Monday’s Music Moves Me: Music In An Empty Mall

You probably know by now that I’ve been getting into some pretty unusual things on YouTube, from videos about abandoned places, to videos in dead or dying shopping malls, to videos of vaporwave music, and my latest thing, recognizable music that sounds like it’s being played over the sound system in an empty shopping mall.

I know: “John, you’re crazy!” I mean, why would you want to listen to this stuff? Mall sound systems don’t exactly have the best fidelity, and playing songs in an empty mall creates a lot of echo. Even the best songs don’t sound really good with those conditions. However, listening to them this way creates an atmosphere: it brings you back to the days when you used to hang out at the mall, go into Tower Records and check out the CD’s and tapes, go see the crazy things they sell at Spencer Gifts, then grab some lunch, maybe a slice of pizza and a Coke at Sbarro or Chinese food at Panda Express before you browse the books at Waldenbooks and the clothes at American Eagle, not necessarily buying anything, because you didn’t go to the mall to shop, you went to hang out…

I told several of you this already, but when I was traveling, going to the mall in a strange city was a night’s entertainment for me. I didn’t need anything, and I wasn’t shopping, although I might go back to the hotel with a book or a crossword puzzle magazine. Somehow, eating dinner at a food court with twenty or so other people scattered around at different tables made it not seem quite as lonely. By the time I’d go home, it was 9:30 or so and it would be close to bedtime.

There are several producers (I guess you’d call them) who have worked out this art form. Most of the videos I’m going to share with you were created by a YouTube user named Cecil Robert, who has a whole playlist of the “empty mall” videos he’s created. He has another playlist of songs that sound like they’re playing in the next room, and lately he’s been making videos of songs as heard from outside a club.

If you get a chance, read some of the comments that people have left behind on these videos. One of the comments I read on the first video talked about liminal space, a threshold between something that just concluded and before you face whatever is going to happen next. It’s an emotional stage, bringing up all kinds of different feelings: melancholy, nostalgia, peace, and feelings you can’t quite put a finger on. See what you feel as you listen to these; I’d be interested to hear your reactions to these.

I’m just going to give you the names of the songs here.

  1. Toto, “Africa”
  2. Tears For Fears, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”
  3. The Plice, “Every Breath You Take”
  4. Billy Joel, “Piano Man”
  5. Simple Minds, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”
  6. Lipps Inc., “Funky Town”
  7. The Beach Boys, “God Only Knows”
  8. a-ha, “Take On Me”
  9. ABBA, “Dancing Queen”
  10. Blondie, “Heart Of Glass”

And that’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for July 1, 2019.

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly, Callie, Cathy, Alana, Michelle and Stacy, so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.

29 thoughts on “Monday’s Music Moves Me: Music In An Empty Mall

  1. Don’t know why but all of a sudden my MacMail put everything in the spam folder! Wonder if they continued to play the mall music after the shooting incident in our local mall the other day required evacuation and lock down? Kinda glad I wasn’t there to find out. Love your playlist again!


  2. I should have been recording music in my local mall (still open but one entire wing is deserted – no more stores open) seriously, some of these were so…well, appropriate? Like “Don’t You Forget About Me” (too late) and God Only Knows. You even made me investigate a vaporware video. Who knew? I certainly didn’t.


  3. We love going to our local supermarkets because both of them play our favorites from the 60s. There’s always a song to sing along to as you shop. I remember years ago when all they played was the local disco station. These actually have a great sound with the emptiness. Kind of sad too.


  4. Interesting! And why do I suddenly feel the need to go shopping? I’ve always enjoyed people watching at the mall, or simply people watching. I had a roommate that worked at a fast food place across the street from the courthouse in Salt Lake City. Sometimes, when it was slow, I’d go sit and watch the people coming and going from there. We would make up stories about who and why they were there. Fun times.



