My Problem With Good Music

This will not sound sane: I have a problem with good music.

Music is not the problem—I am the problem. When I hear a great song, I put it on repeat for days. I listen to nothing else, soaking in everything that encompasses the song. My freshman year of college, the song Memory Remains by Metallica was my token repeated hard rock song, so many times so that a kid down my hall actually yelled through closed doors and walls to "STOP PLAYING THAT D*MN SONG!!".

Worse, however, is when what I love is just part of the song, and sometimes it's not even that the song is incredible, but that something about the song is so compelling to me that I just need to listen to it over and over again.

Take my most recent musical obsession: Lady, originally by Styx, arranged for for the Buffalo Chips1 by Michael King. When I first heard this track, I thought nothing of it. I was unfamiliar with the original, and found the recording to be relatively uninteresting. It has very little dynamic contrast -- basically a song sung on mf for its entirety. I rated it three stars, placing it squarely in the middle of the tracks on the album, Blue and White.

Then, I listened to the whole album on repeat few times with the intention of refining my ratings and eventually writing a review of the album here. The song started to bother me… I was already annoyed with the track's mixing2, but I think the fact that the song itself is so good kept nagging at me. I noticed the Mr. Roboto cues in the last chorus; I increased the rating to four stars.

Everything would have been fine after that, but my stupid brain would not shut off. I started noticing other things about the arrangement... how the background parts grow in complexity, how the syllables morph a bit over time to make even the lines repeated in each section more interesting, and that there were more Styx songs layered in the last chorus than just Mr. Roboto. I increased the rating to five stars, and all was lost. I've now listened to the track about 120 times, 110 times more than any other track on that disc3

This song is one complex, but also strikingly simple, arrangement. The recording quality is great, minus my annoyance I might have with its dynamic blandness; even the gap in dynamics is countered by the growing complexity of its underlaying arrangement.

And therein lies the problem: what I really want to hear over and over again is the last 20-30 seconds. The weaving parts and resulting chords are just flat-out gorgeous, but it's impractical and rude to everyone around me to just replay the last part of a song ad nauseum. Additionally it means that this is the only song I want to hear for days. All other songs are dead to me until my ears have decided that they've had enough.

My children's requests for one more play through of What Does The Fox Say? fall upon deaf ears.4

  1. Yes, this is my college a cappella group. Yes, I am biased. No, I don’t care.

  2. If your first chorus is loud, you have to come down a notch for the verse that follows it. It can’t be the same level as the chorus. Come on now.

  3. No Fire, originally by Jon Peter Lewis, is also a fantastic track mostly because the song is already beautiful and the soloist knocks it out of the park.

  4. At least I wish they did. I’m so sick of that song.

Mar 6th, 2015