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What kind of music do you like?

The age-old question: what type of music do you like? In general, the meme answer to that question is “anything but rap and country.”  I could never relate, as someone who was an avid hip hop fan and felt like my upbringing in the South made me simpatico to the sultry sounds of Darius Rucker (among other artists). When you really think about it, it’s odd to decide what type of music you like based on genre alone. I struggle to place my music taste because there’s so much that exists in a song beyond the genre.

I was listening to a podcast where one of my favorite artists, Tyler, the Creator talked about his process in creating his incredible album Igor. At some point, he started to talk about how good chords were the first thing that he heard in a song. For Tyler, he listens to a song for the chords first, then the drums and the bassline, and then the lyrics. Even with vocals, the sound of the vocals is more important than what’s actually being said. I relate to this— although drums and bassline are just as important as chords to me, I’m fully incapable of paying attention to the lyrics of songs until I’ve listened to them dozens of times. I still don’t know most of the words of some of my favorite songs that I’ve heard hundreds of times. 

Music, like all art, has a fundamental purpose of showcasing an experience. For a lot of songs, that experience is a particular feeling or point in time or a scene. In certain moods, all I care about is finding the connection to emotion. In other moods, all that matters is connecting to a scene of dancing and having a good time. Music is the only type of art that I try to always keep an open mind with. Compared to any other form of art, it feels the most unknowable in terms of what I will like and what I won’t, even though it’s the most familiar. At the same time, even though I’m a writer, music will always be my most cherished form of art. I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t love music and I’ve found it to be an equalizer— everyone knows something about the music they love most. And while some turn to great writing in times of turmoil or joy, most people turn to music for solace, finding comfort or strength in its universality. Even when I turn to writing, I still need a good playlist.

Looking back at my most played songs of 2019, most of them map to some experience in my life or some relationship in my life. There’s “Panini” by Lil Nas X, which I played on loop for an hour while I descended a hiking trail with two sprained ankles on a trip with people I barely knew (but were still so nice!). There’s “Jaan Pehchan Ho” by Mohammed Rafi, which was a great soundtrack for driving down Georgia 400 with my mum in the weeks after graduation before I moved to California.  There’s “Internacionales” by Bomba Estéreo, which I first heard at SXSW at a concert with my friend Emeli. Listening to each of these songs is like hopping into a time machine and reliving the moments with people who’ve left an impact on me. 

At the same time, there are the songs that would simply help to make the normal days easier. I misheard the hook to “Lazy and Stupid” by Ibra as “I’m lazy and stupid and can’t find a job,” and let the song become my most-played song of the year as I lamented the lack of results of my job search. As I pondered my move across the country, I hummed to “2021” by Vampire Weekend, thinking about the line “I could wait a year, but I couldn't wait three” as how long it might be before I moved back to Georgia to be with my family again. And of course, there was the irreplaceable “Work B*tch” by Britney Spears that would motivate me to do anything and everything. 

So, to answer the initial question, all I can really say is: I don’t know. I know I like ambient music and pop-punk and nu-metal and alternative hip hop and pop and folk and bhangra and jazz and indie rock and ghazals and bhajans and emo, but does any of that capture what I like? 

Maybe it’s better to be accurate than precise: at the end of the day, I just love music.
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Nikhil · 325327 Georgia Tech Station · Atlanta, GA 30332 · USA

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