THE BLOG

Does musical appreciation broaden as we age?

31/07/2017 15:29
Jeffrey Ufberg via Getty Images

For me it all started with Blondie. Parallel Lines was my first pop album; and what an album - so ahead of its time. It opened my ears to a whole spectrum of different sounds. It made me feel things through music I hadn't experienced before.

I was mesmerised and this was the conscious beginning of my musical journey.

I don't think you can love any creative art form without developing a deep appreciation for it. To get the most out of - anything - desire and understanding need to go hand in hand.

My love for music is interwoven with my earliest memories. My parents' home was always filled with music.

Before "discovering" pop, though I mainly listened to classical music, both eastern and western, with a weekend fix of Bollywood.

Whilst I was and still am a huge album buyer, I always seemed to get fixated on a few tracks, tracks that reached out and grabbed me more than others, tracks that were written as if the songwriter knew about my life.

I remember listening to "Sunday Girl" and "Hanging on a Telephone" endlessly - of course I memorised the words. Even in the early days the words were everything to me.

But looking back, I now realise my age limited my musical appreciation.

This is not me being disparaging to "young me' or anyone who loves music from an early age. Not at all - enjoying and appreciating music at any age is a wonderful thing.

We all know we connect with songs because we relate to the story or the groove - sometimes it only takes one lyric to turn a song into a personal anthem that never leaves you.

Sometimes the way the singer delivers a line turns it on its head for you, and this is why I really believe musical appreciation continually increases and broadens with age.

When you revisit music, as I do a lot, your ears are opened further - because we are older and we have more life experience.

Layers and layers of emotion and past memories - positive and negative - are released when a song begins to play. Feelings and music blend unconsciously, even though at times a song can be too hard to listen to, as the emotions it awakens are so potent.

So Parallel Lines, as I said is an important album for me. But when I came to put together a song list for my recent covers album, "Know the Way Back", I bypassed my childhood favourites and knew I wanted to record "Picture This".

Debbie Harry's vocals are so edgy and sassy. But her slightly detached delivery of "Picture This" made me hear the immense amount of romance - the level of which, I hadn't picked up on on first listening.

Yes I knew it was a love song - many songs are...but the frustration, longing, hope, flirtation, level of love - I did not get all that. And I knew that was what I wanted to emphasise in my version.

Debbie Harry and Blondie are great examples of artists standing the test of time, in my opinion. I know that tastes in music and artists are largely subjective but even in the 80s Blondie was edgy, cool and relevant and 30 years on she still is. Their recent release Pollinator is testament to that.

The artists, I believe who stand the test of time are those whose authenticity is unwavering, Tom Waits, Nina Simone and Corey Taylor spring to mind...

It's the essence of who they are. I'm not trying to sound pretentious here, and I know I am a singer, but audiences, do not have to be music aficionados to recognise honesty. We are all pretty good at seeing through fakery. And this is another skill, I believe, we hone as we get older.

Throughout my singing career I have sung a lot of jazz. My compulsion for it came shortly after discovering pop.

I started singing jazz at about 12 and always thought I did a pretty good job, until I revisited some favourites when I started singing professionally. 15-20 years on - after a number of lost loves, a marriage, giving birth to two children, losing my father - well life had coloured how I listened and how I sang.

And it is on-going; last week when I listened to Seth MacFarlane's version of "My Way" the poignancy brought me to tears. I have listened to that song countless times but maybe because of where I am in life now - it unlocked a new layer of understanding and appreciation.

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