One would be hard-pressed to provide a counterargument that rejects the therapeutic utility of cultivating art. Artists are able to transform the most beautiful and grotesque personal experiences, perspectives, and thoughts into meaningful and thought-provoking work. Whether it be a painting, sculpture, photograph, or piece of music, artists have the means of creating a tangible, productive “something” that non-artists do not.
I’d like to propose that the non-artist, who simply takes an interest in music, can utilize the same therapeutic benefit that musicians derive from their work. Just as the artist uses music and lyrics to produce tangible outcomes- records and albums- to cope from a breakup or emotional turmoil, the non-artist can produce tangible outcomes of their own by creating playlists in order to help themselves heal. For even the casual musical enthusiast, many would consider their first love to be music.
I am not embarrassed to admit that my first love was for Britney and the Backstreet Boys. But the love I felt for Nick Carter when I was younger isn’t really comparable to what I felt when I REALLY fell in love with music. At the age of 12, I discovered Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism and Everything in Transit by Jack’s Mannequin. I know the placement of every word and every chord and every breath on every song of each of those two albums, similar to the way two lovers come to know the intimate details about each other as a relationship progresses over time. These songs have been the soundtrack(s) to some of the most significant moments of my life, and somehow, they still continue to be thirteen years later.
Though the concept of the “mixed tape” providing the common thread throughout Everything in Transit is pretty much dead- and hell, even mixed CDs, too- we are blessed to live in an era of technology that makes an unprecendented breadth of music available to us at the touch of our fingertips with the advent of iTunes and subsequent introduction of streaming platforms like Spotify. Because of these, we can make playlists that tie up the memories and feelings of moments within a significant relationship into neat little packages upon its disintegration. We can revisit and reflect on those moments just as an artist would when they’re in the process of comprising the tracks of an album. It’s productive, and it is healthy to look back on happy and sad moments. Playlists don’t have to be reminders of specific songs that you listened to with another person; they don’t have to follow a specific theme or guideline; and they can include a wide array of emotions and feelings that were perhaps missing in your relationship with another person. You can provide yourself with comfort and closure when someone you love isn’t there anymore, whether it be romantic, platonic, or familial love, and you don’t have to be an artist to create it.
Two months ago, a complex romantic situation of mine ended. I will spare you the specific details, but I was not ready to meet him when I did, even though I thought he checked all the boxes. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a result. The following playlist contains a lot of content, from what I knew he felt, to how I felt, to how I feel and wish he still felt. Some are songs that I played when I cooked dinner while he studied or were driving in the car together; others describe what I felt and feel now. These songs are ones I find calm and soothing when reflecting back on what was.