GAMBLE: Stop the i-dentity crisis and get real

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MollySome people rummage through others’ medicine cabinets. I prefer their music collections. I’m not saying that’s any better, but it is more telling.

Last week I snagged a friend’s iPod and browsed through the extensive list of artists. I thumbed through nondescript standards like Blink 182, Dave Matthews Band and Led Zeppelin and grew frustrated. I couldn’t find any dirt.

Where was the Josh Groban, *NSYNC or Vengaboys? His collection was all perfectly acceptable music, as if it had been sterilized.

“Did you leave the boy bands off your iPod just in case this exact situation ever happened?” I asked.

Just as I spoke these words, it hit me: iPods have morphed into our musical resumes. Just as we un-tag unflattering photos of ourselves on Facebook with a single click, we de-sync songs that have been deemed “uncool,” the guilty pleasures that leave us feeling most vulnerable when seen or heard by others.

Unfortunately, these are often the most unique tunes, the ones that distinguish you from some generic Joe Schmo who loves white flour and bottled water.

For instance, it was a big step in my roommate’s relationship when she discovered Enya on her boyfriend’s iPod. It was even more telling when he nonchalantly admitted to listening to it. (They’re still going strong.)

That sort of confidence is a dying breed. People have constructed these faux-music identities out of a strange fear of being either out of the norm or not hip enough. For some, the remote possibility of Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be” coming on shuffle at their next house party is a modern day apocalypse.

There are already a handful of reasons I have a love/hate relationship with the iPod. I can’t imagine a workout, roadtrip, or night of sleep without it. Like smokers who continue to puff, I continue to listen to my iPod – despite the fact that it has practically killed the album.

While fans once listened to an album from first track to last, memorizing every intro and outro in between, we now listen to singles. We pick and choose what plays when. Artists’ intentions to create overarching themes are carelessly thrown to the wind.

Even worse, we buy these singles from the cold, gray iTunes store, a far cry from the colorful record shops with folksy employees that pepper our city.

Now, our iPods are iApplications, kept squeaky clean to help us look good.

Maybe this epidemic should stop. Maybe we should just listen to what we like and stop being awkward about it. It’s not a big deal. Flaunt the dirt on your iPod. Here, I’ll go first. My most embarrassing song, without a doubt, would be “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler.

The reason I purchased the song, and the play count it has clocked in – well, that I will refrain from revealing. I’ve done my part. Now you should, too.

To all you play-it-safe iPod users who stock that little piece of metal up with The Beatles, Stones, and Michael Jackson: the time has come to loosen up. Sometimes you can color outside the lines, you know. Explicit rap songs? Upload them. Death metal? Now you’re getting there.

And to all the hipsters who play it safe in their own way, by filling precious gigabytes with artists no one has ever freaking heard of? Relent. Quit the act. Upload those Asher Roth or Jordin Sparks hits you secretly adore (or sing along to) and call it a day.

The music on your iPod, however embarrassing, is supposed to be tunes you like. It’s that easy. Real friends will accept, maybe even praise, your bizarre choices and continue to like you.

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