A Moveable Feist
Tunes at a pitch only Elder Millennials can hear
Music is everywhere and I hate it. I’m almost 40 now. Growing up, listening to whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted was not a reality. I got my first Walkman when I was 12, a bright yellow job with a velcro strap, the idea being that you’d hold it as you walked or jogged. It also had an AM/FM radio, essential at the time because I didn’t own that many cassettes.
Through the radio, I could hear some cool stuff, but the “Alternative” station, WRRV, didn’t launch in the Hudson Valley until I was 13. Before then, I had to hope that K104 would play something good in between the Big Mountain cover of Baby, I Love Your Way and All-4-One’s I Swear.
Once WRRV was on the air, I could get my fill of “Alternative” music, but, there was no guarantee that I would get to hear exactly what I wanted to. I’m saying: I had to listen to a lot of 311 and Primitive Radio Gods in between bands I liked.
Off to college, I graduated to a Discman, boasting twenty seconds of anti-skip technology. It felt impossibly cool to walk around New York City with my own private soundtrack of Is This It? and Kid A. Still, I had to carry the albums I wanted to hear with me. As my CD collection grew, even into the iPod era, I would organize binders of CDs, making difficult decisions about which albums to bring on a trip. It took effort to get music—searching crates for import CDs, trying to impress the clerks at Other Music and Kim’s in hopes of finding the next cool thing, trading ripped CDs with friends. Even the existence of Napster and Scour didn’t always help. Mislabeled MP3s were legion, and colleges would crack down on bandwidth hogs.
At a certain point, though, iPods didn’t just provide me with 10,000 songs in my pocket, they provided 10,000 songs to bars, clothing stores and restaurants. As a brunch-time bartender, I heard the first Norah Jones album more times than I care to remember, along with whatever five other CDs were stuck in the six-CD changer behind the bar. Only a year or two later, restaurants started to develop their own playlists, giving chefs more cool points than they deserved and forcing diners to listen to Led Zeppelin during the pasta course. Heaven forfend!
Today, with the advent of streaming, easier music licensing, and my generation's ascendance into the advertising workforce, music I know is everywhere. Like, everywhere everywhere: during airplane boarding, doctor’s offices, and of course, commercials. There’s two separate commercials with covers or edited versions of OBD’s Baby, I Got Your Money on tv right now. Comfortably Numb was on at my dentist’s office yesterday—on the nose, even for a dentist. During my Mom’s initial chemo appointment this week, Welcome to the Jungle was the first song that played at the infusion center.
When I got a Walkman, I would have been elated to know that one day I’d be able to access all the music I wanted all of the time. Of course, the tradeoff I didn’t consider is that everyone else would get access to all the music all of the time, too. Maybe they don’t care about the incongruity of certain songs with certain moments or locations in life. But I sure do. So, please, I beg you: don’t put Hey Man, Nice Shot in a PSA for the COVID vaccine, or Virtual Insanity in an ad for teletherapy, or play anything by Peaches at the grocery store. I won’t be able to handle it.