Music for Being Underground: The Music of T Travelers
By Karenna Umscheid
Under the screeches of the tracks and the voice on the monitor announcing the next arrival, Bostonians put their earbuds in and prepare for their underground travels. From Green, to Red, to Blue and Orange, different parts of the city are always a few stops away. On a regular Saturday, various unsuspecting people kindly paused their music for me to chat them up about it.
First, in the Boylston station while waiting for the Green Line, Shelley is listening to “Wataridori” by Where’s My History? She really likes the sounds of Japanese pop music. I take the train just one stop to Park Street, where I find more listeners.
I find Annika, who is more than happy to tell me about the music she has blasting as she waits for the Green Line. She is listening to a song by the artist Bad Bunny, who is her favorite artist in the world. “His music always puts me in a good mood.” She tells me she’s half-Colombian, so Latin music is like comfort music to her.
I also ran into Emma, who is listening to “the lakes” by Taylor Swift. She tells me the music she listens to always depends on her mood. Today is her day off of work, so she is listening to chill music. She tells me she really enjoys all genres of music, and admits she really likes tracks from the top 40.
Walking further down the station, I ran into Lizzy. When I ask her what she’s listening to, both her and her friend burst out laughing, and she claims the song is really embarrassing. She’s listening to “Icy” by ITZY.
I travel to stations waiting for the Blue Line, where I meet Camila, who’s waiting to take the Wonderland train. She’s listening to “Lights Are On” by Tom Rosenthal. She tells me she likes a lot of pop music, and really likes a lot of different music in general.
Ruhi also agrees to talk to me. She’s listening to an Indian song called “Dance The Night,” and tells me she really likes Indian music, but she is also a big fan of Ed Sheeran and Coldplay. “I listen to energy songs on the T.” She explains that upbeat songs are essential for riding the T, because the noise can be too loud to hear a slow song.
Sitting on a bench and waiting for the Green Line at Government Center is Sally. She’s listening to “Love The Way You Lie” by Eminem, and her picks for the day depend on whatever she’s in the mood for.
And as I traverse the Red Line at Park Street just for fun, I meet Cassandra. She’s listening to “Just Like a Baby” by Sly and the Family Stone. It’s playing off of her chill mix playlist that was created by Spotify, and her taste changes from day to day.
I also talked to Jen on the platform waiting for the Red Line to Alewife, she’s listening to “For Tonight” by Giveon off of Pandora. She enjoys listening to the top hits, and screenshots her favorites to remember them later.
Jessica turned out to be on FaceTime instead of listening to music, but she was extremely excited to tell me that 90 percent of the time she’s listening to Bad Bunny, specifically loving the song “Yonaguni”.
Melissa was listening to “No Stress” by Wizkid. She explains that she always listens to loud music when on the T. Standing next to her is Brixsona, who is listening to “How It Feels” by Lil Baby. She says that she needs upbeat music when on the T.
At the same station, I ran into Jemar, Anthony, and YM. Jemar is listening to “Sleepy Hollow” by Trippie Redd, and both Anthony and YM are listening to songs by Lil Baby, a popular artist today at Park Street.
A quick snapshot of the people of the T reveals a city with an extremely large variety in musical taste. The T is a part of the daily routine of Bostonians, and on the rails, music carries them from place to place just as much as the machinery does.
The last person I talk to is John Woody. At the Red Line section of the Park Street station, he’s equipped with a guitar, a microphone, and a speaker. “Everyone listens to me because they have to!” he says, laughing.
He primarily plays songs he likes because that’s what he does best, but he also likes to challenge himself. The newest band he likes to play is Of Monsters and Men, but he more often plays older music. This includes The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Neil Young. He also tells me that he likes playing seasonal music, particularly Irish songs for Saint Patrick’s Day. In general, he really likes folk rock and seventies and eighties music.
He’s been playing in T stations throughout Boston for over twenty years, though he wasn’t always as set up and equipped as he is now. He talks about seeing the underground of Boston through the seventies and eighties especially, where there were far less people, and the music they listened to relied on what he decided to play. He concludes his thoughts by saying “music helps!” I’d agree strongly with that, as evidenced by the passion and kindness in the people with earbuds in, who paused their music to tell me about why they listen to it.