Firstly, there is not one 30 day song challenge, but many, some offering slightly different categories, I am reviewing this one (30DSC), as it is the one in which I’m taking part. I scanned a few options on Facebook, but this one featured a page profile picture of 3 monkeys getting down to hot grooves, making it clearly superior to all other 30 Day Song Challenges not sporting such images.
I think this first popped up about a year ago, certainly the earliest dated reference I could find in my (admittedly halfhearted) search was March 2011. A friend of mine was posting his selections on Facebook mid last year, but he lost his train halfway through when Mousse T’s “Horny” got stuck in an associatively triggered loop in his head and drove him quickly and thoroughly mad. I narrowly avoided a similar fate when I scanned the page’s wall to see what other people were posting. It probably should have been obvious that that was never going to be a good idea, but we all have our moments.
Such obvious dangers aside there are a number of things to recommend this activity on a personal level.
It pushes you to think actively about the music you do (and don’t) listen to. I probably engage a bit more actively with music than most, but I found the process of slotting music into specific categories provoked a more considered reflection of what a song meant to me, why I liked it, or didn’t, and how a specific selection could be made from dozens of candidates, all seemingly equally qualified. (I eventually gave up on the last point, and just tried to represent a broad cross-section.)
It provides a really good impetus to go through your music collection, potentially reuniting you with some old favourites, or helping you to hear something in a new light. I even went through my CD collection for inspiration on some categories, which had the added benefit of letting me know it really was time to dust again. I extracted a few things to my iTunes library that had been sadly neglected for many years, and listened to a few more for the first time in what felt like a lifetime.
It makes you think about think about your past. A number of the categories address songs that remind you of a particular event, or time, or place, serving as a visceral reminder of how potent a trigger for such things music can be. This is something that’s easy to know intellectually, but actually feeling it in action is a different thing to being aware of it on a abstract level. A number of pretty pleasant memories were pulled up for me by my contemplation of some of my selections, and as a man not really that given to nostalgia, it was fresh and invigorating reflection.
Your friends might learn something about you (and you about them). A while back I tweeted about listening to Led Zeppelin, which is one of my all-time favourite bands, and a friend replied with surprise, apparently under the impression that I only listened to ‘fat beats’. Leaving aside for a minute that beats don’t come much fatter than those supplied by Bonzo and John Paul Jones, it intrigued me how narrow our view of our friends taste can be, simply because we only witness them listening to music in certain situations. I would have little idea what kind of music many of my friends listen to when they are home alone, for obvious reasons. A couple of categories in the 30 Day Song Challenge ask you to share some of the less obvious aspects of your taste, and I know I would probably find that eye opening, coming from a number of people who I think I know.
You might have a conversation on your wall about something non-trivial. This statement may possibly be construed as ‘starting something’ or ‘hating’, but lets be honest with ourselves; most of the conversation that appears on my feed, and yours unless you are exclusively friends with sociopolitical commentators, is banal, trivial, and about as deep as a milk-spill on a bench-top. So why not dive into some music-appreciation. And for those of you tempted to say that a discussion of music is trivial, go jump off something tall.
It provides the opportunity for meta-analysis, after all, what does ‘least favourite’ really mean? The categories in this activity are swarming with questionable classifications, and if nothing else, it provides the jumping-off point for a short exploration (read; rant) on the specificity of the English language. It spurred me also to a couple of moments of ill-advised grammar-pedantry, which is always entertaining, if for no-one else, then at least for me.
It’s not for everybody, as my poor drooling friend, and a wall-full of posts about the Backstreet Boys and Pink can attest, but there is definitely some scope here for some interesting interaction with your music collection, your preconceptions, and your friends.
(I’m about half way through the challenge at the moment (on Facebook) and will begin posting some more in-depth responses on this blog soon.)
Verdict: some of the categories are a bit whack, but I’ve already embarrassed myself with my “guilty pleasure” selections and alienated and offended my friends by dissing their favourite bands, so maybe you should too. 3 1/2 mildly embarrassing favourite songs out of 5.