MP3 vs Live: Travis Scott

More abruptly obtrusive is Travis Scott’s Rodeo album, a caustic collection of pragmatic tunes and unexpected rhymes. Some call it rap, some say it’s hip-hop, but undoubtedly it is trap music, the type you would expect to hear outside when driving with your windows cracked on the sketchy side of town. It’s almost like it was made to be blared over the speakers in your friend’s friend’s dark basement on a Saturday night, invading the eardrums of people you’ve never met while they sit on tattered couches and illegal fumes fill the air. But when played from car speakers, the music spews out in energetic bursts, instilling its listeners with exhilaration and courage and thrill. It’s exactly what to listen to before a big game or an extreme workout or after a get-together with new friends.

At a Travis Scott concert, the audience is constantly jumping around and “dancing” and throwing their hands in the air. Grunts and groans and “yeahs” that aren’t part of the songs echo from the microphones on stage. The vibrations from the bass are so potent and forceful that you can feel them in your chest. In fact, the whole building seems to be shaking. Shirtless crowd surfers are hoisted toward the stage by strangers with tattooed hands and unique haircuts. Most audience members are dressed in the latest streetwear fashions. Vendors on the street corners sell counterfeit t-shirts and hoodies for half the actual cost. If your conservative, white, Christian mother caught you listening to this music, she’d ground you after hearing the first word. But its explicit content is part of why it’s so hype.

MP3 vs Live: The Weeknd

The Weeknd’s Starboy album is one of those compilations that was meant to be listened to for weeks and weeks on repeat. Its cutting-edge R&B ambience provides the ideal backdrop for any type of trip in the car, speeding down Eggeman at 25 over to get to school on time, gliding across all three lanes of traffic on I-69, cruising through a school zone at 2:35 on a Tuesday. It is borderline pop music, so much so that if you were to switch from streaming the album to playing your first bookmarked radio station, the same exact song might be on. Especially if it’s HOT 107.9, even though it will bleep out the motifs of intoxication and the objectification of women. No matter where it’s coming from, the lyrics pour out of the speakers with a captivating frankness. It isn’t the kind of music that requires extra thought or rewinding, the unequivocal lyrics hold nothing back. The 18 songs are just distracting enough to keep you intrigued yet still able to maintain enough focus to step on the brake when necessary.

A Weeknd concert is filled with as many screaming teenage girls as it is mysterious and somewhat creepy males in their 20’s. The stadium becomes overbearingly dark after the two unfamiliar opening acts finish their amateurish performances. Flashing iPhone screens light up the stadium, partially because the audience will spend too much of its time Snapchatting the concert instead of taking a break from social media to enjoy what’s right in front of them. Lip-syncing replaces the parts of songs that are too auto- tuned to replicate live. Robotic, clunky, machine-like screeches come out of the amplifiers in periodic bursts. When the main act finally emerges onto the stage, it’s past most of these teeny boppers’ bedtimes. But don’t worry, they’re not driving, their mothers are parked right outside in their sparkling white Suburbans, reading adult fiction under the neon street lights.

MP3 vs Live: Maroon 5

Maroon 5’s V album is the epitome of modern pop music. Upbeat rhythms are the backdrop for every one of the 14 songs. It’s the DJ’s go-to selection when playing at any given middle school dance. There’s a good chance one of these songs is playing over the speakers at the West Jefferson Planet Fitness this very second. The only time this music should ever come on in your car is if you’re switching the radio station and accidentally end up on 97.3. Or if you have to give your cousin a ride home from a slumber party. Or if you’re in the mood for a high-pitched sing-along. At a certain point in the album, the songs get too “pop” to even make sense. The band sings of sugar and candy and California and love, the same content you’d find in a sophomore girl’s so-hipster-it’s-not tumblr feed.

A Maroon 5 concert is probably exactly what you’d expect. Although this is the V tour, the majority of the concert consists of the band’s hit singles from the past decade. Teenage girls are everywhere. Moms who try to dress like their teenage daughters are everywhere else. No one even knows the other four band members’ names. When their lead singer surfaces from a secret hole in the center of the stage, the crowd wakes up. No one even bothers to check if the drummer and bassist are in the building. After the first song, the singer takes a moment to tell the audience how great it feels to be performing for them, and he recites the same speech he’ll give at the 200 other stops on the tour. The music is mostly electric and contemporary, but the lead singer is bound to emerge with an acoustic guitar at some point in an attempt to give the performance a more special and exclusive feeling. The drunk lady in an uncomfortable looking dress sitting a row in front of you will ask you to take her picture with her rose gold iPhone 7. Outrageously overpriced keychains and posters and tote bags greet the fans as they pile out of the arena. The staff look absolutely thrilled to be working this late on a Wednesday night. The two hour drive home will double in length if your car happens to be in the parking garage.

MP3 vs Live: Coldplay

Unless your girlfriend is in the passenger seat, Coldplay shouldn’t be playing in the car. Their most recent and supposedly final album, A Head Full of Dreams, is whimsical and romantic, a story of adventure and bravery. Its effervescent lyrics depict images of birds flying away to their freedom, lovers uniting in a magical bliss, and other impossible fantasies. Through the speakers in my grocery-getter, the album is more of a lullaby than a wakeup call. The lyrics float out of the speakers like a trance. Coldplay is what Spotify suggests when you search for a playlist to listen to while taking a bath or frolicking through daisies or watching the sunset, not when you want to get pumped up.

In concert, however, their music is full of jubilation and euphoria and vibrance. Rainbow laser beams and kaleidoscopes of scintillating light enhance the adventurous aura of the album, the fairy-tale-like visions. Toddlers on shoulders, teenagers holding hands and singing their hearts out, adults quietly admiring the brimming amphitheater, the concert is someone’s first and someone else’s last. Pastel confetti pours from the sky in the shapes of birds and butterflies and stars. Vibrant strands of puff-ball garland decorate the stage. The crowd teems with energy in the moments before the band first appears on stage. The LED light-up wristbands passed out at the door all turn on in unison, their flashing colors in sync with the rhythm of the music. Once the stadium spotlights hit them, the whole venue seems to pause and gasp for just half a second, then it erupts in screams and cheers. That’s all beautiful and fills your mind with enough to think about for the two hour car ride home, but it’s not what you’ll play on your way to the gym the next morning. However, it’s tolerable, and it’s okay to give in if that’s what your girl feels like listening to.