In this installment of WIB, we move beyond genres to “the feels.” What is it about music that makes it emotional? How are natural human instincts related to this? And how does detachment lend itself to emotion?
When I hear “emotional music,” my mind jumps to ballads expressing eternal love, grief, or other similar emotions that are easy for any kind of listener to relate to. But are these truly emotional? In generalizing powerful emotions, it seems that we are forgetting that most people experience feelings this strong only occasionally. Many people can identify with the pain of a breakup in songs, but is it right to exaggerate these emotions so heavily in songs? Breakups can range from wrenching affairs to mere differences in character that are finally acknowledged. To put them in terms of the most powerful emotions, such as wanting to kill the other person (see “You Oughta Know”) or desperately pleading for the other person to come back (see R&B), seems to diminish the seriousness of the affair by eliminating the nuances.
Enter detachment. Humans are naturally prone to want to be in groups, and some theories say that most sadness stems from loneliness of some sort. Thus, music that reflects subdued isolation can invoke greater empathy in the listener than would an overdramatized, tragic song, such as “Bohemian Rhapsody.” A singer who seems to not care, being almost monotone in their singing (see: The XX) can make a more relatable point than a singer falsely sobbing, because it comes more naturally to both the singer and listener. This is not to say that powerful emotions do not exist; it is more that music can often overdramatize things in order to try and baby listeners into understanding the emotions of the song, rather than revealing nuances and complicated emotions in an equally nuanced and complicated way. For aiding the process of expanding the range of musical emotions, detachment will certainly blend with emotional songs.