Music can be a lot of things.
It can adapt to any mood, or it can create a totally separate, new mood. For every completely random, twisted situation and moment, there is a song somewhere out there that fits the occasion perfectly. College is full of these unexplainably chaotic scenarios, and music is always there to fill the senseless void.
For me, the music of certain bands often plays specific roles throughout my everyday college life. Here is my attempt to explain some of those roles:
The Feel-Good Band
Let’s face it. College is full of ups and downs. Sometimes the downs are a little too much to take without a good dose of music. Enter the Feel-Good Band, also known as the Cheer-Up Band. For me, this is Fountains of Wayne.
If you’ve only heard “Stacy’s Mom,” I don’t want to hear your opinions on this band. I find it to be a highly creative, witty band with some seriously fun songs. An example: the song “Mexican Wine,” which begins its third album with the verse, “He was killed by a cellular phone explosion / They scattered his ashes across the ocean / The water was used to make baby lotion / The wheels of promotion were set into motion.” This is a band that proves it’s all right to just have fun with music.
The Go-To Band
Everybody has that one band that exemplifies everything they love musically. It’s the band you’ve “grown up listening to,” the band people think you’re “obsessed with” and the band that you are ashamed of being able to name every unreleased song the band has ever written. My Go-To Band is Third Eye Blind.
Lyrically and musically, its creativity has always captivated me. Its self-titled debut album has been the primary soundtrack to my life since 1997 (wow, that’s a long time ago). It isn’t a big deal to me that I know every word on that album or that I can hum every note to those guitar solos. And I’m completely not ashamed that I know all the words to “Scattered,” a song only released as a demo before anyone had ever heard of Third Eye Blind.
The importance of a Go-To Band cannot be underestimated in college. I’m talking about music that makes you feel comfortable – something familiar that you can always fall back on.
The Angry Band
There are plenty of times in college when it’s necessary to just blow off some steam. This is when you throw on one of your best Angry Bands and crank up the volume to a level that might be bad for your ears, but you don’t care – you’re angry.
Here, there is room for interpretation. It can be the outright musical intensity of a band like Rage Against the Machine. It can be the classic rock voltage of a band like AC/DC. It can be the rebellious punk rock attitude of a band like the Clash. It isn’t hard to find a band that will help you unleash frustrations.
The Pensive Band
Not all emotions are as clear cut as anger or frustration. Sometimes you can’t really describe how you’re feeling, and you need to take some time to yourself for a little reflection and thinking. The ideal Pensive Band has a more mellowed-out sound and plenty of thought-provoking lyrics that can hopefully get you out of your weird mood. Taking a walk with one of these bands on your iPod is a fairly decent solution.
Some of my favorites in this category are U2, the Fray, John Mayer, Nada Surf and Coldplay. I may not exactly understand the significance of Chris Martin telling me that the stars “are all yellow,” but listening to Coldplay’s “Yellow” while staring up at the stars could easily take me out of any kind of emotional funk, if only temporarily.
The You-Oughta-Know Band
A lot of students have their causes, which they stand by passionately. Similarly, it’s possible to feel the same way about a band you feel is entirely underrated or underappreciated. This is a band you recommend to all your friends, you play their music all the time within earshot of others and have their biography on tap for anyone who asks, “Who is this?”
Here’s my pitch: the Damnwells. It’s the brainchild of singer/songwriter Alex Dezen, founded in Brooklyn, N.Y. The band’s lineup has evolved throughout its career, but its basic, solid rock sound has stayed fairly constant. It’s gone on successful tours with the Fray, Los Lonely Boys and the Dixie Chicks and somehow, never gained any kind of mainstream following. In today’s music business, the Damnwells is a tragic example of talent not equating to wide acclaim. Nevertheless, I plug the Damnwells to anyone who will listen, and here I’ve done it again, rather shamelessly.
I don’t just walk around campus with my iPod blaring for the purpose of background music. There is a definite purpose in the majority of my music choices (unless it’s one of those days where I leave my iPod on shuffle). Of the 200 plus artists in that digital music box, all of them fit some kind of role in my life.
Music is one of the only consistent things that make sense in a college environment that is ever-changing and wholly unpredictable.
Kevin Brosky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.