Rock Band Revelation


Image Credit: Rock Band 4

Rock It Like You Mean It

I love music.  Most kinds.  I love every­thing from 13th cen­tu­ry chants to opera to blue­grass, big band, main­stream rock and even some metal–don’t judge, I’m expand­ing my hori­zons.  I love to sing, but only in my car or in the house when no one is around.

I used to love singing even when peo­ple could hear me.  Then, some­one whose opin­ion I held high­ly told me I didn’t have a voice worth lis­ten­ing to.  And that opin­ion was rein­forced by being involved in musi­cal the­ater where peo­ple are lit­er­al­ly judged by how well they can belt a song.  You want the best on stage.  Total­ly under­stand­able.  But I, in my angsty teenage years, heard only that my singing sucked, rather than I sim­ply wasn’t strong (or clear or what­ev­er) enough as a vocal­ist.  So I stopped singing any­where I might be judged, e.g. in pub­lic.

It’s a com­mon sto­ry.  We’re told that what we put into the world isn’t worth someone’s atten­tion, as if our joy needs to equal a prod­uct for anoth­er to con­sume.  No one ever tells us that the mon­e­ti­za­tion of some­thing doesn’t nail down the only way of express­ing or expe­ri­enc­ing that some­thing.  The mes­sage we get is, if we can’t sell it, it ain’t worth shit.

Thir­ty years pass.  No karaōke for me, no sing-alongs, just solos in my car–unless I’m super tired or tip­sy and my guard is down.

Enter the XBox game, Rock Band 2.

Stick (my daugh­ter), Red (her part­ner) and I start­ed up a band, The Face­hug­gers (we’d just fin­ished watch­ing Alien and Aliens, and we’re geeks–but you knew that).  Red is our kick-ass gui­tarist.  I’m usu­al­ly on drums.  Stick does a lot of the singing, except when the game toss­es out a tune from before she was born … then it falls to me. That ver­sion of Rock Band was pret­ty for­giv­ing about how you played, how you sang.  Ener­gy wasn’t need­ed.  You could whis­per or meow your way through a song as long as you hit the beats and phras­ing, so I could hide even as I was singing.  It takes a cer­tain amount of tal­ent to be self-effac­ing when you’ve got a mic up to your face.

This win­ter, we splurged for the newest ver­sion, Rock Band 4, and every­thing changed.  Now the score is based part­ly on how much ener­gy you put into your per­for­mance.  You can’t tap the drums light­ly, you have to play them HARD.  You can’t mere­ly breathe your songs into the mic. The best scores come from rock­ing it like you mean it. And we’re all com­pet­i­tive enough to want the high scores. We have a tour bus to earn and fans to win!

I had to put up, stop play­ing, or fail out of the game, and no one wants to be a los­er in front of their kids.  So I put up, let loose and belt­ed out an old Pat Benatar rock bal­lad.  And it was glo­ri­ous­ly fun!  In that moment, I had a rev­e­la­tion.  We live so much of our lives ashamed for being nor­mal, ashamed of not being what’s reflect­ed in our media.  I know so many peo­ple who won’t sing in public–it’s not just me–or write, or draw, or gar­den, or sew, or any­thing, real­ly, because they fear deri­sion.  They have joys they keep in the clos­et.

Who are these neb­u­lous gate keep­ers who get to deter­mine how we find our hap­pi­ness?  If we take joy in what we do, what we put into the world as play, as self-expres­sion, isn’t that what is impor­tant?

So sing out, I chal­lenge you. Give your­self per­mis­sion to do what makes you hap­py how­ev­er much you can.  Sing out loud and long.  Paint, dance, yodel, write, role-play, act, build, cre­ate … what­ev­er light­ens your heart.  And for your own joy’s sake, break it out of the clos­et and rock it like you mean it!

See you on the high score list!


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