In late April 2020, a month after COVID-19 hit Canada, I was obsessed with Beyonce’s 2018 Coachella performance.
Beginning that powerhouse performance, Beyonce reveals herself on the catwalk as royalty, wearing a cape with Queen Nefertiti embellished on the back and a royal headdress. This moment begins the series of symbolism and imagery displayed through each intentionally designed outfit and arrangement. The music collection from her performance was deeply thought out, and each chosen instrument, dancer and 64 band members all display the influence of Black culture. Beychella demonstrates why she is one of the most influential artists in the world.
HOMECOMING: A Film by Beyonce and the accompanying album from the Coachella performance became the soundtrack of my life. I loved playing the documentary version while I worked at home or playing the live album version while I worked out.
What I loved most about the performance was how hard she worked to get there. I was inspired because it was her homecoming to what she loved to do — perform.
But, after some time in a pandemic-ridden world, filled with uncertainty, isolation and ideological division, my love for this album faded. It was abundantly clear that I wouldn’t be having a homecoming to what I loved anytime soon — seeing and spending time with my family. My connection with Beyonce’s album and every other album that inspired me just disappeared. I lost that connection like it was emotional wifi.
I lost my love for music.
I’m the type of person to listen to music everywhere: in the shower, in the car, even when I’m having an emotional breakdown — especially when I’m having an emotional breakdown. At some point, the aux cord in my car broke; a combination of over-use and poor manufacturer quality. But if I’m being honest, I didn’t care. I drove with no music. I would get in my car, and all I would hear was the sounds of my car fan and the hum of tires on pavement. It felt wrong.
I’ve always hated the radio. It’s repetitive and the music lacks any depth of meaning. Yet without my aux cord and connection to my choice music, I turned on the radio. Not liking what I heard on the first station, I skipped to the next. Country, no thank you, next station. Ads, next station, please. Skip, change, next. Finally, I turned the whole system off.
I no longer sought out the comfort of a melody — the one thing I could always count on for reassurance. I’d somehow developed a sort of avoidant attachment style to music.
Avoidant is a term used in psychology to describe how individuals relate to important people, even hobbies, in their lives. Children learn an avoidant style when their caregiver ignores them during a time of need. So, the child learns not to look to their caregiver for comfort. Music isn’t my caregiver, but it has always been my comfort.
From the get-go of the pandemic, there was division. I find conflict to be particularly upsetting. I understand it sounds silly for a journalist to say they hate tension. But I have always been quite close with my two sisters and have grown closer with my parents as I’ve matured. I was so scared of what the differences in our opinions about the virus and the state of the world would do to each one of us, how these views might cause us to act towards one another. Being isolated from them didn’t help at all.
I was broken and lonely, and music couldn’t heal or comfort me. There wasn’t any piece of music to help me process my heartache for my family or the world.
There’s a delay between when we collectively experience something and when the resulting music is published. Collectively, we’ve never experienced anything like what we’re experiencing now — the uncertainty, grief and othering. It makes sense that no music seemed to exist to help me process the type of sorrow I was going through. But it does exist. I was just too exhausted with my hurt and grief to look for it.
At the beginning of the fall 2021 semester, I told some friends how I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. One took this to heart and later asked me if I wanted to write an album review for the Reflector.
I rediscovered my love for music by writing album reviews. It forced me to explore the new music artists were putting out there — music about what I was feeling. Sounds and songs I didn’t know existed. Writing reviews challenged me to listen to what the artist was saying, how they were expressing their loss, grief, pain, hope, change and resilience — and it sounded a lot like the song in my head. I felt connected to music again. About a month after my first album review, I replaced my aux cord.
Inevitably, life gets messy, confusing and painful. Sometimes life truly does break your heart in a way you think might never heal. But for me, I cannot make sense of that messiness without music. Lyrics help me find power and figure out how to clean up some of the messiness of life. Music tells me I have to stop avoiding my feelings and actively seek out ways to understand them.
Life gets messy, my heart will break, and I will hurt.
I will listen to music, I will learn, and I will find power.
I will be whole.
I’ll do this over and over and over again because life will never stop being messy. I will also never again stop listening to music that helps me find joy, power and growth in every bit of my chaotic life and this confusing world.