This week’s topic is one of the most difficult ones that I’ve had to write about. Not because I couldn’t think of any songs that have changed my life, but because the list of songs is so long that I found it next to impossible to narrow it down to just five. But I’m going to give it a shot.
Music is a powerful force. It drives us, churns up emotions and tickles our feet to dance. A series of tense notes can leave you hanging on the edge of your seat and a thumping beat can make you involuntarily start tapping your toes. The music we listen to is like the soundtrack of our lives. It is beautiful and it can be heartbreaking. It can remind us of people, places and moments previously forgotten. It’s quite amazing.
So here are 5 songs that changed my life. Not necessarily my favourite songs, mind you, but ones that had an impact on me and my life.
1. Move in the Right Direction by Gossip.
This song came to me during one of the darkest moments in my life. I’d just been dumped by my boyfriend of nine years, I had to move out of the house we’d bought together and things felt desolate. My whole world, the future I’d been building towards for years had been utterly shattered. I had to completely re-assess my personal views about love and life and work towards untangling myself from the relationship. In addition to that, I had to do it all without my boyfriend, who had been my closest companion and biggest source of support for nearly a decade. It felt impossible, it hurt so deeply and I wanted to die. I mean that. I actually wanted to end my life. I had no concept of how to move forward and pick myself back up.
At about the same time that I was in crisis councelling, I heard this song on the radio. It just spoke to me and I rushed home to listen to it again. And then again. I began listening to it every morning and for a while it was my anthem. When I was feeling at my lowest, I’d sing to myself “One step closer, one day at a time” and just try to take those baby steps towards being Ok. And then in time I was OK. And then after a bit more time, I was fabulous.
2. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths.
This is another song that got me through a tricky time. I got really into The Smiths about halfway through college. In my final year at university I was unemployed. My job hunt was not going well at all, and I spent months applying for literally hundreds of jobs before I even got an interview. I became extremely disheartened and depressed, convinced that I would never find anything. I would listen to this song, and the words almost became like a prayer to me. I’d whisper it as I rode the bus to my interviews, I’d hum the melody as I scanned job-search websites, and I kept hoping. And eventually I did get a job. I think this song was one of the things that kept my head above water during that time.
3, Mmmmbop by Hanson
In my teen years, I was a massive Hanson fan. It all began when I was about eleven years old and I heard the opening jangling notes of Mmmbop on the radio. This kicked off an obsession that would last until I was fifteen. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to Mmmbop over the years, and even now those first few bars whisk me back to my bedroom one summer afternoon just before I began my final year of primary school. It’s nostalgia at it’s finest.
4. Overture from CATS by Andrew Lloyd Webber
I’m a huge lover of musical theater. The first show I ever saw live was CATS. I vividly remember sitting in a giant circus tent, the dimming of the lights and the electricity in my limbs as I heard those haunting bars that herald the beginning of this amazing musical. It lit a fire in my belly and I sat there with my mouth open, eagerly waiting to see what would happen next. I’ve now seen dozens of shows on stage, but to this day CATS is still my favourite. That overture set in motion a life-long love of musical theater and the desire to feel that electricity that always zips through me when the lights go down and the curtain opens.
5. Where did you sleep last night? by Nirvana.
In my late teen years, I was deeply into grunge and alternative music. And by far my favourite band was Nirvana. I just loved the gritty rawness of their music. This was a time in my life when I felt supremely frustrated. I was eighteen, living at home, halfway through my final year of high school. I was tired of living by my parent’s rules, tired of studying, tired of going to the same old places every damn day. I was a sexually frustrated nearly-woman in a long-distance relationship with a man who lived hours away, and private moments together were precious and few. I was just itching to get the hell out, to get some experience and excitement. To be able to do My Own Thing. And this song just crystallized all my frustration and longing. I would listen to it loud, and want to shriek along with Kurt in the final stanzas. It was a kind of release, a catharsis, that would substitute any real escape until I could make my exit into the world.
What songs changed your life? I really enjoyed this prompt, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.