Slowing Down To Hear For The Very First Time

Or, Learning From Dua Lipa, Wu-Tang, and William, It Was Really Nothing.

The new Dua Lipa album is getting rave reviews as the poptastic release we need for our quarantine times. I put it on Spotify and cranked the volume on the speaker to showcase it to the kids roaming around the house.

After a while, one of them wandered past and enquired what’s going on. “The new Dua Lipa album. The perfect mix of pop and don’t give a damn for tomorrow’s generation! Isn’t it good?!

Hold on, this isn’t Dua Lipa, it’s Demi Levato!” came the retort.

I quickly checked Spotify, and it was true. The Dua Lipa album had played out, and the Spotify algorithm had switched to “pop queens” and was playing similarly styled music. I had not noticed the change of voice or song.

This is the distracted age. Spotify rolls over me like a warm blanket, and soon enough, I am mentally snoozing through the songs.

Suddenly, I am woken from my reverie by an absolute pile of shite song, something that offends my sensibilities enough for my sub-conscious to ring an alarm: “This is an affront to all the good taste for which you stand, Sir! NOTICE!!

I am trying to notice, more.

Pandemics make us question (every)things – maybe for the first time. I am slowing down, to protect my neck.

In spring cleaning, I brought up from the garage my container of 100s of CDs, a 20-year museum of my taste from the early 90s onwards. I don’t own a CD player anymore (other than an ageing laptop tucked away somewhere), so instead, I slowly immersed myself in the covers, remembering tracks that memorialised those chapters of my life.

I spent 100s of hours of my life in Tower Records in Shibuya, Japan building my first CD portfolio: mainly drum’n’bass, deep house, acid pop, Wu-Tang era hiphop. My previous lives flood back intact.

Then I turned to Spotify to find the albums and tracks that mean the most, and start to favourite and add them to playlists, curating the past for today.

In the same container, a bunch of 7-inch singles (45s) from my childhood, including the first items I ever bought with my own money (other than sweets): Baggy Trousers by Madness; The Earth Dies Screaming / Dream A Lie by UB40.

I have a turntable for just such a session of down memory lane reconstitution. One day I played them, A-side and B-side, back-to-back, changing the records every 3 minutes (or for William, It Was Really Nothing by The Smiths, every 1 minute 49 seconds.)

As I had to consciously play every track, deliberately make a choice to cross the room and put the needle on the record, I noticed them again, as if for the first time. [Note: Saving All My Love For You by Whitney is still the ballad of my lifetime, old me agreeing with young me.]

In these times of quarantine, when slowness has been forced upon us, I am finding mechanisms of comfort and joy. Occasionally they are new, more often, it is about remembering and regurgitating, reimagining and remixing. This is the creative journey of change.

This Much We Know.

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