Apr 6, 2012

Lightly Touching on Music

Something I don’t bring up much here is music. Partly that is due to my arbitrary scope of this blog. Mostly it is because I’ve found musical taste to be one of those intensely embarrassing subjects.

Music is polarizing. Typically you either like it or you don’t. There are intensities of like or dislike but they waver with your mood and shift over time. Talking to others about music is often a huge waste of time as it devolves quickly into each person talking at the other about what they like or don’t like. Since those so rarely overlap nicely the other person typically will be uninterested.

Sure, people think you can have “intelligent” conversations about the musical craft and bands and what not. I believe it’s possible, I do. But how many times have you heard the “they sold out” rant? The concrete facts quickly get lost in the opinion.

I think my general approach to music can be summed up in this tweet of mine from last year:

I'm starting to think that damn near EVERY song on my iPod is a #guiltypleasure #realization

Why do they have to be guilty pleasures, though?

I became acutely aware of these thoughts tonight as I found myself watching Lights perform acoustic renditions of her songs on YouTube.

Now, see, right there I’ve said too much. It’s no surprise to me that her first album* is getting a lot of play time on my iPod lately, given my history of being all-too-partial to the syrupy pop of most anime’s JPOP opening theme songs, to similar artists in my collection long since past like Sarina Paris (which got a lot of play time in my GTA: San Andreas custom radio station; nothin’ like blazing down San Fierro in a Bullet pounding the pop). But you all don’t know that because I rarely bring this stuff up.

Perhaps I’m aware of the stigma. On the surface, Lights fits too many of the easily ridiculed tropes: she’s young, Canadian, impossibly cute, her music leans heavily to dance pop (“sweet and shimmering” as the iTunes review of her first album eloquently puts it), but worst of all she’s been fairly successful. Success, as we all know, is immediate grounds for dismissal to most music snobs (except when it’s “the classics” of course).

I can try a defensive stance. I can point out that her original songs translate surprisingly well to low-fi acoustic guitar, that she can play and sing solo with no electronics and still make it sound great, all hallmarks of actual talent not deriving from the excessive auto-tuning treatment her album receives.

But, really, in the end we like what we like. I don’t see much point in talking about it, as your condemnation will only prove the wisdom of my silence but will not change my collection.

Of course, I’m not saying we can’t get together and gush like fangirls. Boys. Fanboys. Yes.

* I’m so far not digging her latest album. Ehh…


  1. This post has been on the brain back-burner all day. Finally, I only really have one thing to say. You're in Arkansas. I'm sure that if you were in larger cities you'd find people with more eclectic tastes, but you'd also get a larger dose of snobbery. Really, I'm amazed to find bands that I can still get into. I kind of feel like I'm becoming the "new music is all shit" old guy, but I also realize that I don't seek it out as much as I used to. I used to listen to Pandora all the time, I still have a paid subscription, but I don't listen to it a tenth as much as I used to. I think it has to do with the fact that I honed my stations so much that I was pretty much just telling it to put everything on the shelf. I ended up deleting year's old stations because it was too much like listening to my own music.

    Anyway...kind of got off topic.

    1. My main gripe is that chatting about bands typically just involves one (or both) people talking at the other person about what they like for awhile. It rarely proves edifying to anyone else, simply because it doesn't take much movement on the musical taste radar to depart from someone else's.

      And if you DO actually take any of their suggestions on, you'll probably just get discouraged always being underwhelmed with them, maybe they don't suck or anything but they're just not anything you care about really, and then you have to have the "hey did you ever listen to blahblah" "Oh, yeah, I did." "Well? What did you think?" And you're stuck going, well, I already know they like it so do I act like a jerk and just say "I didn't care for them" or try to play it off as positively as I can "Yeah, you know, they certainly have a clean sound. They're good at what they do, that's for sure!"


  2. Maybe it's because connections with music are so personal. I know there have been certain bands that I've shrugged off in the past, but later on thought I was a wiener for not giving it more of a chance. Sometimes this is because of maturity level. Sometimes it's not the right time in your life to jive with the band. Sometimes you're just in the wrong mood to experience that particular music.

    Of course, most of the time these conversations are just people talking about what they like. I think it's because people don't really listen to the music as they would with classical. They listen to it as a whole. The whole would be interpreted only as what that person thought about it and how it made them feel and not necessarily based on 'merit' in the way that students in musical theory would talk about.