Hearing vs. Listening to Music

How many times have you heard a song without really knowing what it’s about? I know that I’m guilty of passively listening to music, partly due to our overexposure to the same songs. Think top-40 radio. I’m not bashing radio, but having interned at a popular radio station gave me a new perspective on how it can be damaging to artists. It’s great that radio can get a song out there to a wide array of audiences, but stations often take it to a new level and play the same songs over and over and over again; to the point where nobody ever wants to hear that song again. “Blurred Lines” in the summer of 2013 is a perfect example of this. I couldn’t make it 10 minutes in my car without hearing Robin Thicke tell me how much I want it. I’m shuddering at the thought. “Cause you’re a good girllll.” The beat was so catchy that it took me three weeks to even process that the lyrics basically encouraged rape. With the song’s overexposure, I can’t even imagine how many times I heard it during those three weeks.

Then I started listening. It changed everything.

I took in the lyrics and processed them. I sat down with a pair of headphones and listened to the song without any distractions. I wasn’t flipping through a magazine, checking Facebook, or texting my friends. I dedicated those three or four minutes to the song. I was then able to form my own opinion on its production and lyrical quality. Next time I heard the song, I didn’t find it so catchy after all.

I encourage you to start taking in music like you do books and paintings. It’s hard to multitask when you’re staring at a painting or reading a novel; yet it’s too easy to get other things done with your headphones on. Listening to music requires more dedication and self-control than hearing it. It requires thought and a conscious effort to understand. It’s worth everything because once you truly listen to a song and take in every single word and beat, you give it the ability to shake you and move your inner core.

I’m not saying that you can’t use music as background noise or that you shouldn’t listen to music while you’re trying to clean your room. I am encouraging you to take time to actually listen to songs so that you truly understand them the next time you hear them on the radio.

Music is art. It’s time we start remembering that.



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