Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Death of Music, Part 5: No One Likes "All Kinds of Music."

Hey there music mourners! Put away your tear-stained hankies, ‘cause it’s time for yet another installment in our bile-filled series devoted to the never-ending public execution of music. Which makes me wonder, couldn’t we just get this over with already? I mean, why don’t we just grab music from behind, strangle it with an iPod cord, and bash it over the head repeatedly with the latest Fall Out Boy CD until its lights are snuffed out for good?

Do we really have to keep protracting this grisly murder with near-fatal blows (and new releases) by Madonna, Weezer, Mariah Carey, The Raconteurs, White Snake, The Rolling Stones, Ashlee Simpson, Louis XIV and many others? Do we need to stand by helplessly as yet another musical “savior” shows up, trots out some semi-competent but derivative melodies, and then promptly slips into obscurity within a year or two? (By the way, this week’s semi-competent contenders are Vampire Weekend, with their English Beat/Joe Stummer-ish rock/Caribbean sound. And if you’re sitting there thinking “Vampire Weekend is so 2007!” then that just kind of proves the point, doesn’t it?)

Sadly, it looks like we enjoy torturing music’s once-vital and robust form way too much, so music won’t be COMPLETELY dying off anytime in the foreseeable future. With that in mind, I’d like to offer a little friendly advice in case you ever find yourself in the awkward position of actually having to DISCUSS the damn stuff.

If anyone ever asks you, “What kind of music do you like?” Never, EVER answer (with a playful toss of your bountiful locks) “Oh, I like ALL KINDS of music!!!” unless you want to immediately slay a conversation deader than the buzz surrounding the Arctic Monkeys. In fact, it is better to profess your undying devotion to the complete works of L.A. Guns before you utter something as mindlessly tiresome as “I like all kinds of music!”

Why? Well, first of all, nine billion out of nine billion-and-six times it’s patently not true. A lot of people think their musical proclivities are the metaphorical equivalent of a Save the Children necktie just because they groove around to both the White Stripes AND Led Zeppelin on their iPod shuffle. Either that or they view themselves as “audiophiles” because they have the audacity to listen to melodic, whispery rockers like Snow Patrol back-to-back with anthemic, blow-hard rockers like U2. You heard right; not even a Travis cut between them to buffer the blow. Holy god, I almost had a massive coronary just contemplating the chocolate-in-peanut-butter-lunacy of it all.

In truth, there is an infinite number of styles and sub-genres of music on this planet and Western pop music only comprises a tiny fraction of that music. The music that is aggressively marketed and made available to most Westerners is an even smaller amount, as you are no doubt marginally aware. So when someone says, “I like all kinds of music,” he usually means all the music currently in “hot” rotation on his favorite radio station.

Unless you actually ARE getting down to French film scores in the evening, atonal 20th century classical in the morning, free-form jazz in the afternoon and meringue dance mixes on the weekend, it’s better to just admit your unhealthy fondness for bleating Diane Warren-ish pop ballads or tepid southern-rock-boogie and be done with it.

Which brings me to the second reason you should never say “I like all kinds of music!” In my experience, there is nothing more dish-water dull than a person who can’t get fired up about one type of music, at least once in a while. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with EXPOSING yourself to many styles of music - in fact, I highly recommend that you do - but if you’ve never been moved enough to feel “loyalty” for one type of music, then I believe you’ve never fully experienced the power of music.

While there ARE definitely people who can glean profound meaning from a myriad of musical forms, I believe these true musical connoisseurs (and I am not one of them) are few and far between. More often than not, the people who listen to a large variety of music and then profess to dig “all kinds of music” are really pretentious Paste-subscribing poseurs who want to impress people with their mind-blowing cultural acumen. Their listening may be wide and varied, but their “hearing” tends to be cursory and superficial. Sorry, not impressed.

Similarly, I have a hard time taking seriously any band that lists more than 600 other bands as major influences on their sound. Are they really that non-discriminating? Because I have a hard time believing ANYONE could be that diverse, or immerse themselves fully in that many bands without losing something along the way.

For god’s sake, man! If you’re listening to THAT much music (and you’d have to have it wired into your head while you sleep, if you believe these guys) you should be riled up enough to single out SOMETHING!!! Does nothing jangle your ganglia or make your limbic system want to do the limbo? There’s no style, genre, or artist that makes you want to profess your undying allegiance from the highest mountain top? No? Then you, my friend, have never really been moved by music.

So, let’s review: On the one hand, it’s not a good idea to say you like “all kinds of music” when Clear Channel’s hot AC consultant has your musical knowledge in a triple-head lock, or you own exactly 3 CD’s, and at least one of them is “The Eagles’ Greatest Hits.” On the other hand, it’s a sad state of affairs when you seek out every obscure beat ever committed to digital media and then claim to love them all because you can’t FULLY appreciate any of them, or you don’t want to risk looking like a musical philistine.

Take a stand! Have a viewpoint! Feel the passion! Don’t be a poseur! When someone asks you what kind of music you like, don’t just toss out some nebulous non-committal non-answer. Instead, have a thoughtful response ready to go. Trust me, if you’re trying to flirt with someone you just met, he or she will respect you more if you express your opinions and stick to your guns.

Yes, even if they’re L.A. Guns.

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