You are what you consume. Is that true? It sort of feels right. I no longer watch “important” movies if they’re hopelessly violent or nihilistic (although I will note here that I think “Fight Club” is neither of those things), and I rarely watch horror movies anymore. I don’t want to flood my system with adrenaline; I’m trying to balance it.

As a singer, I often listen to songs I’d like to sing. Unfortunately, for women vocalists, that far too often falls into the category of “boo hoo”, crying-in-my-beer songs that are, frankly, more than a little depressing. So am I listening to these songs because I’m depressed, or am I depressed from listening to these songs? I think because I’m a writer, and so susceptible to word imagery, that I can wring out every last drop of resonance out of those depressing songs. Is that good for me? Probably not.

Because when I make a conscious effort to listen to more positive, upbeat music, I seem to feel a lot better.

What’s your experience? How does it affects you?

10 thoughts on “Programming

  1. One time while returning from New Hampshire I was driving and getting progressively more bummed out, more depressed, more and more filled with angst as I headed South. I snapped out of it when I realized it was David Gray on the cassette, droning on, slowly pushing me over the Cliffs of Insanity! I threw out the tape (literally – at the next stop) and put on Bob Marley’s Songs of Freedom. Saved!

  2. This is one of the reasons I always loved Cyndy Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun because it’s rare that women singer/songwriters embrace joy in that fashion. I always saw that song as a groundbreaking feminist statement.

    If you don’t know Ida Maria’s I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked, check this out for a gleeful little number:

  3. I think you’re pretty close to it. Beer crying songs either bug or bore me. I can only handle a couple then I gotta change the mood. Maybe it’s one of the reasons I enjoy so few women vocalists. Or maybe I only get to hear that side of their repertoire.

    I wonder, how much are emotive songs ‘expected’ from women. In other words, how much is choice of what to record driven by business or market considerations, consciously or unconsciously.

  4. Don’t get me wrong, I like those songs. I just think I need a more well-balanced diet, tunewise. Which is why I’m always checking out the new stuff! But I wonder how much of the male aversion to those songs is based in the old “men don’t cry” mythology, too.

  5. Most feel-good songs bore the dickens out of me (Little Feat excepted). Not that I insist on bumming myself out, but I can always put on Richard Thompson, for instance, and feel redeemed. There’s a richness and a complexity to the emotional experience, not just a cry in your beer. (C&W tearjerkers bore the dickens out of me too.)

  6. I’ve been listening to as much Lucinda Williams as I can, especially the live material (which is wildly various). I am in awe at the size of her repertoire. I find that my mood is more (or less) elevated by tempo rather than lyrics. So, when I find an up tempo Lucinda Williams, I’m happy — even though the light of the lyrics will be shot through with darkness. But so is life, and she understand that like nobody else.

  7. And I’d say that his refusal to suppress emotion is what makes Johnny Cash great — though the spectrum of emotions is pretty raw, there they are.

    Well if they freed me from this prison,
    If that railroad train was mine
    I bet I’d move it on a little farther down the line
    Far from Folsom prison, that’s where I want to stay
    And I’d let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away….

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