Will It Blend #6: Detached Emotions


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.


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2 Responses to “Will It Blend #6: Detached Emotions”

  1. Dan
    December 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    To quote a great movie, in the opening scene of High Fidelity, John Cusack is staring into the camera with a pair of headphones on. He begins to speak about pop music:

    “People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands – literally thousands – of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss. What came first – the music or the misery? Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music? Do all those records turn you into a melancholy person?”

  2. Dan
    December 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    Men seem to be getting a message from pop music that says that he needs to have the best of everything and to get with as many women as he possibly can. With no love involved. It’s a line of thought that will lead a man to emotionally hurting a woman. When maybe he really is a decent guy in general. But this goes hand in hand with the movies and TV shows as well. It all adds up to irreverent behavior to females.

    While on the other side, females are being fed a message to be as sexy as possible and your image is the most important thing. And also a lot of emotionally charged music like you said that is just way over the top (Adele?) and it will make women more bitter at men and that in turn makes men view women as overly emotional and irrational. When that is not the case for all women! They are being subconsciously directed towards a certain behavior and line of thought just as the men are with their music.

    Just another illusion to hinder male/female unity.

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