As I listen to my 5-star rated songs on shuffle, it occurs to me that this playlist is the sonic equivalent of a photo album. Each song that plays reminds me of a point in my life when it struck a particular chord in me. Taking a step back to view this timeline from a distance, I am able to trace some broader arcs of my personality.
I see from a few remnants of easy listening that my early years were shaped by what played on the radio in my mother’s car, when nearly every commute involved at least one Beach Boys song and I could identify the majority of songs within the first few seconds of play. (We must have been in the car a lot.)
Once I started selecting my own soundtrack, I chose almost exclusively male artists and bands. I listened to the lyrics and elated in songs telling stories or teaching me things. 1990s Sting was a clear frontrunner for several years. College brought me Dar Williams and Jewel, but still my library was heavily masculine.
As Hollywood sourcing agents began showcasing smaller, independent voices, I found a string of male solo artists, such as Joe Purdy, Alexi Murdoch, and Greg Laswell, playing behind my favorite TV shows. The songs I enjoyed became as much about the mood being set as they were about the words being sung.
It is only recently that I discovered the female voice, singing of experiences that parallel my own. I am now drawn to music from artists more like me, bravely sharing their personal perspectives with insights like glasses I can don to examine myself. Many additions to my music library over the last several years trace back to two opening acts I happened to catch, leading to a satellite of artists connected by geography or talent, from Julie Peel and
Elizabeth & the Catapult, to newer finds like Mercy Bell, Emilie Mover, and Amber Rubarth.
Listening again to all the songs shuffling through my many years takes me back to each different era of my life, and I jump around my history in an auditory hopscotch game down memory lane. I see how my priorities have shifted, from learning, to feeling, to reflecting. Yes, my musical tastes have evidently evolved, and they are proof that I have done just the same.