Mrs. YHT and I have a few new game. It’s called the Soundcloud comment game.
Here’s how you play:
Find a song on Soundcloud that has a relatively high play count and check out the bottom third of the waveform — if there are a bunch of little colorful icons lining the bottom, you’re in business. Those little icons are time-stamped comments, and they’re hilarious. They’re like YouTube comments, with three important differences:
- They’re tied to the moment of the song at which the commenter just couldn’t take it anymore and had to say something. This allows users to react in real time to what they’re hearing, and brings you — the comment voyeur — much closer to understanding why the comment was made.
- They tend to lack the meanness you find in YouTube threads. In fact, Soundcloud comments are almost uniformly positive. People freak out. Here’s a tiny sample of the comments left on Haim’s dynamite song “The Wire” — “OMG!!! I loovvee iiitt!!!!” “LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE” “You never cease to amaze me! I fucking love you girls! Hope to see you in Portugal soon :p”
- They pop up automatically as the song plays, so you can just sit back, listen and enjoy the display of unbridled enthusiasm.
Let me make one thing clear — I do not derive pleasure from ridiculing enthusiasm. I do think that the Internet has brought about an golden age for a certain type of cynicism that thrives on putting down others’ excitement, but that’s not what the Soundcloud game is about. It’s about staring pure elation (and the spectacular displays of punctuation that come with it) directly in the face and letting it make your day a little bit better. It’s also about reconnecting with a certain mindset that time and experience erode.
I don’t have any evidence to back this up, but I’d guess that the age of the average Soundcloud commenter would place him/her in high school. I’d also guess — or maybe this is more of a belief — that teenagers experience excitement very differently than, say, a 30-year-old music blogger does. Over time, people are saddled with the blessing/curse of precedent. It happens in every walk of life — movies, friends, everything. Whether you like it or not, you accrue this massive collection of stuff to compare other stuff to. It’s good in the sense that you can make meaningful connections, develop a critical eye/ear and learn from your mistakes, but there’s a downside as well.
That downside lurks in record reviews that devote more words to how an album relates to other artists’ work than to how the album makes the reviewer feel. It rears its ugly head when someone says that a certain part of a song sounds just like another song, even though there’s a decent chance the songwriter had never even heard that other song. In fact, that’s just what happened when Mrs. YHT and I were playing the Soundcloud game with “The Wire.” As we listened, we racked our brains trying to figure out what song the descending “I know I know I know” reminded us of (the best we could do, ironically, was the “I know I know I know” in The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited,” but we both maintained that something on the tip of our brains was even more similar). But watching others’ excitement unfold in a weird, simulated version of real time helped me push past that mode of thinking toward a more straightforward appreciation of a song that’s just plain fantastic, regardless of what came before it.
That’s not to say precedent doesn’t matter. It does. (No one wants to look like Vanilla Ice from that interview in which he was downplaying the connection between “Ice Ice Baby” and “Under Pressure.”) But context can act like quicksand if you let it, and I firmly believe that periodically viewing the world through the eyes of those with slates that are blanker than yours is a healthy, worthwhile exercise. That’s why watching Soundcloud comments pop up is so fun for me. They remind me that music’s future will always be brighter than we can understand, and that enjoyment can be simple, even (or especially) when the bedazzled punctuation used to express it is anything but.
Listen to “The Wire” below and click here to pull up a bigger waveform, so you can catch a glimpse of unfettered joy.