Column: The soundtrack of our day

By Renee Thessing

Everyone has one and those who don’t have one, want one. Yes, that’s right. I’m talking about iPods.

Listening to music on an iPod is a unique experience, but until Tuesday, I didn’t quite understand why.

I loved listening to my own, and a certain song could easily tempt me to break out into dance, just like the commercials. Of course, as I walked to the Quad, I would only tap my foot or swing my arm to the beat.

Why? I’m in public. Now, listening to a song in my bedroom would be a different story. In my room, I can belt out the lyrics and dance like nobody is watching (because no one is watching).

This is the beauty of iPods: this little device merges your private and public life. As you listen to your favorite song, you seem cut off from the world. The music functions as a soundtrack to your every movement. You’re not in reality, but rather your own little movie starring you. Since most of us choose music based on our moods, the music narrates your life.

When we’re sad, we listen to sad music, and when we’re optimistic, we listen to a song like, “Beautiful Day.” U2’s lyrics (and LAS major Kim’s song choice) rang true on Tuesday, the day I chose to find out exactly what everyone was listening to. I braved the crowd of those cut off from the world: the ones who forget to say “excuse me” and ignore you (or pretend to ignore you) because they can’t hear you.

Maybe you were one of the lucky few I stopped right in front of, smiled at, and asked what you were listening to. Every person returned the smile and some laughed with embarrassment. I was invading their private life. No one was supposed to know the exact song they were listening to at that moment, especially if it was an embarrassing one – not what they usually listened to.

My research provided some expected and unexpected findings. Tuesday was a particularly sunny day so I expected an upbeat tempo. Out of the 63 people’s music tastes, most were listening to some type of alternative rock.

The most unexpected song was Don Mclean’s “American Pie,” Alvin’s – a biology major – choice. However, Alvin wasn’t the only one to break out the old school. Other students listened to Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere,” the Beatles “Hey Jude,” Frank Sinatra’s “Young at Heart” and Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing.”

Then, we have the students who listened to the semi-old school, the songs we haven’t heard on the radio in quite a while. These included Pearl Jam’s “Given to Fly,” Counting Crows’ “Hanging Around,” Sister Hazel’s “All For You,” The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love,” Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Semisonic’s “Closing Time,” and No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak.”

Only three students listened to country and five students listened to rap. Also three students listened to international music – Brazilian, Korean and Japanese artists.

The most popular artists, all with two people listening to their music, were Frank Sinatra, Janet Jackson, The Fray, Blink 182 and Rob Thomas.

People walking on the Quad and those studying in the library had the same range in the type of music they listened to. They listened to up-tempo music and slower beats in both cases. Only one person was listening to classical music while he studied.

So do my results have any true significance? Most likely, no. Maybe they will remind you of an artist you forgot about. My goal was to interrupt people’s disconnection from the world around them, and in my research, my most interesting finding was that everyone is really, really nice. It’s a lie that people just want to be in their own little world. When it comes to music, everyone is ready to talk. We all have different preferences but we all enjoy the power of music. It has the ability to change our mood, to make us smile. I only suggest that you share the private happiness your iPod brings with the public world around you.

Renee Thessing is a junior in LAS. Her column appears on Thursdays. She hopes all her readers have a fantabulous summer. She can be reached at [email protected] illini.com.