April 25, 2019 | Arts and Culture
i hate music
get that s*it out of my ears
At the end of a particularly strenuous day, my hands can’t seem to reach for the remote control fast enough. In a world where music seems to be the prevailing form of escapism, I choose instead to turn to my favorite characters for comfort. Of course, we all find solace in art—but I’d rather wait until I can sit in front of a screen than to experience the relief of popping in earbuds.
More often than not, my character of choice is Jane Villanueva from Jane the Virgin. The protagonist of a five-season telenovela-esque series, her outlandish obstacles include an accidental artificial insemination, gruesome murders, and an undercover drug lord. In other words, she’s basically impossible to relate to. Whether it’s Jane the Virgin, How to Get Away with Murder, or The Good Place, all television provides a function that I don’t find in music: It’s distracting. Do you want to forget about the laundry you haven’t done in a month? The readings you’re behind on? The 19 voicemails from your dad? Then boy, do I have news for you—that sh*t literally doesn’t happen on TV.
Sure, on-screen characters deal with problems too, but they’re nothing like mine. My biggest stressor is that I’m a senior, and I still have no idea what the hell I’m going to do with my life. Jane’s deliberations about whether she should keep her child put my woes—job applications and a lack of interest in classes—in perspective. It’s almost too easy to put a wall between myself and the characters presented to me on screen. I can safely observe Jane’s problems—sympathize, but not empathize, with the inner turmoil she endures when (spoilers) her husband is shot and killed by a drug lord, but oh wait— he’s actually alive and just has amnesia.
Aside from giving me the gift of selective amnesia, allowing me to forget about internship rejections, TV has the uncanny ability to make me feel as if I’m surrounded by loved ones when I’m alone. In a weird way, Jane is one of my best friends. She comforts me when the stress of my own aimlessness becomes too much to handle. She’s there for me whenever I need her, for the Netflix fee of $10.99.
But, when my friends are in need, they turn not to Jane, but to Elliott Smith, Lana Del Rey, and Nina Simone for the Spotify fee of $9.99. My friends and I share many of the same woes—depression, identity formation, unrequited love—but they choose to pop in their headphones and listen to these artists on repeat: “Fooling everyone, telling them she’s having fun” (“Carmen” by Lana Del Rey). Call me crazy, but I don’t want my most distressing thoughts blasted in my ears. I’d rather ignore them forever, thank you.
For whatever reason, almost all popular songs just feel so personal and sad. Between parties and Jo’s, pop seems to be the only genre I encounter, and while it may be true that not all of it is depressing, enough of it is to turn me off from the whole art form. These little, usually three-minute-ish pieces don’t have time to establish characters or flesh out detailed scenarios. When Julia Michaels, an artist I know nothing about, sings, “I got issues, and one of them is how bad I need you” (“Issues”), it’s impossible not to put myself in her shoes. It becomes me asking my former lover to “bask in the glory of all our problems.” Music hits too close to home in a way that television and films cannot. I’m not anything like Jane who must face outlandish obstacles—God knows I’ve never had my baby kidnapped by a drug lord. Meanwhile, Michaels’s scenario of a woman with issues who loves someone else with issues is so vague that it’s impossible not to relate to it.
And while we’re at it, pretty much all pop music is vague as hell. Who hasn’t, like Ariana Grande, felt “so f*ckin’ grateful” for their ex (“thank u next”)? Who hasn’t, like the JoBros, at one point been a total “sucker” for someone (“Sucker”)?
Facing music means facing my problems—it means coming ear-to-head-phone with my lack of life direction. I can’t bear to sit in my room with the lights off and hear Selena Gomez remind me that I’m a “bad liar” (“Bad Liar”)—that no matter how confident I may sound about my future plans, the truth is that I’m scared and unsure. I run from course selections that might actually interest me, and instead, opt to take those that I know will be the easiest. I run from conversations with my parents and the advisor of my concentration, which I don’t even like, and from what next year means for me. I run from music too. I admire my friends and other music listeners who find solace in melodies, but to me, music will always be a fast track to unpleasant thoughts about my painful reality.
Meanwhile, Jane isolates me from my life and sucks me into her own…so maybe our friendship isn’t so healthy. Television can be a beautiful, distracting thing, but sometimes, you just have to get your shit together and schedule a meeting with your advisor.
When it comes to spring weekend, I can’t exactly say with honesty that I’m excited to hear Mitski remind me that “no one will save me” (“Nobody”). Thanks, girl! But I am looking forward to spending more time with my real-life cast of characters: my best friends. Sharing the experience with them will push me out of my emotional headspace—and you know, the fact that I’ll be drunk won’t hurt either. I’ll always look to Jane to help me forget about some aspects of my life, namely what exactly I’m doing with it—but there are other aspects I want to be fully present for. No distractions.