Metallica and the Middle School Morning Commute

Listening to music in a moving car is one of life’s primary pleasures. The speakers surround you. You are encapsulated by sound. If the car is moving fast, all the better. You can melt into that sound. The boundaries of your body disappear and you are allowed to become the amalgam of your thoughts, feelings and sensation.

The music you choose is important. It sets the tone for the journey and colors your mood upon arrival. Always important, but perhaps never more important than the middle school morning commute.

For most of my daughter’s young life, I have been DJ, curating her musical experience with chauvinistic care, thoughtfully exposing her to the things she is supposed to love. She heard Beatles and Hendrix and They Might Be Giants with odd bits of classical, jazz and current pop tossed in. She soaks it all in and has taken my playlist as her playlist.

Now she is ten, and I let her assume the awesome responsibility of iPod selection. She dives in and out of her playlist. She grabs random tracks just because she likes the title. When we are out in public, say the grocery store or a restaurant, a song will occasionally reach out from the background and catch her attention. “What is this?” Tap Shazam. “Add this to my playlist.”

My daughter is getting her ears.

Every day for the past three weeks, my ten year old daughter has chosen Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” for the middle school morning commute. Understand my surprise and amusement.

Metallica is an incredible sound. Metallica is art, but I could not realize it when I was ten. When I was in middle school, music was tribal. The music you chose for your own defined you. I found the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. I was nerdy and in my head a lot. I liked words and abstraction.

When I was a kid, Metallica belonged to the “hoods”. Those rough and rude, slightly scary smokers with the badass tee-shirts. They lived in their bodies. They weren’t “my people” and thus, Metallica was not for me.

I hope it is different now. I hope the ease with which we shuffle our playlists or stream across Spotify genres reflects the ease with which people of different backgrounds and experience blend their musical personalities. Perhaps music is no longer tribal.

As I grew older, I realized the Metallica listeners actually were my people. We were all people who formed deep, intense emotional connections to whatever sounds helped connect our inside selves to our outside. They just had cooler tee-shirts.

My daughter still dives through my iPod playlists. She still digs Beatles and Hendrix and TMBG. But she is finding her own tastes. She is curious about K Pop and hip hop. She likes video game music. She adores Melanie Martinez, an aesthetic I call “baby doll mope pop”. She is finding it on her own.

And so, “Master of Puppets” every morning for three weeks. I like to think it lifts her morning mood, cuts through the haze like a first cup of strong coffee. I imagine her bursting through the middle school doors with that intense, learning forward energy, feeling like a bad ass as she walks through the lockers, toward her people and her day.

That is the pleasure of music heard in a moving car, a pleasure you carry with you, felt most keenly during the middle school morning commute.