The Bare Necessities: Water, Air, Shelter, and Spotify

Who: Micheal

What: Homework

When: Past lights out (…)

Where: Fuess

What Song: The one that goes like…


This is a question I’ve been pondering for a while. Why is the first step in my morning routine shuffling my “Liked Songs” playlist? Why were the 18 hours when I lost my headphones akin to wandering the Sahara without water? Even the fact that I include “What Song” in the five W’s may leave others scratching their heads. I’ve concluded my relationship with Spotify borders that of a newlywed couple with an interminable honeymoon phase. My premium subscription acts as a vow and my 2022 listening minutes — at a staggering 100,000, even though I just switched from Apple Music in July — reinforce that sacred oath. Til’ death of either myself or the streaming service do us part because listening to music is a full body experience: engaging my emotions at my fingertips, and everything in between.

The unanswered “why” of my five W’s was a question I didn’t know the answer to, until one of my friends observed that music is an experience. I had a sort of epiphany. Why is it I walk to the beat of whatever is blasting in my headphones? Why, when I listen to a song for the first time, can’t I divide my attention to anything else? Why is it that when doing the simplest tasks, or writing a commentary article for The Phillipian, music running in the background is crucial to my productivity? The sounds that play when I click shuffle are ingrained in my routine, and dictate my emotions. 

Perhaps my relationship with music is hereditary, my heartbeat as a bass drum and rhythm coursing through my veins. Interestingly enough, my dad is a music obsessor as well, spending Friday nights blasting music in his headphones and dancing around the living room. If he’s not using his headphones, he’s causing a magnitude seven earthquake with the full-blown speaker system in our family room. His love for music is not surprising though, considering we’re Ugandan. Back home, every event — from casual gatherings, to weddings, to funerals — is accompanied by a subwoofer sending sound waves that raises every hair on your body, and surround speakers so the music is impossible to escape. 

Between my gradual loss of hearing, instinctual singing to fill in the silence, and one headphone in during social interactions, I can promise you music is also a part of my routine and the way I process the world. When I reminisce about the day I got into Andover, I remember my gut reaction was to loop “Congratulations” by Post Malone. This act of associating songs with events rings true with the other core memories scattered throughout my life. First grade is “Haven’t Met You Yet” by Michael Bublé, since it was the only song downloaded on my dad’s work iPad. When I was getting to know one of my best friends in sixth grade, we’d spend hours streaming “Juice” by Lizzo. When I was moving to boarding school, I listened to “You’ll Always Find Your Way Back Home” from Hannah Montana as I closed my front door in late August. Here at Andover, I listen to Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes Stronger” as I walk up the Morse Hall stairs for my math test, exuding that main character energy. 

When the shuffle button is taken away from me, and I can’t listen to music for whatever reason, I feel offline. Even though I can audiate the melody to whatever song I’m craving to hear in that moment, there’s always that guitar riff, drum kick, or high note supported by a choir of background vocals that scratches my brain. That feeling of pure ecstasy can only be attained by, you guessed it, listening to music. This feeling that something is missing is especially prevalent during exams, on Delta’s internet connection that lacks internet, or in formal settings. I can’t focus without the satisfaction of hearing a song. Usually, I start humming, and I only drive myself insane as I long for more music. For others, shuffling their favorite playlist may divert their attention. But for me, music is never the issue and always the solution.

Music is, and has always been, an integral part of my life, from the C sharp I wailed when I was born, to the album I wrote and released this past summer. But the beauty of plugging in headphones and centering yourself, or going to a concert and proudly losing your voice is unrivaled. The emotions, nostalgia, and cultural aspects of consuming music are what make it more than notes strung together, but an experience.