At the age of 27, I have an iTunes library that more closely resembles someone who’s already outlived the national average life expectancy. The sections of Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and the three Kings (Albert, Freddie, and B.B.) alone probably comprise something like twelve days of music. God could create the heavens and the earth again and still not be out of the ’60s.
But my digital music collection is just the way I like it. I’ve got everything I love and almost nothing I don’t. Sure, individual songs like T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” inevitably infiltrate my anti-garbage firewall (read: are added by friends to annoy me), but they’re nothing a “delete” key can’t fix. It’s wonderful. And it’s awful. The digital age has enabled my music library to reflect Current Me, and in a certain way, that’s a real shame for today’s youth.
Music, like photographs or personal diaries, has the power to track the different versions of ourselves throughout time — versions that we might otherwise crumple up, toss aside, and forget because they are, quite frankly, embarrassing as all hell. But on a rainy day, sometimes it’s fun to dust off my old CD binder and page through the audio relics of my youth. In the interest of preserving my self-esteem, I find it important to remember that the frontal lobe of the human brain — the part responsible for making decisions — doesn’t become fully developed until around the age of 21. So when I crack that binder open and the first page contains the likes of Deep Blue Something and the score (not soundtrack) to Space Jam, I know I don’t have to castrate myself for the good of society. I can just grin and shrug and chalk it up to youthful stupidity. And then rock out to a little “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
But most kids growing up today won’t have that. Everything’s digitized, and chances are, they’ll get most of their music from full-discography torrent files that they download for free in a matter of minutes. There won’t be a dusty, overstuffed binder hemorrhaging loose CDs from its broken zipper; there won’t be any album artwork or terrible lyrics that they can remember helping them through that brutal breakup in seventh grade; most importantly, the music will have cost very little (if anything), so it won’t be half as embarrassing or sentimental to look back at that version of themselves and think, “Wow, I actually spent money on a Chumbawamba album. What a tool.”
It’s kind of sad. But then again, I suppose every generation looks back at some lost artifact in technology’s wake and wonders,
where have all the good times gone? who let the dogs out?