The musical binge

I was wondering if anyone else experiences what I call “musical binges.”

I don’t recall them happening until I was college-age, although they probably did. Without understanding why, I would suddenly develop a hunger to listen to one album repeatedly. Often, music I’d never heard before. Sometimes, not even music I like.

The first time happened right after I asked my Patient Boyfriend about Queen’s Greatest Hits, probably because we were reading Good Omens at the time. He loaned me his tape (this was back in The Olden Days) and I listened once. It sounded okay, and I asked if I could bring it back to my school with me. He agreed, and I listened again on the way home. When the tape finished, I turned it over and started playing it again.

And again.

I listened to Queen’s Greatest Hits five times in four days. Whenever it ended, I’d think, “I’ll give that a rest for now,” and then within hours I wanted to hear it again.

It’s happened since then several times, and always with music I never liked before. I bought Charlie Peacock’s album “Love Life” in 1994 and gave it a listen-through. Okay, but not amazing. In the summer of 1995, I picked it back up and listened to it ten times in a week.

The same happened with The Rumours Album (Fleetwood Mac) in 1999. It’s a fine album, and I even knew most of the songs, but I’d never heard them all before in the same place. A few years later, I suddenly felt this powerful urge to listen to The Cars, of all things (I swear, I’d never heard their Greatest Hits album) but I stymied that one by not being able to find it in my Patient Husband’s belongings until after the urge had passed.

Most recently, it’s been Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I finish it and immediately want to hear the whole thing again.

Every time, it’s felt to me as if I’m hunting for something in the music, in the lyrics, in something about it. I get to the end and I need to search for it again, whatever it is.

My Patient Husband has never experienced this, so I’m tossing out the question to you guys: Have you ever done the same? What’s going on?


  1. Jason Block

    Oh yeah. It will happen with an artist I am into. I will pick out a favorite Prince Album, Depeche Mode, et al.

    1. philangelus

      Okay, so I’m not totally deranged. But why would it happen with an artist/album I’m either not into or have never heard at all?

      1. Jason Block

        Because you need to hear it, or your guardian angel wants you to.

  2. Cricket

    I do that with authors, but usually ones I like.

    I suspect the albums are good, in that they make you think, and catchy, in a way your brain isn’t used to, and your brain doesn’t have stairs built to get out of that rut.

    It might also be that you know there’s more to the album than you can catch on the first few listenings.

    1. philangelus

      It doesn’t explain the hunger though.

      Someone pointed out that it might be an Asperger’s-type perseveration. I’m not sure because it only lasts about a week when it happens. But maybe. (I mean, I don’t really fit the AS criteria, so maybe if I have quirks, they’re not quite the same as AS quirks.)

  3. Scott

    One semester in college, my roommate and I listed to R.E.M’s ‘Out of Time’ CD for the entire finals week. The box was set on replay and was never turned off.

    I don’t think we ever listened to the album again and right now, I honestly can’t tell you what songs were on it.

    All I know is that we needed it and it was the best background music…ever.

    1. philangelus

      Now you’re going to make me go look it up. Hmm.

      When I was pregnant with Emily, I had just bought the Mirrorball album, and someone gave me the Princess Mononoke soundtrack as kind of a “Life truly sucks, but here, I’ll give you a gift so you know you’re not in it alone” gift. I listened to those two albums whenever I turned on music in the kitchen because they happened to be in the kitchen, and my other music was downstairs, and of course there was no way to remedy that problem. I haven’t listened to the PM soundtrack nor the whole Mirrorball album since then.

  4. whiskers

    Yes, I do this. Sometimes it’s whole albums, sometimes it’s songs or snippets of songs, but there’s something in them that I NEED. And I feel a bit lost if I don’t hear it.

    1. Jane

      Yeah, that’s the thing–the NEED to hear it. Are you ever able to figure out afterward what was the thing you needed?

      1. whiskers

        Well, I’m synesthetic (sound and touch are confused in my brain), so I actually feel the music. I attach to certain patterns of notes, or certain lyrical phrases because they feel a certain way. Sometimes I need ones that feel good, and other times I need ones that feel…uncomfortable, but in a way that resonates with my own mood. For me, it’s like needing a hot bath, or to wear a certain type of fabric, or to read a book under a nice comfy blanket. Or, I guess, like needing to walk into someplace that scares me. Not that I do that. I’m far more likely to use the music to make myself uncomfortable, or confront my own darkness, than I would be to…go to a haunted house, or walk by myself down a deserted alley.

        I guess I need the tactile sensation the music produces to be introspective enough to snap myself into certain productive attitudes or out of certain non-constructive attitudes. It’s like a musical slap, which can either be a keeping-up-the-good-mood slap, or a you’re-behaving-badly-and-this-will-tell-you-why slap. And woe betide the person who interrupts this introspection… *grin*

        1. Jason Block

          You know, after reading all these responses I could write a treatise on how important music is in correspondence to what you are feeling.

          It can be the opening beats, that magical guitar riff, or that opening voice. It will hit you straight into your soul. I can name tons of examples.

          Who doesn’t feel great when they hear the opening piano chords and harmonica from Piano Man and start to sing along?

          Who doesnt want to crank the speakers to 11 and tell the world where to go when you hear Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit”?

          Who doesn’t admire the sheer brilliance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony knowing the fact it was all in his head and he never heard it?

          It can be a dance, a smile, a yell, a primal reaction, a lustful glance. Music is universal. It’s a period, a memory, a shot of adrenaline to the brain.

          Its all of that and more.

  5. capt_cardor

    Back in the 1950’s/1960’s we had what was called top ten music radio. Stations would play the top hits as measured by “Billboard” or some other service. The number one hit would get played over and over again. I can remember my friends and I switching from radio channel to radio channel trying to hear our favorite song over and over again. This would go on for weeks until the song finally dropped off the charts.

    I think most people get this feeling of connection to something, however it occurs, and persist in wanting to repeat the connection for as long as possible. I once watched the movie “Rodan” 16 times during one week, when it was the only movie on NY channel 9. I still like the movie, but not enough to own it on DVD.

    So, I guess what you experience is really just a normal behavior that the marketers have been able to tap into over the years.

  6. Ken Rolph

    I understand exactly what you are describing. Most people don’t do this. It’s a repetitive pattern behaviour. If you do it in a social context it can seriously drive others nuts.

    People who can do this are on the systems side of the system/empathy balance. It requires the ability to focus on something quite intently. The interesting characteristic is the desire for a specific kind of music. It can make your music collection seriously eclectic. Libraries who lend music are also a great help.

    My latest episode of this involved Rat Pack music (Sammy Davis Jr et al). I have a triple CD of this and a triple CD player, so it occupied me for a whole week.

  7. K.M. Weiland

    I’m actually (and admittedly weirdly) just the opposite. When I find an album I love, I space out my listening periods, trying to savor the newness and that wonderful zingy feeling as long as possible. Good music is always good music, but if I listen to it too much, it loses some of its magic.

  8. The Sojourner

    I rarely listen to music any other way. I get a new CD, listen to it 50 times in a month, and then put it away and almost never listen to it again.

    This summer it’s actually been my sister’s Taylor Swift CD. *blushes with embarrassment* Not the kind of music I’d ever think to buy, but we listened to it while doing dishes one day and I’ve been hungry for it ever since.

    I also do something like Whiskers describes–certain CDs/genres of music go with certain emotional states. Sometimes I like to be lulled; sometimes I need to be a bit battered. (I went through a GooGoo Dolls phase a year or two ago during a rough patch; it actually helped me feel better in an exfoliated kind of way.)