One of the best times to listen to music is right before bed. You take a shower, get all clean and cozy, turn off the lights, put on some big ol’ headphones, put on a soothing playlist and chill. Such a great way to end the day.
In this situation, music saves us from the self-conscious thoughts that would otherwise consume us whilst laying in bed. Music calms us, it sends us into dreamland feeling like things will be okay. I attribute much of my sanity to these late-night music seshes.
But what makes a good bedtime song? One obviously can’t just put on his/her usual Iron Maiden or LMFAO. Here are some attributes I look for when I’m trying to prep for sleepy time:
1) The song must be relatively low-energy.
When lying in bed with the lights off, I’m aiming to become relaxed. After all, the overall goal here is to eventually get to sleep. Groups like Beastie Boys for example, while awesome, fill me with energy. They make me want to go play tackle football or run a few miles. In the morning, these effects are awesome, but when trying to wind down the day, it’s just not the right vibe.
Emotional content can still be present in low energy songs. I look for songs that instill a sense of subdued inspiration. I want my heart to feel the music, not the rest of my body. The song “Hear You Me,” by Jimmy Eat World, is a great example of this phenomenon. The melody of the song is slow and pretty, strummed lightly on an acoustic guitar. Toward the end, the song features loud electric guitar, but maintains the slow rhythm and sad, heartfelt lyrics.
Jim Adkins’ voice is soft and genuine, complemented by the soft acoustic guitar. The ingredients for subdued inspiration, perfect for a pre-sleep music session.
2) The song must be relatively simple.
I don’t want to hear a song that forces me to solve a riddle, or follow a complicated story line. I want to relax my mind, I want to let my brain rest. Therefore, I look for uncomplicated songs. When enjoying music at the end of the day, honestly, the sound of the music is often more important to me than the lyrics. So I certainly do not want to listen to a song in which the lyrics force you to use brainpower.
An example, you ask? “Heaven at Nite” by Kid Cudi. The song’s message is simple (although I’m not sure if I know what exactly it means) — have you ever been to heaven at night? The mental image of heaven at night is very pleasing. I imagine acres of perfectly lit, greek-style pillared buildings and green grass. Also, the soothing-ness of Kid Cudi’s voice is key — it doesn’t dominate the song. You aren’t forced to acknowledge his singing. This allows the listener to relax his/her brain. When this happens, the song as a whole can really engulf the listener’s being.
3) The song must have a beautiful melody.
I know what you’re thinking: Tyler, shouldn’t this one always be a rule not merely for bedtime music? Why, reader, not necessarily. The key word here is “beautiful.” A song can be great without being beautiful. The song “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, for example, is a fantastic song. However, I would not consider it a beautiful melody. I love the song, but it is not one I would opt to listen to before bed.
To me, beauty comes from a song’s ability to speak directly to your heart and soul. When I can detect genuine emotion in a song and get a rise from it, then I consider it beautiful. Different chords, lyrics and melodies do this for different people. We are not all going to select the same pre-sleep music, but a song that exemplifies beauty to me is “I Wish” by R Kelly. The lyrics are simple and straightforward, how he wishes he could just step away from all the fame and see his parents again. The beat is slow, soft and melodic. His sadness comes through so unmistakably, and all of it together definitely hits me in the heart.
R Kelly gets a lot of crap for his offstage shenanigans, but he makes some beautiful music. This song gives my heart a final little jolt before I sleep, and sets me up to start the next day inspired.
Music is meditation. It can be a fantastic tool, one that can be utilized to manipulate your emotions. Songs following these three rules get me in that perfect bedtime zone, and let me drift off to dreamland in a satisfied trance. Hopefully they do the same for you.