Monday, November 16, 2009


I love iTunes. I really do. I love that you can search through all kinds of lists, get recommendations based on a computer 'genius' that is often, oddly dead-on, and even stroll down memory lane by looking at the various hit lists of past calendar years.

I'm also noticing something that I don't like about myself and my relationship with iTunes.

What started as a helpful tool that enabled me to purchase a song or two has turned into an ugly musical crutch that gives hideous wooden armpit splinters.

Do you remember anxiously awaiting the release of an album? Do you remember not knowing which songs you would love, and wondering if the lyrics would be as meaningful or as superficial as you needed them to be?

Despite appreciating the ability to purchase just one song from New Kids On The Block to remember way-back-when and tickle my fancy, I am sad at the Secret Service that I have unknowingly subscribed to through iTunes. I no longer have the new album excitement.

I don't know the last time I had to pull off that red tab at the top of a compact disc, and fight my way through that stupid tape label that sticks to the case like old ladies to a buffet table. I don't know the last time I put an unscratched, lovely, shiny c.d. into the player and awaited new melodies to invade my senses. I don't know when it was, but it has been far too long.

I know, I know...iTunes allows you to purchase the whole album. There isn't any reason why I shouldn't buy the whole set of songs instead of just the fun, catchy one that is on the radio. But I've been snared into this trap and just now realized it. It isn't their fault, just as it isn't Starbucks fault that it now makes instant coffee. But it is really, really sad if I choose to drink it.

I'm not old enough to know what it was like to wait for an 8 track to come out. I'm going to make some of you cringe and admit that I have no idea what an 8 track even looks like. But I did grow up with records in giant sleeves, the soothing crackle and pop when the needle touched the record's grooves. I remember cursing at the tape player when it rewound too far or tried to be smart and rewound whole songs or sides while I waited in agony to hear a particular favorite. I remember when my dad brought home his first c.d. player, and thinking secretly that it would never work (me, not him...he is all for technological highflyers).

I grew up on the cusp of the 'get it now' generation. I certainly partake in it at the moment, but I also remember when it was new and basically useless except in the exiting theory that One Day...we might have cell phones smaller than a breadbox. I see both sides of the coin, and understand the pros and cons of the same. It is a bit of a current trend to scoff at convenience, but only when we have the time to do so. Microwaves are for slobs who don't know how to have a family meal...except when it is time to be out the door and the kids want hot breakfast and so I'll use it just this once but really I don't want to just need to because of this pressing situation. How very hypocritical of us!

My jumbled thoughts equal this:

I remember having to wrestle with an album. When I heard something on the radio that I had to have, I bought the album and listened to the singles first. And then, over time, came to find that the non-released stuff was often my favorite. I didn't know the lyrics, had to listen to them time and again to understand what the emo singer was trying to tell me. I sang along, often getting the melody wrong, until the song was part of me and then became personal history.

I wouldn't have chosen many of my all-time favorites if I had just heard them playing from the radio. I wouldn't have purchased them, learned them, chewed on them, hummed them while staring out the window.

I'm sad now that I realize I've been so very selfish with many albums and artists. I've saved money on impulse purchases, no doubt. But I also don't have secret unknown songs that I can share with friends. I haven't discovered if an artist has lovely lyrics about pre-Victorian poetry or slow angry thoughts about the fall of Communism. I've missed out, and the artists have missed in passing along something other than what the radio lets them release.

I hope to buck this trend of mine the next time I click in iTunes. I hope to just find an artist I like, and go for it...hoping they won't disappoint, hoping to find a gem hidden in the folds of the carefully crafted sounds of generic radio.

Maybe they'll sing about love. Maybe it will be about life. Maybe it will be about 8 tracks. Regardless, I can tune in and listen for a bit, and remember the 'good ol' days' when I had to listen to it all to hear it all.


Kristi said...

Oddly enough, last week I bought a new CD for myself for the first time in (other than a Christmas album)....cannot really remember when...and really was so excited. I experienced exactly what you are describing. Um. Yes, I realize this sounds weird...but don't judge me too harshly. The hour is late. But we did have an 8 track player when I was a kid. I blame this on my parent's choice to have me when they were older and hanging on to the past. hehehe

Kristi said...

AND...I just used "really" waaay too many times. I would fix it, but it won't let me. :)

Talitha said...

Funny you should bring this up. I bought the Train album in CD form, something I haven't done in ages! You know what? I have missed getting the "experience" of a complete album. And yes, I am glad that I get to hear songs that will never be played on the radio. Good observation about itunes. I agree completely.