The club isn’t the best place to find a lover but neither is the bar, so now you’re sitting in the bathroom on your phone. While it’s not the most explicit memory from a night out, the DJ–who denied all your requests earlier on–is now playing your song. Instead of making a grand re-entrance, you decide to stay in the bathroom because it’s quiet and, well, you can still kind of hear the song. It’s just a bit different.
It’s a specific scene and emotions are bouncing off one another in step with that suppressed baseline you know by heart. An unusual trend on YouTube knows exactly how you feel (even if you don’t), and users have made a strong case for the DIY remix that is listening to music from another room.
While YouTube’s copyright algorithm has tightened the vice on fair use over the years, music memes still flourish rebelliously on the platform through creative edits ranging from unexpected remixes (Darude’s “Sandstorm” covered by a recorder) to outright incoherence (Owl City’s “Fireflies” but the lyrics are in alphabetical order).
The idea of listening to music from another room was introduced in the “What ‘Redbone’ Would Sound Like” meme from last year, which imagined what Childish Gambino’s (aka Donald Glover) hit song would sound like in different settings. One of those settings was “making out in the bathroom of a house party.” In the video meme, you can hear “Redbone” muffled—what it sounds like if you hear the song playing in another room. Variations of the meme would take off in all directions, but some edits continued to use the original aesthetic for more self-deprecating instances than a romantic fling. “What Redbone would sound like while you’re playing Gamecube in the bathroom of a house party” features joystick rattling atop the song, and “what Redbone would sound like if you were in a roast sesh in a bathroom at a house party” mixed the song with a viral video.
The “Redbone” meme would lose steam around the time Childish Gambino acknowledged it at the Governors Ball last year, but the trend of hearing music in a strange or isolated scenario continued to grow. A YouTube video imagined what Mac DeMarco’s “My Kind of Woman” would sound like playing slowly from another room (an already meme-relevant song via Tumblr and a Poppy cover). Various other tracks received the same twist, and the virtual setting expanded to empty shopping centers and carnivals, extending a movie-like feel through echoes and a sound quality akin to music being played through speakers disguised as rocks.
Songs that evoke mid-2000s nostalgia, like The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me” or Panic! At The Disco’s “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” thrive in this meme format, but the reactions are colored in more me irl sadness than a fun trip down memory lane:
“Homecoming, when you needed to walk out of the room to cry because your date stood you up”
“I imagine this playing at some dance and someone sitting outside because it got too noisy”
“You had just caught your date making out with someone else right in the centre of the dance floor…”
The faint anguish of hearing the songs through an imaginative boundary of drywall is hard to ignore, and a more recent channel even adds background chatter and closing doors to increase the immersion of a quiet room.
But for all the reasons you might hear music from another room while escaping a negative moment, the experience is likely to spur an equally distorted feeling of optimism at the same time.
“These videos are literally amazing and idk why???”
The first moments after moving to a quiet room away from a loud environment are refreshing, and hearing music filtered through another room is oddly soothing. It’s like hearing rain fall on your rooftop versus being caught in a downpour. Your mind doesn’t need to compete with a storm of noise, and these moments allow you to actually process the setting and sift through your emotions. Being caught in the downpour is still fun, though, and maybe that’s why it feels so conflicting to hear a song playing from another room. You can relax but only at the cost of knowing you might be missing out.
The next time you’re at a party and escape to a quiet room—or seek refuge in a bathroom at the club—remember to appreciate that moment when the music sounds different. You can revisit the memory later on via a meme, or you can just turn your laptop speakers to full volume at home, walk into a different room, and close your eyes.