If you know me at all, you've probably witnessed me - red faced and breathing hard - ranting about Taylor Swift's lack of musical ingenuity. "She's not a musician!" I scream to nobody in particular, "she's a business woman who's lyrics are designed to feed the fantasies of the general female tween population!" I have a dedicated distaste towards pop music and country tunes, and I exploit my aversion in a rather loud and obnoxious manner.
Over the past two weeks, however, I've come to appreciate all music - even American pop - for the way it brings people together.
Day-to-day conversations at school can be fumbling, awkward, and frustrating. But the second someone pulls out an ipod or brings up the new Mica single, these conversations suddenly become clear, as if I were back home, ranting to my friends about how Lady Gaga is a sell-out with the fluidity of a natural-born English speaker.
Because everyone relates to music - all types of music- in more or less the same way. No matter where you are in the world, the sound of an electric guitar or a symphony of violins can fill you up, move you to tears, or give you a reason to sporadically break into dance.
This is why I can make friends with people that don't speak my language, why I can connect with a person on a fundamental level, even if I don't know his name.
Yesterday, I sat around the living room with my host family, examining my host dad's old vinyl records. The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Simon and Garfunkel- all bands my own dad had shown me when I was young, and all bands that have been adored and popularized all over the world. The air was static with pure happiness as we shared favorite songs, concert memories, and beloved groups. Without any effort at all, I felt closer with my host family than ever.
So thank you Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry. Thank you for being so well-known that I can't go a day without being asked if I've heard of "Fireworks" or "You and I". And thank you to my favorite bands (real music) for bringing me closer to so many people in this country almost effortlessly - as if similar taste in music is the mark of a true and sustainable friendship.
I guess it doesn't matter where you are, where you're from, or where you're going - we're not all that different. We eat different food, speak different languages, and practice different customs, but we're all emotional creatures. We relish the deep, revel in joy, and express these feelings musically.
What I'm trying to say is this:
If you're someone out there getting ready to go on exchange or just go on vacation, I'd recommend bringing an ipod.