Once upon a time, if you wanted to hear the new Mariah Carey song, let’s say, it would probably be on the radio in the next few hours provided you were wiling to wait.
In fact, if you listened to the radio long enough, you’d probably hear it several times a day. (This probably also applied to MTV, but I grew up without cable, and therefore missed most of the years MTV actually played music videos.)
The DJs would even tease it or whatever other songs were popular — “After the break, the new songs by Boyz II Men, Aerosmith and Mariah Carey!” And if you wanted to have it at your fingertips, you’d go to the store and get her tape or CD.
Now, with a search and a few clicks on Google Play — or iTunes if that’s what you use — her entire music library is available (I’m highly, highly partial to the old stuff), and so is just about everyone else you can think of.
You can build playlists from the millions of songs on Spotify or listen to channels of all types on satellite radio.
YouTube can locate music videos and live performances you didn’t even know exist. (Search for Killian Donnelly and fall down the rabbit hole of awesomeness.)
All of these choices can expand one’s musical palate beyond anything anyone would have thought possible.
Except when it doesn’t.
The Grammy Awards are tonight, and here are the nominations with which I am familiar enough to constitute a rooting interest: “The Middle” by Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey, “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” album and “Butterflies” and “Space Cowboy” singles, Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” and the cast albums for “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “My Fair Lady.”
Sure, a lot of the categories are niche and likely to never see the CBS broadcast — as I have no kids, Best Children’s Album means nothing to me — but between Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monae and Childish Gambino, I’ve maybe knowingly heard two of their songs.
Granted, I don’t usually listen to much hip-hop and R&B, but most of the nominees in the other categories don’t ring a bell, either, although I never would have guessed Best Musical Theater Album would be one where I was familiar with two nominees.
Because that’s the other side of the having-all-the-music at your fingertips coin — you can curate what you hear to whatever you want, whenever you want and only what you want.
Remember that new Mariah Carey single way back in the day? Maybe the songs before and after it were other ones you liked. Maybe they were ones you hadn’t heard before but decided they were pretty good once you heard them.
Or maybe one of them was from Red Hot Chili Peppers and you have never, ever liked Red Hot Chili Peppers.
And once that Mariah Carey song came on, that was it … for at least another couple hours, anyway.
But on my phone, I never have to hear Red Hot Chili Peppers or anything else that doesn’t interest me. I don’t even have to take the chance that something I may not like comes on.
I have approximately 500 songs, minus a few duplicates, and I chose every one of them. Yet even sometimes when I shuffle through songs, I’ll buzz past something if I’m not feeling it.
Because sometimes, I want to hear Josh Groban and Sarah McLachlan sing “Run” five times in a row.
When your mind is basically closed to anything other than the tried and true (and make no mistake, I acknowledge it for exactly what it is), you get exposed to new stuff almost by accident.
Among other additions to my playlist, I downloaded Rita Ora’s “I Will Never Let You Down” after hearing at the University of Wisconsin bookstore, and Elle King’s “Ex’s and Oh’s” because I randomly heard it a few times on our trip to Chicago and Madison last year.
Disturbed’s cover of “The Sound of Silence” was due to a clip of French figure skaters Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres going viral.
Maren Morris sang “The Middle” on whatever show I was watching New Year’s Eve.
So perhaps I’ll realize tonight why Cardi B is a big deal, or that Brandi Carlile isn’t the optical-illusion of my brain thinking Belinda Carlisle.
What I’m hoping doesn’t happen is that I’ll see the Red Hot Chili Peppers and think, “Good, at least I’ve heard of these guys.”
And, sadly, there’s always the chance that I’ll spend the whole night complaining about how everything sucks, for I am an old man who yells at clouds.
The people watching this concert look like they’re having a good time. The picture is by Pexels on Pixabay.