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Courtney Eckerle | Monday, November 2, 2009

Studying brings out the worst in people. Anyone who has crumpled a piece of paper or sneezed in a library during finals week has learned this the hard way. Nevertheless, in the dark, dreary tunnel of books and noses meeting, there is a gleam of light: musical exploration.

Do yourself a favor and complete this little social experiment. Next time you’re in the library and you have to go to the bathroom or pick up another book, creep on people’s music. It’s an awesome bored-in-the-library game. Walk up to a person, make a mental assumption about what they’re listening to, then sneak a peak, and … you’re wrong. Totally, totally wrong. Guaranteed. Goth girl is listening to the “Pride and Prejudice” soundtrack, guy you thought would be all about DMB is actually all about “Weird Al.” It’s strange, and it’s occasionally kind of frightening (say, when a Marilyn Manson fan pops up), but it’s true.

The experiment does not just have to target random people; friends are the best for creeping. They are the ones who will have the weirdest stuff, so be prepared to question everything about them. Welcome to the moment of finding the freak in people. For instance, say you’ve had a best friend since freshman year. Forget the person who can sing every Taylor Swift album word for word, note for note. She (or he) has been replaced by a pod-person working up a mental sweat to steel drums or to those weird relaxation CDs they keep by the greeting cards in Target. It might even have some album cover that is just a picture of a freaked-out eye — don’t even try to find out what that’s about (true story). The biggest confession in a friendship might be about someone’s obsession with hip-hop violin music.

Everyone listens to some kind of quirky, random music. Maybe it’s the Italian route — Andrea Bocelli, Frank [Sinatra], Dino [Dean Martin] and the boys — or maybe a World Music CD happened to find its way into the space between the driver’s seat and the console in your car. Here’s another social experiment. Next time you go on a food run off campus, check out the loner guy who pulls up at the stoplight next to you (yeah, like you don’t anyway), and guaranteed, three out of every four people is grooving out to what has to be some weird, embarrassing music, like that Kenny G’s Christmas CD that chills out in the disguise of a Metallica case when other dudes are in the car.

Here’s the deal: everyone wishes he or she could be cool about his or her music all the time, and oh, the lengths to which we go to hide the weird stuff. Hint, ladies: your boyfriend’s iTunes “most played” playlist doesn’t lie, and apparently, neither do his hips, because he is lovin’ him some Shakira. Having perfectly hip music taste is just not possible, because we all have that weird compulsion that makes an Irish Catholic, Ralph Lauren-and-Gap girl want to krump on a study break to some tribal dance music that may or may not have been bought on a whim at Ten Thousand Villages. It’s the same whim that makes a guy who would sleep outside for three weeks and sell a kidney to see Slipknot turn up the Enya when the day gets a little stressful. Can’t help it, can’t stop it and definitely can’t hide it.

That “Best of John Tesh” CD will eventually slide out from under the passenger seat, and at the worst possible moment, so own it. Let the musical freak flag fly, because everyone has it. A certain reporter for a school newspaper whose name may or may not be on this byline will out hers right here and now: Cajun music (Blind Uncle Gaspard, anyone?) and polka. It’s a freeing feeling, trust. Don’t let the haters get you down, because there’s a reason Celine Dion had a sold out Las Vegas show for five years (hint: there are only so many middle-aged Canadians in the world). You are not alone.