It's another Tuesday night and I'm at another indie show headlined by whichever underground band I discovered for the first time three days ago. I wait for the set to begin, watching the band unpack their equipment, observing the crowd, calculating the hierarchy of alternativity.
This week, the most popular concertgoers wear mom shorts, cardigans, and chunky white sneakers, though last time it was ugly sweaters and combat boots. A blurry line barely distinguishes audience members from performers.
I stay in my usual spot. I'm not here to talk. I'm not even here to feel better -I'm here to experience the music and to hear that someone else feels the same thing as me.
This seems to be the popular consensus among indie music listeners. We know for a fact that our music won't make us feel better -when we hear a sad indie song, it will provide a sense of comfort in the fact that we are not alone in our feelings, but the feelings will only be magnified after the song ends.
It's midnight and I'm making the 20-minute walk back home. The show was so good and now I'm ruminating; the band's songs hit exactly what I was feeling. It was like they were reading from my diary. In fact, the whole show felt like it was marinating in angst.
I push the pedestrian button. A robotic voice commands, "Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait."
I'm losing patience.
"Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait."
Why don't I feel any better than I did before the show? Why do I embrace music that makes me feel this way?
For many people, listening to sad music provides a feeling of emotional relief and connection to others. "Listeners identify with the emotions expressed by the music or the meaning of the lyrics," wrote Jeannette Bicknell, Ph.D. for Psychology Today. "They seek this kind of identification when they want to re-experience those same emotions."
In this case, the lyrics and underlying messages of sad music encourage listeners to come to terms with their emotions and organize their feelings, improving their mood overall.
However, for some, myself included, listening to sad music only amplifies any existing negative feelings. According to Bicknell, some listeners treat sad music like a "memory trigger" in order to relive past events or remember past people. In this case, sad music actually worsens instead of enhancing listeners' moods.
This shines a light on the power of media consumption on the human brain. Just like TV and books, music drastically affects mood and perspective. Therefore, it's important to monitor your music and its effects on the choices you make, how you view the world, and how you treat others.
These days, I still love my sad indie rock and heartbreak songs, but I listen with caution. I don't allow myself to wallow in negativity and disappointment. I don't listen to a song that I know will have a negative impact on me mentally or spiritually. Music is one of the most powerful influences on me, and I don't let sad songs get the best of me.
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