It takes a night ride for a song to truly sink into your skin sometimes.
It is winter now and golden hour tickles the planes of my face at merely 5. An hour later, the sun sets. By the time I step out of my office building at 7, I am greeted by the stinging slap of dropping nocturnal temperatures, engulfed in the silks of night.
It’s a 4 to 6 songs-long route from there in H.’s bright red honda civic that’s lived very well indeed.
The thing about H. is he’s a mélomane. He loves music, understands it, composes it, lives it, could tell you the roots and influences of every musical genre, and explain the story behind every Beatles song. His guitar is named Lana Del Rey. Stars light up in his eyes when he speaks of auteurs-compositeurs-interprètes, artists who write, compose and perform their own songs. Because of that, he really doesn’t mind what music you put on, if you jump from genre to genre, if you swerve into a gentle indie song right after blasting an 80s electro-pop classic. He doesn’t mind because he loves it all. This kind of passion is rare, this love for art so pure.
So I feel comfortable enough to share my playlist with him.
And what a loaded gesture that is: playlists are so intimate. Songs become so personal they may as well be us, telling our stories, spilling our deepest desires as though we had written and sung them. Songs are tender spots in our otherwise hardened exteriors. They are windows through which the light comes in; windows that can also be shattered. It is a tremendous exercise in trust to give a song to someone else. You hold your breath as the first note comes out, watch the person intently for any sign of appreciation or dislike. Your heart hammers between your ribs, threatening to burst or flee. ‘Why did I do this?’ stabs your mind a thousand times in a few seconds.
And then, the first smile. The first ‘Wow’, the delight behind the ‘Who sings this?!’
Together, H. and I comment on lyrics, gush about vocal registers and hum to instrumentals. We sing, we wait a beat and then belt out songs in traffic jams. We ugly-laugh into the night.
It’s a budding friendship.
I had recently gotten a song from Kodaline — a band that never ceases to endear themselves to me with how simple and arresting their songs are, how natural they feel, as though they had simply come to be one day, like wild, seasonal fruits.
I’d carried this song around on errands all about the city, ears too sensitive after 3 months’ silence to bear the overwhelming allness of the capital: clangs and whirs, beeps and honks, shuffling feet, crashes, shouts, crowds… Occasionally, I’d flicked the song to the side, skipped it.
It’s something of a mystery how this song that had slipped past me took on new meaning in a speeding red Honda. The beauty I had failed to catch all of a sudden filled the air, something of a Big Bang: from nothing to everything, it expanded, hot, into every atom, every particle of dust and air, every bit of night that rushed through the open windows and then out.
And I wanted to ask myself why, why I hadn’t understood it before, why it hadn’t hit like it had in that moment.
But I couldn’t, you know?
When Life gives you music, you dance. When Life hands you a moment, you take it, no questions asked.
Note: I hope you are doing well, wherever you are.
Also, am I the only person this sort of thing happens to? I am usually fairly confident in my ability to understand something deeply, especially if it’s of an artistic nature. But every now and then, I’ll have HUGE blind spots and exhibit an astounding lack of taste. Case in point, this song by Kodaline. But also Moana. And the movie ‘Her’. For some weird reason, it just doesn’t hit the first time around??