR song. The artist didn't know it, but they wrote a song about you, about your life. It's perfect for whatever it is you're going through right now.
Then you realize that it is popping up in your day more and more. You've heard it three times on the radio this morning, once in Starbucks (or whichever local coffee shop you prefer to patronize) and once in the supermarket. Perhaps you are not, as you had thought, the ultra-hip music lover on the pulse of your generation. It's growing popularity is an uncomfortable reminder that everyone else believes that THIS song is THEIR song and that you are but a member of the flock.

This, naturally, makes you uncomfortable.

Maybe you're riding in the car with friends and one of them is running through the radio stations. You hear your song. "Stopstopstop!" you shout. (You may even slap his or her hand away.) Then you sheepishly try to save face, "I like this song."
But your secret shame won't get the better of you at home. You listen to it over and over on youtube. You are probably responsible for 23% of the page hits. Now you know this song in it's entirety and it still speaks to you. You lip-synch to it alone in your room, releasing all the emotion you believe is necessary for said song and punctuating it with air-punches and meaningful looks in the mirror. You imagine yourself in the music video, or set it as the soundtrack to an event in your life that will probably never happen, no matter how much you wish it would.
Sometimes, when you aren't around a radio, computer or any other listening device, you play it in your head. Because that's how well you know it.

Finally, you're tired of praying that it will come on the radio, tired of having to access youtube to listen to it.
"I don't care!" you boldly declare. "I don't care that it is so popular! It speaks to me! I must have it at my disposal for whenever I want to listen to it! It must be able to set the tone for my life whenever I need it to! This is MY song! I WILL buy it on iTunes! And I don't care if my friends judge me because it's SO mainstream and, frankly, kinda shitty."
So you do. With a perverse pride you click "buy it" (for $1.29!) and watch the barber-shop bar march along while the magic of the internet takes your money and magically replaces it with a song. Like the tooth fairy, similarly painful. Then you watch the little arrow next to "downloading" spin around and around and around.

Then it's done. The song is yours. Yours to have and to keep. You possess it. You double-click...
...and suddenly, it's not the same. It's like the song has lost it's shine. It's still... good, and everything, you just... don't really have the desire to listen to it anymore. Oh well. At least now you own it in case you ever do need to listen to it at a moment's notice. Hah. Like that will ever happen.

And that is the cruel irony of the buying radio pop songs.

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