Our Relationship Survives the Musical Divide Between Us
“Could you turn the volume down a little?” I ask my boyfriend, Andy, as we make our way up Highway 5 from Los Angeles to the Sacramento area.
Once a month, we drive up to see my mother and do whatever errands she needs. It’s, at least, a five-hour drive, and Highway 5 isn’t known for having any points of interest. It’s as dry as a highway can get, and if we didn’t have music, we’d probably be bored out of our minds.
We’re currently listening to a playlist that Andy has created and titled, Andy Radio. As it won’t be my turn for Christine Radio for another 30 minutes, I try to be open to some of what I feel are his less engaging music- picks.
Andy and I have been together for over 15 years and have many things in common. However, when it comes to music, we’re not always in sync.
I wonder if our musical divide hurts our relationship. Still, no one ever broke up over a difference of opinion regarding the artistic merits of Steely Dan — I’m pro, and he’s decidedly con, did they?
Once I tried putting earbuds in and listening to my music, but Andy reacted as if I were an angst-ridden teenager rebelling against their parents. I could tell his feelings were hurt. People tend to be oddly sensitive about their music tastes, so I quickly pulled the earbuds out and tried to follow the advice of The Doobie Brothers and just listen to the music.
While Andy was born in San Diego, he grew up in Canada, giving him a soft spot for Canadian artists — mostly music from the 1980s — groups with names like Chilliwack, April Wine, Platinum Blonde, and The Parachute Club. Of course, he listens to Kate Bush because he’s a male over fifty, and it’s the law.
Some of the musicians which Andy likes are okay. I have an appreciation for Bruce Cockburn, which I didn’t have before we got together, but some of his other favorites like REO Speedwagon, I don’t enjoy in the least.
An instrumental song starts to play, which I think of as Brunch Music, the kind of live music they used to play at restaurants in the 1980s, very tropical and light. When I hear the steel drums, I can’t help laughing.
“What? These guys are fantastic,” Andy says and goes on to explain why they’re amazing and why I can’t tell they’re great — it’s because I wasn’t a musician the way Andy was when he was in school.
“I know you don’t care for when musicians jam, but I think it shows real musicianship,” he says. He gets excited talking about music, but it comes off as condescending.
Sure, I stopped taking guitar lessons after I saw my teacher pick his nose — I couldn’t take the chance I wouldn’t touch something disgusting on the guitar fret.
My secret shame is I can’t hear harmony. If you sing a note and expect me to harmonize, I can’t do it. I don’t have perfect pitch, but I still have a music appreciation.
I have good taste in music, and Andy likes a lot of them — many more artists than I like of his, proving my tastes are a little more accessible.
Andy enjoys the B-sides, the deep cuts, and the extended jams, I not only prefer the hits, but I also want those hits to sound the same as the radio version.
One of Andy’s favorite bands is Rush. Yes, the Canadian metal band fronted by Geddy Lee. To me, Geddy Lee’s vocals sound like a sickly peacock leading a Styx cover band.
Although Andy likes Rush, he can appreciate how they’re not for everyone, so he rarely forces me to sit through an extended jam of “Tom Sawyer,” of which I’m grateful.
When Andy and I met online, I noticed he was a fan of Blue Oyster Cult. I told him I liked BOC too, meaning I enjoyed their hits such as “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Burning for you,” but those were his least favorite songs. He liked their later more obscure work.
I hoped then we weren’t musically incompatible, but luckily, we were able to find some middle ground with Queen and Joe Jackson.
Music isn’t just about musical notes played in a certain way; it’s about memory, emotions, and how it affects you. It’s the song you danced to on your first date, the album you have to listen to when you feel depressed, and the background of many of the significant events of your life.
I love my boyfriend, and he’s always a champ when it comes to going to see Shakespeare, musicals, and the bands I like — if I don’t care for one of his favorite musical artists, I can tolerate them.
Andy switches to Christine Radio and starts singing along to the Beatles’, “My Life.” I’m reminded about our shared experiences and know our bond is strong, even when we’re arguing about music.