When I listen to a song, the first thing I hear is the melody and the first thing I feel is the rhythm. Oftentimes, my reaction is immediate and I will flip to a different song; other times I need to listen to a song a few times until I decide I am absolutely in love with it.

For some reason, I have trouble remembering words to songs. Even if I listen to a song on repeat for days on end, the only thing I can identify at the end of it is the melody. There was a time in college when I was hanging out with some friends. It was time for me to go and I was asked what I was going to do when I got home. It was a rare moment where I responded without thinking and said I was going home to memorize the lyrics to Ben Kweller’s Sha Sha. My face turned red. My friends laughed at me. I laughed and backtracked as if I had told a good joke, but it was too late. I was found out. I like to think I graced everyone with a mental image of me, sitting back, singing along as I looked at the tiny printed lyrics in the little CD booklet.

illustration of unfolded CD accordion booklet of lyrics

I suspect there is a kind of confidence that allows a listener to sing along after hearing a song just a few times. I don’t possess that kind of confidence, which is why I will never be found belting out popular anthems along with everyone else in the room.