Music Memories

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the way that music can trigger memories. I’m sure there is some kind of scientific term or psychological study for the phenomenon, but I’m simply going to refer to it as “music memory.”

There are so many examples of this for me. My favourite example, however, is the way that the Billy Ray Cyrus hit, “Achy Breaky Heart,” instantly brings me back to several wonderful afternoons of my childhood spent dancing around the living room and enthusiastically singing along (so what if I got 95% of the lyrics wrong back in 1995). 

But, not all memories are good. And, inevitably, not all music memories are good. So a couple weeks ago when my iPod shuffle started to play “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train I had to quickly click the next button. This is sad for several reasons, the first being that I really love that song. And the second being that the memory I associate with it is way too vivid to ignore, even several (five, to be precise) years later.

Once upon a time, Train released “Hey, Soul Sister” as the lead single off their 2009 album Save Me, San Francisco. And once upon a time, my then- (but now ex-) best friend and I listened to it on repeat for weeks. Literally. So, naturally, several memories come to mind when I hear “Hey, Soul Sister,” including one very vivid night during my first year of university. A night of star-gazing and secret sharing – secrets so deep and dark that to this day no one else has ever heard them. A night when we snuck out of residence, hugged each other close, and sang “Hey, Soul Sister” to the stars in the dead of night attempting to erase all the negative secrets from our lives. It was the best catharsis I’ve ever experienced.

But I skip over “Hey, Soul Sister” every time because I still can’t handle thinking about that memory. A memory that would be one of my most treasured,  if the person it happened with hadn’t made her way to the top of my least favourite people of all time list less than a year later.

So I know I said “not all memories are good,” but I think its important to balance that with “not all memories are bad,” because after I skipped over “Hey, Soul Sister” my iPod shuffled to Taylor Swift’s “22.” The transition between these two songs is really what triggered the idea for this post. Because “22” represents everything wonderful about my current group of best friends.

I turned 22 last May and it was one of the best birthday’s I have ever had. The day began as it always does, shopping with my mom, and ended with my five best friends. We re-enacted the lyrics to “22,” complete with dressing up like hispters and having breakfast at midnight. The best part being that none of it was originally my idea. These friends, the best thing to happen to me post my previous best friend break up, suggested the whole thing – hipster outfits and all. I arrived to a party covered in pink Disney princess decorations and was given gifts so exactly suited to the person that I was at that moment in my life (okay, and still am, it’s only been a year). So when I hear “22” I think of the day I turned 22 and spent it with a group of girls who really knew me. In a way that acts as proof that I am more than my deepest and darkest secrets. These friends know I’m somewhat broken without knowing exactly how I got that way, and they love me anyway. They can know me perfectly anyway.

Music memory is a funny thing. I can hear a song that makes me hit the next button so fast I nearly break the iPod and then I can hear a song that does nothing but make me smile.


3 thoughts on “Music Memories

  1. Scientists love jargon. I think you’re referring to music-evoked autobiographical memories. Music memories rolls off the tongue a little better, but at least MEAMs takes up more room when writing a research paper.


    1. Thanks for the info – I had no idea if there was an actual term, but I assumed there would be! It is a bit of a mouthful, but I actually love the phrase “music-evoked autobiographical memories.”


      1. haha, I do too, but whenever you break out terms like that there’s always a risk people will find you pretentious. I usually hedge my bets but acknowledging that I’m aware of how ridiculous it sounds.


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