In December of 2014 I was drinking to excess every single day, had recently quit my job, and had seen the end of a five-year relationship that was at points as close to marriage at times as I was then to complete self-implosion. Whiskey soaked from dawn to dusk, I had spent the previous months binging on Netflix, and writing bad poetry and prose about my current state. I might have started with some delusions of romanticism, but those ideas had choked their last, and I was now just a bloated turd of a sob case; a sob case who still lived with his ex, and who was making no steps towards getting things back on the up and up.
At some point during that dark December, Rolling Stone Magazine released their list of the fifty best albums of the year. I read the list in a rage, shocked and appalled that the magazine that I had idolized back when I was a young journalist could appear so, “completely fucking goddamn out of touch,” in their picks for what was good modern music. After I screamed about how shitty everything that was chosen was for over an hour, my ex and our other roommate suggested that I write my own version of the list. I realize now that they probably just wanted me to shut the fuck up, but I took their suggestion to heart, made myself another drink and began to write a vicious manifesto against both the magazine and their list.
Over the course of the next week, I poured all of the aggression and hatred I had been focusing on myself into my own personal, remade list. I would make myself a drink, listen to a few songs off one of the albums, make myself another drink, and repeat the cycle until I had finished an entry. I strung together a few dark nights of soul, wrote about music I hated, and published the chunks I wrote each night on my blog. People seemed to dig it, so I kept working on it. I would emerge from my makeshift couch bed every morning, drained and hung over and ready to start on the next ten entries. The desire to finish the whole operation was a purpose in a life that didn’t have any at that point, and in that regard and that regard only, it was healthy.
I completed the work, put out the entirety of the finished product, and soldiered on in the army of the alcoholics.
Flash forward one year to December 2015. Where I am almost a whole 365 days sober (I quit on New Years Eve) and am in a much healthier (besides the cigarettes) place as a human being. Rolling Stone Magazine again released their list of the best albums of the year, and I immediately began licking my lips in anticipation of ripping it a new one. Others seemed to be excited that I planned on attacking the list again, and that was encouragement enough for me.
So you might ask, “Brady! Sober or not, why have you not just done what you’ve usually done and taken the whole list to task? You clearly have the energy and the drive to shit on everything like you have in the past. Come on, bring us a good ol’ hate fest.”
Well, I’m not going to do that. Because of Carly Rae Jepsen.
As I scanned through the list in preparation, I noticed that I was already thinking up negative things to say about albums that I had never heard before. One of the first albums on the list that fe;l victim to this kind of thinking was Carly Rae Jepsen’s new record Emotion. “Here we fucking go,” I thought to myself, “Another pop album filled with false sounding, songs that needed six writers, no talent bullshit, that Rolling Stone magazine vomited out onto the list in an attempt to look relevant to young people who don’t even fucking read magazines anymore. Also, Carly Rae Jepsen? Really? This is going to be easy.”
But even as I thought that, another part of me was chiding myself for judging something before I had even heard it. Not only that, but judging something based on genre/style only and not on musicianship, production, or content.
That’s how I knew that something had changed between this year and last year. A big enough switch in my personality when I became sober found me no longer able to blindly criticize something. Previously, I would have skimmed through all of the songs on the album, called it all a bunch of pop horseshit, and then written a review that compared the sound of the record to forced musical sodomy, all while calling out Rolling Stone magazine for gagging on the dong of pop music.
But I didn’t do that, and I listened to the album instead, and enjoyed it enough to not turn it off halfway through. It’s pretty a pretty great listen if you like that particular genre. It’s not Charles Mingus, but that’s not what it’s trying to be.
When I re-read my work on last years list, I can see the rambling, aggressive nature of the person writing it coming through. There’s a fury there that’s being directed towards everything else but what matters. I hate to sound all therapy like, but it’s possible that instead of focusing on myself, I had chosen to explode at a list of albums that really meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. If I wanted to not listen to dumb music by dumb country artists, how hard would it have been to have not done that and remained healthy?
Probably pretty easy, but there was whiskey to drink, and things to hate to make me forget about all the whiskey I was drinking. Now I don’t drink, and surprise, I now don’t feel like kicking like Carly Rae Jepsen in her musical balls for simply making a well-made album that people will want to listen to. I might not be one of those people, but fuck it, why should that matter?
So thank you Carly Rae Jepsen, for showing me that I had changed as a human being. That I was no longer someone who could lash out at music for no reason at all, and that I could enjoy what I wanted to enjoy without laying into something else that someone else might be able to gather some kind of enjoyment from it. That’s the reason why I won’t be writing about Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2015, because I now have chosen to see all music with nothing but positive eyes.
When I quit drinking, my life felt very empty and alone, and I had this crippling feeling that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, find anything to fill the voids that used to be filled by empty bottles and drunk nights spent typing about how much I hated modern music and myself. However, it became clear to me as I dragged myself through those first few sludgy months of sobriety that even in my darkest hours, music had never abandoned me, and I discovered that it was as loving, teaching, and enriching as it always had been. Music had been waiting for me to come back to it and share the love, and thanks to Carly Ray Jepsen’s inadvertently guiding hand, that is exactly what I plan to do.
Just, maybe not with her album, specifically. Because, I mean, fucking really?