Got my Vaccination from a Phonograph Needle

I like what I like and I don't feel the need to justify myself to others.

I recently had some friends over for an evening of Full Contact Drinking Trivial Pursuit[TM]. Not content with the sounds of banter, question&answer and the aggressive guzzling of Miller Highlife, the Cham-pag-nay of beers, I plugged my MP3 player into the stereo and let the music play.

Now, I have eclectic taste in music. I don't mean that the way most college radio DJ's mean it: music so obscure and so unlistenable that, though varied in it's sonic stylings, only other college radio DJ's will acknowledge as music at all. I mean that I listen to a bit of just about everything from Boston Punk to German Industrial to American Classic Rock to Hair Metal. I even listen to a bit of those three most reviled genres, Country, Rap and Top 40.

While several of the gathered friends complimented me on the depth and range of my aural offerings, one or two were so profoundly offended by my choice of songs that they could not help but repudiate me for having, "the most abysmal taste in music" they'd ever heard. They weren't even college DJ's.

Now, I'm not going to besmirch my friends' taste, though one listens exclusively to 80's era punk and classic metal and the other prefers experimental trance, but "most abysmal taste in music"? Really?

The people who champion their own tastes as superior to another's are generally either cutting-edge early adopters of tomorrow's fashions or self-styled experts on the fashions of yesteryear. One group tends to be wrong more often then they are right but lack the memory or self-conciousness to ever admit it and the other has the benefit of history to inform them.

Sure, Disco was probably a bad idea but without it we wouldn't have modern club music. Hair Metal was pretty ridiculous even in it's own time but remember that it was the dominant template in American rock for more than a decade. Folk music gets popularly reinvented every decade or so only to be trashed in the interim lulls but that style and form keeps coming back, generation after generation. What so many aspiring taste makers never seem to realize is that whatever traits make a song or an artist popular, enjoyable or historically important are probably unrelated. Put another way, more people bought Ratt's Out of the Cellar than ever bought a Ramones' album. If they were to realize, they'd probably be pretty pissed.

But, what's it to them? We've only decided in the last generation that pop music is anything other than entertainment and then only because B'Boomers have pushed to historicize the music of their coming of age above others forms. While it's okay to say, "I hate this song, can we skip it?", it's quite another to say, "My largely arbitrary and generally fickle ascriptions of artistic value are superior to yours such that I question your judgment and moral capacity."

So, that said, I'm going to listen to Flogging Molly, Johnny Cash, VNV Nation, Aerosmith, Queen, TMBG, Dresden Dolls, Big&Rich, Depeche Mode, Carol King, Tupac, Patti Griffin and Kelly Klarkson in succession if it pleases me and I'm going to listen to them loudly and all the self-styled shepherds of acoustic propriety be damned.

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nursemyra said...

I enjoy rap and country but draw the line at Top 40. Each to his own.

peony said...

...and after Clarkson I think you most likely have Jim Croce, Bibi Black, Billy Joel, Canadian Brass, and maybe, just maybe, a little James Brown or Three Dog Night. All of that deserves to be topped off with a little Sousa.

Tom Harper said...

I also have eclectic musical tastes; a little bit of everything. And that includes music that's so weird, nobody else on the planet likes it besides me.

As bad as disco was, everything else on the radio during that period was even worse. The mid-to-late '70s had the blandest, most sleep-inducing pop music in the history of radio.