Music makes us smile and bounce to a beat. It can also make us weep. It can fit every mood and - perhaps most importantlytells us as humans that we are not alone. If Taylor Swift can “shake off” whatever insults and rumors people throw at her, so can we! If a girl can reject Shawn Mendes, then we know we aren’t the only ones being let down by someone we know we could “treat better.” Regardless of genre, listening to music is a powerful piece of glue that holds together communities of all kinds.
If we’re so scared to admit our feelings until a song validates us, how can songwriters pour out their souls into a microphone or on a stage and bare themselves to an entire audience? As a songwriter, I once hit a wall where I felt that I couldn’t. A couple years ago, I wrote a snarky song out of anger towards an ex-boyfriend soon after our rough break-up. When I looked down at my journal and saw my song as a whole, my gut dropped. I felt incredibly embarrassed. How could I write such harsh things, no matter how true? Sure, the lines may have been clever zingers but did it make me a bad person to lash out so pettily? If I sang this in public, anyone who knew me would know exactly who it was about and surely judge me for it. The next time a friend asked to hear any new songs, I lied and said I hadn’t written any.
About a year passed and my roommate’s cat was the only one who had heard it. That day my best friend and I were sharing new songs and she mentioned being scared of a particular person hearing one of her songs because it was so clearly about them. I realized that I was far from alone in feeling embarrassed by my artistic expression. But does that mean it shouldn’t be expressed? This motivated me to finally share my song to human ears...and she loved it! She agreed that it was obvious who inspired it but that it didn’t matter anymore. Time has passed and we were artists. Our entire purpose is to create art. The hard part to accept was that the best art usually comes from the deepest layers of the heart. For an audience though, I still wasn’t ready to be that vulnerable.
Another year later, I attended a community workshop event where local songwriters come together to workshop new songs and get supportive and constructive feedback. I grew tired of the song looming over my head when people asked if I had written anything new. I finally cooked up the courage to show the song. Struggling to strum chords with trembling fingers, I managed to choke out the song to a room of fellow artists. I hardly remember singing it because I had built up this grand, out-of-proportion image that everyone was going to glare at me and think I was some horrible psycho ex-girlfriend who needed to grow up.
Quite the opposite happened. People laughed throughout the whole song and even cheered a couple times! When I finished, their feedback made me realize that all the immature anger that I felt when I wrote the song didn’t come across as immature anger but someone very hurt trying to make light of an awful break-up. Now that, I’m not embarrassed about. They even encouraged me to play it all the time!
Whether you write or listen to music, never forget that they come from real feelings and real people. All it takes is the right song to remind us that we are never alone.