    1. Another good place to do people watching is at the airport. That’s one of those spaces where you’re not really anywhere: you’re leaving where you are and you’re not where yoiu’re going yet, so you’re in a holding pattern. One afternoon I got to the Louisville airport about three hours before my flight, and there was no one at the gate, so I sat there by myself and just enjoyed the solitude. It’s a shame they had to invent cellphones, because now it’s like you’re sitting in a phone booth…


  5. John,

    Well… this is a theme I’d never think in a million years. So, I’ll have to say ‘Bravo to you!’ for coming up with an interesting one for ‘your choice song picks’ week. I can’t say that this is something I’d enjoy listening to because it seems so lonely sounding. I guess it’s due to the way the mewsic resonates through the empty mall. The playlist sure has some excellent selections, though. Hop over when you get a chance to join the dance party this week, my friend and have a boogietastic 4th!


    1. The loneliness is what appeals so much, I think. If you read some of the comments, you see that hearing the songs that way raises a lot of emotion in quite a few people. For some, it’s nostalgia, for others pain, for still others peace, and my guess is it’s a combination of all of the above.

      I’ve become interested in using songs and white noise to create aural environments that allow people to mentally place themselves in a given location. If you were to combine the songs with other sounds (such as a fountain, an escalator, the occasional chime of an elevator, footsteps, conversation etc.), I think you could do just that. It’s something to play with.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “Don’t You Forget About Me” seems sad when one sees the empty mall. The other song with the sad tree in the middle seemed so true at that moment. I wonder if there are any open stores in these malls.


    1. A couple of the videos show dead malls, where all the stores are closed and there’s been vandalism, and the one with the tree is one of them.

      When you think about it, most of the songs are kind of sad in that context. The one that got me was “Africa.” I don’t know why, that song just took on a whole new meaning given the context…


    1. Muzak, or the British equivalent? They’re actually getting a little better, but not so’s you’d notice. Maybe they download a bunch of royalty-free music and play that….


  7. I like that sound of music playing over intercom systems. I’ve been often amused or entertained by songs I hear in my local grocery–at least a few of my Battle posts have been inspired by songs I’ve heard while shopping there or eating at Sizzler Steak House.

    When I was working on the road we spent a lot of times in malls throughout the U.S. and Canada. Usually in the few hours before show set-up we’d head to the mall on a hot day to pass the time. I used to be able to spend an hour or more in record and book stores. Now I can spend that much time looking for one to no avail.

    This past week-end I went to a nearby mall with my wife. It was the first mall that I’d been to in a very long time. It was actually kind of pleasant although there were no book or record stores. Sad.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out


    1. I haven’t thought about Sizzler in a while. My company was located in West LA, on Wilshire, and there was a Sizzler in the same building where we used to send people for lunch. I don’t think I ever ate there, though…

      These days you might get lucky and find a mall that has a Barnes & Noble in it, but all the bookstores that used to be in malls (B Dalton, Waldenbooks, even Borders) are closed now. And I’m afraid that downloading music has all but killed the record stores. Most are too high-rent for the independents, which are really the only kind of record stores anymore. All that has gone the way of the dinosaur…


  8. All of those songs take me back to when the mall first opened up in our area. Makes me want to go back in time and relive my youth – and buy stuff! Yikes!


    1. I wouldn’t mind going to bed one night, waking up and finding it was 1979 all over again, for multiple reasons. I think Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg was about the only enclosed mall in the Chicago area (circa 1979) that was worth going to. We had a few outdoor malls since the early ’60’s that were our hangouts…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Though it wasn’t much in the way of a mall for actual shopping, I enjoyed visiting the Old Chicago complex back during its short existence. I had a friend who was working in the circus show they had. It was the first place I ever tried a gyro sandwich. Even when I was there it was pretty dead as far as attendance–pretty sad actually. But that’s why it met its early demise.

        Arlee Bird
        Tossing It Out


        1. It was out where God left his shoes, as we used to say, so it’s not surprising it didn’t do as well, despite them advertising the heck out of it. They really didn’t give anyone a reason to go.


    1. Unless you’re out of town with someone else, you don’t want to sit in a restaurant by yourself, even a Chili’s or TGI Friday’s (are those even a thing anymore?). A food court gives you a wide selection of options, you don’t feel strange sitting there by yourself (I don’t, anyway), and of course, there’s Cinnabon…

      Liked by 1 person

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