His taste in music isn’t just bad, it’s ruining my life. How I can stop him hitting play?
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Help me Hera
I have a Neighbours at War-type problem to share with you.
My neighbour likes to play loud music. In particular, he likes to rinse three particular songs over and over again. At first, it was endearing. After three months, I’m starting to feel like one of those imprisoned American soldiers tortured with the same Eminem and Metallica songs over and over. It’s ruining my life.
Just three songs. All day. Every day. Then all night too.
The songs are:
- Meghan Trainor: ‘All About That Bass’
- Katy Perry: ‘Roar’
- And the absolute fave: Imagine Dragons: ‘Thunder’
These songs soundtracked our Christmas, then our New Year. They provided an unwelcome backdrop for Auckland’s floods and then Cyclone Gabrielle, a huge bass thump shaking our windows, timed to the raindrops.
We’ve asked him to stop. He won’t stop.
What else can we do?
A neighbour (who just wants to stop the music)
Think back over your recent actions. Have you recently excavated any ancient burial sites? Spat in the face of a humble beggar woman on the way to market? Because this is truly a curse to rival that of the Pharaohs.
Let me start by saying you’re obviously in the right, and as far as I can tell, there’s nothing you can do about it.
I am so curious to know: who is this person? What sort of individual plays these three songs on a loop? They conjure the image of an underdog, deranged by positive motivation. Is your neighbour a recently fired aerobics instructor, hell-bent on revenge? Are they plotting a terrorist attack against a hair salon? It’s giving arson at the high-school reunion. It’s giving Herbalife revenge arc. I need to know everything.
As “research” I listened to each of the songs mentioned in the letter and immediately recognised them all from major commercials. You must feel as if you’re trapped inside a never-ending Air New Zealand safety video. I’ve been sitting here racking my brains trying to think of anything worse, and I am genuinely stumped. Even ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ or the Thomas the Tank Engine theme seems sonically meditative in comparison.
There’s nothing wrong with listening to the same song 700 times. But unless you’re a child learning to play the trumpet, you need to have some basic human compassion for those around you. I used to work in a shop that played The Best of Edith Piaf once a day, and no amount of industrial disobedience could induce our manager to take it off rotation. Going to work was like being in Amélie jail. But unlike with a CD that can be broken or hidden, in the streaming age there’s no way to permanently safeguard your home against the music of Katy Perry.
Are you renting? Are they? How close are your properties? Do you share a wall or a ceiling? Is there any sort of large vent in his roof you could pump live crickets into? Do you have other neighbours who presumably also hate him? Or have they all given up and moved out?
I’m barely going to suggest noise control because I’m sure you’ve already considered this, and the general consensus is they do nothing besides drive around with clipboards after 10pm. I guess if you called them often enough they might be able to temporarily confiscate your neighbour’s stereo (unless, like my old flatmate, he’s clever enough to have a decoy stereo.) But getting him to turn off his music at night still only solves half of your problem. He’ll also know any noise complaints are coming from you, and I can’t help feeling like anyone who derives mental comfort from listening to this on repeat is someone you don’t want to provoke:
In situations like this, there’s a natural impulse to retaliate. But you can’t win a war against someone whose baseline is already nuclear. If this is the way they’re behaving without even specifically trying to aggravate you, who knows what they’re capable of if they truly set their mind to it?
You could try and ignore the music, or drown it out. But unless you’re on another plane of enlightenment, I don’t see how this is possible. Playing constant white noise, or the entire back catologue of Tom Waits at max decibels is not a viable long-term solution. You could try jamming his wifi signal if you know what you’re doing. Or hack into his speaker system. But by the time you’re spending hundreds of dollars on radio transmitters as an illegal retaliation tactic, you’re already losing. The trouble with fighting with crazy neighbours is that they know where you live, and their threshold for weird behaviour is a lot lower than yours.
To be honest, I mainly answered this letter out of sympathy. If anyone has any relevant personal experience, I’m happy to pass it on. Write to email@example.com with the header “Binding Legal Advice.”
It sounds like you’re running out of options here. I’m not usually a fan of narking on people to their landlords, but this is one of those cases where I’d consider making an exception. It’s equally plausible he owns the property – in which case you can’t do much besides engage him in an endless and probably futile paperwork battle that’s only going to increase hostilities.
It is not your fault this terrible situation has befallen you. You would be well within your rights to try and fight it. But at this stage, any victory might be pyrrhic. Is there any way you can leave? I hate to float “run away” as a strategy, particularly when you haven’t done anything wrong, but you have to ask yourself how many more times can you listen to these songs before they can reasonably be classified as an environmental biohazard. You say your life is being ruined, and I believe you.
I hope someone writes in with an ingenious and fail-safe noise-complaint strategy. But it may help to think of your neighbour as an unexpected natural hazard. Like moving in next door to a rare but invasive termite species. Or a spontaneously occurring but sadly uninsurable sinkhole.
The best option is he moves. The second best option is he gets better taste in music. And the third best option is for you to get as far away as you can.
Moving house is terrible. It’s expensive, it’s stressful, and it takes forever. But compared to listening to the same three songs every day and night for the rest of your life, it starts to seem like the easy way out.
Best of luck
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