MY LIFE IN A SONG: Anya Mendelson and ‘Headlights’


BP Drawing by Sara Adatto

NIGHT: Most songs fill the silence. Others light your way.

By Anya Mendelson, 11th Grade

Most songs fill the silence. The occasional one will fuel whatever bottled-up feeling is left inside of you. But the rare song, combined with all its rare components, will present you with a kind of serenity that courses through your body. It turns off your brain, puts the waves rippling through your stomach at peace, and more often than not, changes your view on life. 

Winding through the Hollywood Hills, no street lights to guide the way, nerves building up wondering whether there’s going to be a car around the next corner, complete darkness — the perfect setting for a tragedy. My brother sat to my left, seeming carefree as he blinked his headlights twice to warn anything that might be in our way. Anxiety began to build as I forced myself to stay calm, pushing away the thought that the probability of these lights saving us from a car speeding around the corner was slim to none.  

I turned my attention to the stereo. My brother has always been the music fanatic in the family so naturally, we were listening to his playlist, although after hearing these songs so many times I could really call it my music. Without warning, he turned the volume off and said: “Headlights, Eminem, featuring Nate Russ.” My unfamiliarity with the song did not stop me from taking his phone and typing in the title of the melody that, by the tone he was using, I could tell would assemble all the required components needed for a moment of peace. 

A silence filled the space. The song opens with a momentum-building sum of voices and pianos. At the height of these sounds, Nate Russ’s pure voice sings out: “Mom, I know I let you down.” The blast of the lyrics, combined with a light drum, produced an immediate feeling of relief. 

The first verse highlights Eminem’s rendition of an apology to his mother: “I went in headfirst never thinking about who what I said hurt… My mom probably got it the worst.”   

Emotion pours out of the voices as Russ signs the apology with, “I guess we are who we are, headlights shining in the dark night I drive on, maybe we took this too far.”

I instantly wished the song never ended, I wished we could play it over and over again until it would be burned in my memory. Instead, we dove further into Eminem’s repertoire, picking apart the emotions he expresses in his songs.

 I stopped listening, as curiosity covered me from head to toe: What is this feeling I get from headlights? 

The darkness, the twisting paths, the cold air seeping in through the window, it all indicates pain, but in the headlights, providing just enough light to see a few feet of road — that’s where my safety is found. 

This song, and the five minutes and 43 seconds of serenity that came with it, turned out to prove a lasting point: it is impossible for anyone to know when they’ve gone too far, or haven’t gone far enough. There are no signs in life that tell you if you’re moving too fast or too slow, no guides telling you which way to turn. Just the headlights, and their ability to uncover a few paces of a possible future. You can only wish for the outcome you want, the rest is up to fate, and that hopeful light shining in the back of your mind.