Which came first: the music or the misery?

I took the headline of this article from a Fall Out Boy song (people who say they don’t like FOB are ridiculous and I trust them less than people who pour ketchup all over their chips instead of dipping them like normal, sophisticated, human beings). Fall Out Boy is a perfect example of a band whose music, and more importantly, lyrics can alleviate and drop your mood in seconds. As much as it’s true that music can make you happy – is it also the case that certain songs can often encourage a bad mood?

People often laugh when I say that I’m a music editor because I seem to be set in my ways with what I listen to. Although I would say that this is probably quite accurate, as I don’t really see the appeal of DJs and certain genres that are mostly about the beat and bass. But I actually do have a quite diverse taste in music, the one and only thing I look for in a good tune is great lyrics. What I cannot deny, however, is that often the music I listen to exaggerates my mood. I don’t think I’ve ever grown out of my “14-year-old Emo” phase. In the same way that watching a weepy film or reading a heart-warming book can control how you think or feel, listening to songs which are basically poetry set to a tune can make you go from a bit “meh” to fully existentialist.

When we were younger, my best friend and myself used to have this habit of listening to our iPods (2nd generation nano) whilst doodling in notebooks. Our dramatic adolescent lives would often become pages upon pages of other people’s words and the occasional drawing of broken hearts. Today, we’ve replaced the paper and pens with Twitter and Instagram, and we even have “mood playlists” available to us on Spotify – nothing changes.

Should this stop? Should we grow up and deal with our problems like grown ups? Considering I’m not entirely sure what that entails, I doubt I will.

This is because, in a way, music is just cheap therapy (£4.99/month for students on Spotify). In Eminem (and Dido)’s famous track “Stan”, the crazed-fan describes something that a lot of us probably do: “I can relate to what you’re saying in your songs, so when I have a shitty day, I drift away and put ’em on”.  So not only can music be used as therapy for brain damage victims, it can also be therapeutic for mind damage. Music is important to me because of this. As once sang by the magnificent Frank Turner: everyone can find a song for every time they’ve lost and every time they’ve won” – you can create a soundtrack for every mood and situation, literally tailoring your own audio treatment.

Moreover, some gigs can often feel like a group therapy session. I know myself that I have literally “prescribed” myself to going along to certain shows, through certainty that all my problems will melt away as soon as the guitars start. Whilst music festivals are the ultimate form of escapism – a couple of hundred strangers in field with little access to the “outside” world and its worries.

So this is where the ultimate importance of music lies: it allows us to escape. Whether that escape is into a world inhabited only by like-minded gig lovers; into a magic land where the only thing that exists is the beat pumping out the sound system; or into our own little world to allow us wallow to in our sadness and doodles. But after we’ve allowed ourselves to be (mindlessly) self-indulgent* and a bit “emo” we can skip from MCR to Marley and remember that “everything little thing is gonna be alright!”

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I don’t know how I’d cope without music.

*spot the pun.


By Mhari McNeild.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);