Anyone who’s casually made a song recommendation, or is suddenly tossed the aux cord in a car full of people, is familiar with the feeling of panic when it dawns on you that maybe you’ve misread your audience.
It’s usually the lack of reaction that’s the tip off – an awkward silence permeating the car and the space between verse and chorus. You’re suddenly aware of how god damn annoying the singer’s voice is, but it’s too late. Your copilot stares straight ahead, motionless and tense, and you grip the wheel to focus on the next turn, analyzing road signs and tree trunks – anything to distract you from the urge to unplug.
What did you expect playing Odesza’s new album in a car full of Leon Bridge acolytes? You should have done your homework, or at least listened to that voice in your head telling you to go with the folksy band out of Chicago, Whitney.
Your biggest mistake was plugging in with a group of people you don’t know that well. Who’s the tastemaker here? You need to know who will be the first person to complain and break the spell. You’re looking for a musical home base, a mutual jumping off point, like everyone agreeing that surf pop is BACK. But you’re driving blind. Not literally of course. But you have no raw data, no opportunity to stalk these people on Spotify to see what playlists they wander through.
You consider throwing up a softball. Something like This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody). Everyone loves that song. But you worry that you can only rely on nostalgia so many times before your constituents feel like puppets, propped up by familiar melodies.
What you really want to do is to connect everyone. Start with something sturdy, a song that’s easy to build on. Then, like an old man feeding pigeons, toss breadcrumbs in every direction – one to the copilot, one to the couple packed in the back, and then circle around to the tastemaker. Pull the group together and then start working towards the fringe, blending genres and weaving in offshoots. Pioneer new territory, not far off course, but dangerously close to the edge.
But the silence is paralyzing. You get the urge to unplug. Any second now the copilot is going to turn down the music. But, then again, redemption could be just a song away.