Ziyaad has been rubbing digital elbows with your favourite artists since 2012. Follow him for updates on music, television, and public transit.
“You haven’t heard (insert the name of a new album you haven’t heard) yet?! You’re so late!”
We’ve all heard it at least once. Unfortunately, it often comes from a friend. Frankly, I’ve heard it one too many times. Judging from the frequency I hear these comments, I think we easily forget how negativity affects our outlook on experiences.
Our generation’s obsession with being first or early has resulted in a fear of being late. I believe this fear came with the hyperconnectivity of the internet. We now have the ability to see everything as it happens; whether it be news, interactions, or mistakes. When we can see everyone else’s lives play out on a timeline, it’s easy to compare our lives to theirs. This side-by-side comparison of units that don’t share the same measure is what leads us to being self-conscious.
In any case, the anxiety of feeling late is a terrible one. It makes you feel left out in a world where ease of access is fundamental to our media environment. A listener identified as late now feels obligated to rush towards unknown experiences. These pressures feel so much more overwhelming because we now see it online, playing out in real time right in front of our eyes. For example, when everyone listens to an album on the day of release and you don’t, you just become late.
The internet made consuming art easy and accessible, but streaming services may have inadvertently worsened the late phenomenon. Between Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal, we literally have access to millions of albums and tens of millions of songs. Each service also has their share of streaming exclusives, early streaming releases, and original content. Arguably, there is no reason why we should be late. However, I think it’s exactly that enormous selection that should allow us to take our time. If you’re listening to music at your own pace, are you actually late?
For example, take The Weeknd’s latest project Starboy, which raked in 40 million streams in a single day. When you’ve waited over a year to listen to the RnB star’s new music, it’s easy to understand the impulse to excitedly stream Starboy as soon as it was released. These listeners genuinely wanted to rush towards this exciting new musical chapter. That excitement should be the driving force in experiencing new things. Lateness wasn’t in the equation. They listened to an album when they wanted to because they wanted to do it.
We shouldn’t act on the fear of being late. Instead, we should disregard the pressure to abide by someone else’s arbitrary, self-imposed deadlines. Enjoy each and every one of these new experiences on your own time, outside the bubble of time-sensitivity and lateness.
We shouldn’t act on the fear of being late.
The primary reason I wait to try out an album is that I want to be sure I’m ready for it. Everyone has their own individual music taste. Like our taste palate, our sonic palate is accustomed to the sounds we experience frequently. When we crave something, we pick from the selection we have subconsciously curated. However, like acquired tastes, we can grow fond of new music when we are exposed to it.
This shift happens to us more often than we think. Let me take you back to 2011. I’m still relatively unfamiliar with popular music but I’m infatuated with Gucci Mane and The Black Eyed Peas. There’s been whispers at school about some fantastic new singer I know nothing about. Feeling left out, I load up his biggest song on YouTube. It’s called Novacane, and as it begins, I find myself watching this dude sulk around in a well-furnished room, trapped by apparitions of women and animals in what I imagine is a terrible high, itself a result of some terrible life decisions
I didn’t understand Frank Ocean, his music, or his appeal. For something so stripped down and simple, it was foreign to me. Compared to Gucci Mane and The Black Eyed Peas I thought this was incredibly mundane. Most of my sources for music didn’t curate and share anything outside of hip hop and traditional RnB. If it wasn’t on the the radio or Hot New Hip Hop I didn’t know it, and frankly, I didn’t consider it all that hot. It wasn’t until I discovered a music blog called Pigeons and Planes, who had been covering hip hop, RnB, and rock in addition to alternatives within their genres. They had curated a list of remixes of The Weeknd songs, which led me to try their list of best Frank Ocean remixes. I fell in love with all of it. The songs bridged the gap between music I was already listening to and music I wasn’t. I soon became a fiend for this new kind of music. I wanted more.
(On a side note: most of the hyperlinks within the Frank and The Weeknd articles are gone, but they remain a Google search away. You won’t regret it.)
That was when I decided to give Frank Ocean another listen. I dove into his discography, Novacane included, and really enjoyed myself. Only by preparing myself for the experience — despite unknowingly — was I able to appreciate something new for what it was. I was so used to hearing a man repeatedly yell out “Gucci! Brr!” that anything new was unfamiliar and intimidating. Listening to music at my own pace made it more enjoyable and helped me move outside my sonic comfort zone.
As our Vision Statement suggests, we need to challenge ourselves and each other. You might challenge yourself by listening to something new. I might challenge you by writing a loosely-themed piece on time and influence. Push yourself beyond listening to something “on time”. Challenge yourself, challenge art, challenge time.
We’d like to hear from you! What are your thoughts on our music-listening habits? Reply to this tweet and let’s get the conversation started.