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Recently I read something on social media (so it must be true, right?) that suggested that people who tend to be more anxious generally or suffer from anxiety watch the same shows over and over again rather than trying new ones. As I am currently re-watching ‘The Office’ for the umpteenth time and have watched ‘How I Met Your Mother’ a nearly as embarrassingly high amount I have to think that maybe this applies to me. Family members and friends have seen recommendation after recommendation snubbed so that I can settle into the cosy familiarity of a show that I can near enough recite the script to – so my main question is 'why'? And does this apply to music too?
I think the main reason for me is there is just so much comfort in shows like ‘The Office’. It is easygoing and laidback, it makes me laugh and after so many watches I feel to a certain extent a connection to the characters. I can contrast this with another one of my favourite ever shows, ‘Breaking Bad’. Despite trying a couple of times to relive the glory days of watching for the first time, I’ve never been able to get back into it. The constant suspense makes the show all too stressful, and even though I know what ultimately happens in the end I still found myself on edge all the time. Obviously, that’s a credit to the writers of the show, and being on edge all the time was why I loved it so much the first time, as did so many others - but that just isn’t what I need right now. In a stressful world, I just want to settle down and escape with some light and easy comedy, and being on the edge of my seat just doesn’t scratch that itch. I think that’s why I stick to these American comedies, and, for example, why I much prefer the American version of ‘The Office’ to it’s UK original. American comedy is based off an underlying optimism that’s so reassuring. The character of David Brent in the UK version is just so unlikeable that he is hard to watch, but Michael Scott, whilst portrayed to have the same ignorance and arrogance, is given these redeeming moments that keep the audience on his side. There’s also the child-like innocence that goes with it; when Michael Scott says something offensive or inappropriate you concede that he doesn’t know any better and almost sympathise with him for it – with David Brent you just think he’s a very rude and unpleasant person. That’s why I find comfort in watching the US version of ‘The Office’ over and over again – I know what’s going to happen, I know the characters and most of all the bright optimism and comedy gives me a relaxing escape from the real world. Do I really want to settle down after a stressful day at work and watch an equally stressful show on TV?
So, does this also apply to music? I think for me it does. I’ve found recently that I struggle to get excited about new music from my favourite artists, and unlike most fans will wait a good week or two after its release to finally get around to listening to it. Even then it feels like a forced act; I find myself putting it on whilst I’m doing something else just to give me a reason to stick around and listen to the whole thing. I think the problem here is the gamble. I know when I listen to my playlist or an old album that I already love it. I know the songs and sometimes know what song is coming next before it even plays. There’s a security in this – nothing is going to surprise me or disappoint me. With new albums there’s such a weighted uncertainty, especially when the music comes from an artist that you already love. What if the album disappoints? What if it isn’t as good as their old stuff? What if they’ve taken a new direction that I don’t like? This may read as completely ridiculous to some people - it isn’t life or death, it’s just music, so why all the unnecessary stress? I think for me it’s not that I’ve got some fear of listening to new music or put myself off of it, but sometimes it just takes time. Whilst many fans when offered the chance to hear some new music from their favourite artist would leap at the chance, I always approach with caution. This ultimately boils down to the similar reasons as with the TV shows – I enjoy the familiarity of older music. I can engage with it; I can sing along and enjoy it, waiting for all my favourite lines and sequences. With new music, I can’t enjoy it in the same way, I find myself intently listening, trying to tune into every detail; trying to break down every line or lyric. I can’t just put it on in the background and vibe with it like the stuff I already know, but I find myself concentrating and focusing when really I just want to switch off.
Ultimately, I do watch new shows and I do listen to new music, and it’s not like I never enjoy it. I’m always finding new stuff to add to my playlists and there’s always songs that I hear once and become obsessed with. If I never tried new things my life would just stagnate on a constant loop, and no one wants that. What I am saying is that, using Drake as an example, if you gave me the option of listening to ‘Scorpion’ or ‘Certified Lover Boy’ (when it finally comes out) I’d probably take ‘Scorpion’. Sure, I’m intrigued and excited for the new album, but unlike those fans who just want more and more and more, I’m quite happy to settle down with the album I know and love, and sing along to the songs I like. Of course I will listen to ‘Certified Lover Boy’, and I’ll probably love it, which is why I suggest those reading who relate, and to myself, that although it’s fine to find comfort in what we know – make sure you do go and explore something new from time to time. After all, you never know which new thing could become your next favourite old thing.
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