This is an excerpt from the ongoing draft of my memoir. All rights reserved.
Nine years ago, I got my heart broken. I cried. A lot.
Of everything that happened around then, one of the clearest moments I remember of the time, about 2 months after, is a bit of a weird story.
Some of my friends valiantly tried to cheer me up, but nothing really worked. We heard about a Christmas karaoke night at a British pub downtown. One of my friends came from out of town and practically had to drag me there. She knew I liked to sing, so I guess she thought it was worth my going so my mind would be preoccupied for a night. It became time to pick something to sing. She had chosen ‘Christmas Wrapping’ by the Waitresses, but as you probably imagine, I wasn’t feeling especially festive.
I chose one of my favorite Killers songs, ‘Spaceman’. No pun intended, I killed it, you know, the way kids today talk about killing it and doing a grand job. For a few years, I was obsessed with the Killers. When I discovered them, they were Americans who, honestly, were the closest thing we could get to a British synthpop band at the time.
Singing temporarily numbed my pain because, ultimately, I am and have always been a natural singer. There is something magical that happens within me when I open my mouth and a song comes out, whether it was when I sang lead on ‘O Holy Night’ in a high school performance or this night in a pub in Washington. It is a gift. Just one I never got to use the way it was intended. But that’s for another chapter of my memoir.
I hadn’t sung in public in ages, and yet the words came out easily, as if I had stepped out of my choir class in high school. I sing in the car. I sing in the shower. I sing at my computer during the workday while Spotify or a CD runs. Compared to most people who would find it a distraction, I am actually a more productive and much happier worker when music is on versus when it’s not. Three years ago, on a tour bus trip on the west coast of Ireland, I sang along to a Script song without thinking anyone would be listening to me. Some of my fellow riders applauded me. Three thousand miles away from home, that was quite funny.
What is it about singing that I find so wonderful? I have always known that the emotions of a song, packed into a song’s lyrics, melody, and other music of its make-up, speak directly to me. Further, this happens at a somewhat frightening level with certain songs for me, where I can actually feel my body tingling and vibrating, connecting to the song’s own sonic wavelengths. What a freaky thing to happen.
I have been reflecting more on this, trying to physically analyze what it is about these particular songs that are causing this physiological reaction. (I trained as a biologist at university, what can I say?) Is it the words? Is it the melody? The melody of the verse, or of the chorus? Is it a chord change? Is it the anthemic soaring of a song, either musically or lyrically, that wonderfully feel good quality that is instantly palpable to all but deathly difficult to write? It could be any or all of these things together in one song.
I’ve been trying to put a list together of these ‘triggering’ songs. The Beatles’ ‘I Should Have Known Better’ was one of the seminal moments of my life when I felt like I’d been slapped in the face and that what I was listening to was something truly amazing. It’s still amazing 32 years later.