Songs, Beastie Boys, Turnstile, Feelings, and It-ness


“If you can feel what I’m feeling then it’s a musical masterpiece” – Beastie Boys, “Pass the Mic” from Check Your Head (1992) 

“The world is changing / Or is it me who’s not the same?” – Turnstile, “DANCE-OFF” from Glow On (2021) 

One day I was walking and thinking about lyrics, as I do. Also on my mind that day was the question of what makes a song “good.” Obviously, there are many subjective answers to the question. And, clearly, there is no objective truth in determining whether or not a song is “good.” For me, and like many of you (I assume), there are many things that can make a track a good one. Personally, one function of music that I adore is its ability to convey a feeling. In the Beastie Boys song “Pass the Mic”, MCA (RIP) starts the track off with the line, “If you can feel what I’m feeling then it’s a musical masterpiece.” I think that this line captures one unique reason for a song being “good.” If the artist intends to share some feeling or emotion, and as a listener you are able to feel that too, the song is successful. Successful in the sense that it is good, it carries out the intention. MCA makes a bold claim by calling a song with feelable emotion(s) a “masterpiece,” but nonetheless it highlights this wonderful aspect of music, this sharing and connection between artist and listener. 

Recently the hardcore band Turnstile released an album titled Glow On. Even before it was out, going back to the singles being put out, I have been obsessed. When the entire album finally came out in late August, I listened to it nonstop. My favorite song off of it is “DANCE-OFF,” the eleventh track. The chorus hits hard and makes me want to jump up high. During this section lead singer Brendan Yates shouts, “The world is changing / Or is it me who’s not the same?” And that line is it, I feel it, I feel it deeply. Just like MCA said in “Pass the Mic,” I can feel what he’s feeling. The words, the emotion behind those words, the music, the energy, the affect all make me feel it. I resonate, I relate, I see the realness in them. From where I stand as a person stumbling through college, unsure of where I want to go in life, living in a seemingly never ending period of transition, these twelve words organized into a statement then a powerful question sum it all up perfectly. “The world is changing / Or is it me who’s not the same?” Do you see it? Just wait until the end of the song’s guitar solo. Things calm down a little to give the guitar some attention, then the band returns with a chorus around the 1:50 mark of the song. This time these lyrics hit even harder, accompanied by a massive yell in the background. And that’s it, the song reaches its pinnacle and the feeling is palpably there. In connection to MCA’s claim, yeah it’s a musical masterpiece. In my framework, it’s a good song (to me it’s more than that, of course) because it conveys that feeling that I can feel as well. I am reminded of a playlist that I have. It’s titled “It.” The songs found on the playlist are all uniquely special to me. They are tracks that I describe by saying, “this song is it.” By that I mean these songs express a feeling that I feel and that I share with the artist. In the moment of listening to them, they feel like my entire world. They all have that it-ness, that feeling. To me, one of music’s many functions is to convey feeling and build connections through shared feeling. That’s one of the many reasons why I love music. I hope you feel it for yourself too.

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