I Bet You Think This Song Is About You

Music is such a personal experience. It’s a means for both its creators and its fans to express themselves and how they feel. The self-centered bastards. Here’s taking a quick look at why we borrow other people’s experiences, and what that means – if anything.

There’s this bit early on in The Beatles Anthology where Sir Paul points out that one of the very early things that drove those forerunners of pop idolatry to rework their lyrics writing was the fact that many of their early tracks kept referencing an ever-invisible “You” or a persistently bipolar “Me”. He didn’t put it in those terms exactly, but what he’s talking about is pretty clear if you listen to early Beatles records. It’s all “Love Me Do” this and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” that.

Paint it on your forehead.

It’s not as if later tracks don’t feature the same You-ing, I-ing and Me-ing, but the point is that they noticed somewhere at the start, and they made an effort (for a while) to shake things up and write songs about a couple other things, places or people.

But the reason I bring any of this up has nothing to do with The Beatles specifically, only a bit to do with music, and a lot more to do with human beings in general. Silly, sentient humans with all our great big feelings and desires.

Identity is a composite of every experience you’ve ever had. The precise nature of your personal reality is built from events that could involve anyone, but that the intricacies of your own mind best reflect to no one but you. When we listen to music, we all ingest the same basic information, but our perceptions build a personal meaning into the listening experience. Putting aside taste or preference for a moment, whenever you listen to a romantic song, you’re probably going to put yourself in the role of the “protagonist” so that the lyrics now reflect your personal saga rather than the songwriter’s.

So why are you such a self-centered cunt as to borrow someone else’s words to think about Yourself?

"Well, who's that asshole then?"

I type this far too often, and say it out loud even more, but in the universe, “everything is a microcosm of everything else”. Perceptions and experiences are linked in a perpetual cycle of self-involvement. And, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but so is humanity. Although it’s our self-loathing that can force us NOT to act, it’s that same self-centeredness that, in the form of our willpower and personal drive, pushes us to build cities, fly rockets, save lives and write songs. It would appear that that’s just the way we’re built.

Every song you’ve ever heard, every film you’ve ever watched, every novel you’ve ever read could ALL be about you. If you want the experience to be deeply personal – and you really, really do – then you can take something that isn’t even yours and become part of it. You can become the most significant part, in the form of “You” and “Me”, if you like. But realize that your own experience isn’t the only valid one – and just like The Beatles expanded their lyrics to include other voices, you can – and maybe should – expand your life to include the experiences of others.


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