One day last week, I went to wash the dishes. However, instead of playing my normal song selection (typically a heartbreak R&B or an explicit rap song played on loop) I listened to “I Give Myself Away.” I started with a slow nod to the beat, finding myself throwing in my own ad-libs. The contrast between McDowell’s voice and the sweet sound of the choir added an element of spirituality into my soul. The woman singing the final verse has a voice that goes unmatched. I felt light on my feet. I feel free, even after no longer listening to the song, which I have not felt for what seems like ages.
You may be wondering why I suddenly decided to turn on gospel music. I was introduced to various forms of music growing up. I started playing the piano at age 7, began vocal and viola lessons at 9, and picked up the flute at 10. I have performed in numerous recitals, concerts, and charity events. Most importantly, I have been listening to music my whole life. Music is my self-expression. Music is my outlet. Music is my distraction. Music is my everything, but how has it affected the way that I feel?
I have had numerous discussions with my father regarding the subliminal messages embedded into the songs that I listen to. He explained that my subconscious takes in lyrics and slowly changes the way I think and feel. I began to think about what he meant. I tend to listen to music that reflects my current feelings, but recently the only songs I have listened to were downhearted. I had gone through a hard time over the summer, but now nothing in particular was bothering me, so why was I still in the mood for disheartening music? Maybe I was no longer controlling my music, but my music was in control of me. I decided it was time to make a change. For one week, I would only listen to gospel music.
Though I am not heavily religious, I am raised by two Christians who have always turned to God, the same way I turn to music. My parents are not always happy, but unlike me, they never wallow in their feelings. I have also heard testimonies of those who have been through more than I can imagine but found peace, and even happiness, through God. I aspire to find this peace. Because singing is one of the many forms of worship, I found it only fitting that I try to achieve the same level of enlightenment through the gospel.
As someone who expresses myself primarily through music, being limited to a singular genre was not ideal. I could not cry to Olivia Rodrigo. I could not scream Summer Walker lyrics. I could not release my emotions like normal. While doing this experiment, however, I had no reason to cry or scream. Gospel music focuses on themes of inspiration, hope, and renewal. It takes your hardships and transforms them into opportunities. This experiment allowed me to take a step back from reality, detach from my past mistakes, and remind myself that everything happens for a reason.
While I certainly agree that music affects your mood, I cannot attribute gospel music as the sole source of my changed perspective. Although there were days where I found songs that lifted my spirits, there were also days that I was not connecting with the music. I found that “modern” gospel music did not fill my soul in the same manner that live church performances did. Gospel music is not the cause of peace, but rather the thematic messages and soothing ambiance certain songs contain. Moving forward, I will try to incorporate more positive influences into my life. I have, most importantly, learned that what you put out is a reflection of what you take in.