There are great songs and then there are great moments. There are times when music elevates you to a space that’s bigger than yourself, more than your body can hold. There are musical moments that move you to chills, tears, or make you triumphantly throw your arms in the air like you’re in church. If there is anyone within earshot, you grab them and say: Ok, now listen. This part right here… You lean in together as the music plays, then you say, “Right?! Now listen again.”
These songs are what I like to think of as the greatest musical moments of all time.
Some of these songs you can’t even listen to anymore because it hurts too much. They are beautiful scars you will never let go of. And if they weren’t there with you, you wouldn’t be the same. Within each of these songs there is that moment of inspired meaning that hits you. It’s like when you’re in love with someone and your stomach drops every time they laugh a certain way, or when they say your name, or when they make others laugh. Those are the moments that punch you in the gut. Like Paul Simon says, “Sometimes even music cannot substitute for tears.”
This summer, I was driving with my partner to a wedding a couple of hours away. Vampire Weekend’s “Ya Hey” came on the radio. I turned it way up and we just listened:
Ezra Koenig sings:
“Oh, sweet thing
Zion doesn’t love you
And Babylon don’t love you
But you love everything
Oh, you saint
America don’t love you
So I could never love you
In spite of everything.”
I felt the music bellow up inside of me and I had chills. A minute and a half into the song, I looked over and my partner was crying — tears streaming down her face, wiping-her-nose-with-car-napkins crying. Then we arrive at this part of the song: At 1:48 it breaks down a little to just a low rhythm. The bass and kick drum nod the song along. Then a string-like synth plays long high notes (this synth is reminiscent of the of the Moog-like synth used in Paul Simon’s “The Boxer”), and in front of that melody, Ezra Koenig sings:
“Oh, the motherland don’t love you
The fatherland don’t love you
So why love anything?
Oh, good God
The faithless they don’t love you
The zealous hearts don’t love you
And that’s not gonna change.”
As the song builds back up a church choir starts singing. There it is. That was it. Rewind to 1:48 and repeat.
Here’s the invitation: What’s your greatest musical moment? Share your stories with us in the reflections section below. I’ll be on the lookout for your stories to be part of our Your Audio Selfie project.