By: Konner Scott
When I was about 9 or 10 years old, I noticed I was starting to develop a deepening passion for music. My parents were trying desperately to indoctrinate me with Queen’s catalog, but it just wasn’t taking. In particular, they were pushing the song “You Take My Breath Away”on me- an eerie, haunting, slow piano ballad with goosebump-inducing vocals from Freddie Mercury. I hated it. Every time my mom put it on, I would leave the room. At that time, I enjoyed classical music, and I occasionally could stomach certain film music (Disney in particular), but that was about it.
Not long after that, I heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the radio. It absolutely blew me away. I became obsessed. My parents had a copy of Queen’s “A Night at the Opera” album, which I quickly pilfered so I could listen to the song on repeat on the boombox in my room. And I’m talking on REPEAT. I had it playing for hours at a time. For some reason, my familiarity with theatrical classical music and Disney scores made that particular song, in my mind, a musical masterpiece.
That opened the floodgates. Naturally, I decided to explore other songs on that album, and found that I enjoyed many of them. I began to raid my parents’ CD collection, and discovered many other albums that spoke to me- the Beatles’ greatest hits collection, in particular, was just familiar enough after my Queen obsession that I quickly fell in love. I latched onto “In My Life” the same way I had latched onto “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and I would fall asleep listening to it on repeat.
Once again, the course of my musical trajectory was shaped dramatically when the band Kansas came into my life. My best friend’s dad bought me “The Best of Kansas” as a birthday gift, and “Carry on Wayward Son” pulled me in like nothing ever had before. To this day, I still consider it my favorite song. My two best friends also fell in love with that CD, and we still share a bond over our deep appreciation for Kansas’s music.
From that point until I was nearly in high school, I almost only listened to classic rock music. I couldn’t stomach anything else. It just didn’t resonate with me the same way the hits of Kansas, Queen, Styx, Foreigner, and Def Leppard did. Some of the classic rock I listened to pushed me in the direction of hard rock, which I developed a love for my freshman year of high school. Suddenly, I couldn’t get enough of Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, Rise Against, and Shinedown. Until I left for college, classic and hard rock remained about 95% of the music populating my playlists.
In retrospect, I wish I had pushed myself to branch out more in junior high and high school. I had a certain unwarranted pride in how closed-minded I was; rock music, to me, reigned supreme and anyone who disputed that was clearly wrong. I wonder how my musical journey would have been shaped by an earlier exposure to different styles and eras.
These days, I listen to just about everything. In college and in my adult life, I’ve made an effort to listen to, play, and understand, as much new music as I can. It didn’t happen all at once, though! Just like in my early years, I can only latch on to new music if it’s close enough to music I already love that the similarities captivate me and draw me in. As I got older, the novelties and differences in new artists and styles soon became familiar, and I continued to expand my palate upward and outward.
I’ve found it impossible to make too large a jump in my listening repertoire- if something is just a shade too unfamiliar, it doesn’t resonate and I lose interest quickly. The fascinating thing is how, through a slow expansion of my musical tastes, I’ve learned to love what I used to despise. So many songs and artists that friends and family had shown me years ago I had quickly discarded, yet I’ve rediscovered many of those songs and artists over time on my own terms, and they now make up a core part of my music library. It’s not until a song perfectly treads the line between familiarity and novelty that I can digest its beauty and bring it into my “musical zone”. Over the years, I’ve been able to engage this process enough to have an appreciation for nearly everything that’s become prevalent in our culture (with some exceptions, of course, but I won’t get into that).
Additionally, from my current vantage point, I see “You Take My Breath Away” as one of the most beautiful songs ever written.