Several years back Nick Hornby wrote a collection of essays all about different songs. The first essay was about a Teenage Fanclub song, and it started with a charming little recollection about how Teenage Fanclub were playing at the benefit/opening for one of his other books, and during their sound check they were playing one of his favorite songs, and in that moment he knew it was going to be a wonderful evening. It was a perfect little memory told as only Nick Hornby can. But then, as Missy Elliott might say, he puts his thing down, flips it and and reverses it, as he goes on to say that while you might expect a book of essays about music to be "straightforward time-and-place connections" this is not what the book is going to be about.
He explains that if a song simply reminds him of a moment, then doesn't mean anything to him as music, it's just as a memory, and he's not going to write about it because he doesn't want to write about memories.
I have thought about that statement anytime I've ever written about a song, a book, a movie. Because I take the opposite approach. If a song doesn't remind me of a moment, then I don't really have anything to say about it. The only thing I want to write about are memories.
I always thought that the best job ever would be to be a movie critic, or a music critic, or a book critic, or--and this is the best one--a food critic. But it turns out that I'm a terrible reviewer. I'm total crap at objectively breaking things down and analyzing the parts and the sum of the parts, and then explaining why they work, or why they don't work. Mostly because I don't really care. I just like certain things, and I don't particularly care to spend a lot of time thinking about why. I like things that manage to capture and hold my tiny little attention span, and make me feel happy or nostalgic. Anytime I sit down and try to write a review of something, the only thing I produce is a personal reaction, and maybe no one really cares about how that this one song totally reminds me of that one time in sixth grade. But that's all I have to offer you.
I don't know the first thing about melody, tones, harmony, etc. I can't separate one musical instrument from another. I don't even really pay attention to lyrics at all, unless someone points them out to me*, or unless the song is written by Prince. The only thing I got is that sometimes a song, or even a whole musical artist will remind me of a particular moment or period in my life, and I can talk about that. It's not even talking about the music at all. It's just talking about me. Me, me, me, me.
That's probably why Nick Hornby got a book published and all I have are my sad little explanations of why I gave a book four stars on Goodreads rather than three, even though it is probably a three, but it reminded me of the lumpy recliner in my parents' old house.
*For example, in the song "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" my friend Erin pointed out how perfect this line is: "And I never had a girl looking any better than you did." And now every time I listen to that song (which is pretty damn often, and I'm fine admitting that), that line stands out a bit to me.