4 Common Music Arguments and What They Really Mean
When it comes to discussion topics that can quickly escalate into full-blown arguments, music is near the top of the list, alongside things like religion, politics and whether or not this video is definitive proof that Lady Gaga has a penis.
However, just like anything else that friends probably shouldn't talk about, music comes up all the time in casual discussions, and there's never a shortage of people willing to share their opinion on the matter. If you listen in on enough of these discussions, you'll hear some recurring arguments that, when examined a little more deeply, reveal things about the person making the argument that they probably didn't want you to know. For example ...
"There Is No Good Music Anymore"
None. There's not a single note of good music being made anywhere on the continent ... no, the planet ... at all right now. That's what some people would have you believe. Despite the thousands, possibly millions of musicians out there giving it their very best effort every single day, nobody is hitting the mark. It's all awful.
Translation: "I don't know how to use a computer."
Look, thanks to the Internet, there is good everything available pretty much everywhere. And nothing is easier to find than new music. Think about all of those friends you have, out there on the Internet clicking the "Like" button on every goddamn thing that tickles their fancy. Annoying, right? Sure it is, until you see that 190 of your friends all like a thing you've never heard of and decide to check it out for yourself and find that you like it as well.
It works just as well with music as it does with comedy websites staffed almost exclusively by winos. If you can't find anything to listen to, just turn the Internet on. The rest should take care of itself.
That's why claims of "There's no good music anymore!" should be treated as one thing only ... a cry for help. This is an increasingly computer-centric world we live in. If you can't use one to keep you entertained in whatever capacity is going to do the trick, you might as well just stop trying anything. Hell, even mom can fire up a game of solitaire on the laptop if she gets bored. Finding new music isn't much of a stretch from that.
Granted, if you started your search for new music sometime before the Internet happened, I can see why you might have given up at some point and just resigned yourself to a life of listening to Bon Jovi (who are awful by the way, so, you know, glass houses and shit) while you drive your kids to soccer practice. But even then, it's not rocket science. You can find anything on the Internet, and bands making music you enjoy are no exception.
"I Only Listen To (Insert Obscure Genre Here)"
There's nothing wrong with mostly listening to just one genre. Some people are born a little bit country, some are born a little bit whatever passes for rock-and-roll these days, that's just the way of the world. Narrowing things down a bit is a logical and normal thing to do.
There's also no harm in straying from those general classifications and exploring different styles and sounds from around the world. There's one absolutely crucial rule you have to keep in mind, though: Don't be a pretentious dick about it.
Translation: "There is nothing particularly remarkable about me other than the music I listen to."
What's that? You only listen to swing music? Nothing else? At all? Oh, and you wear a zoot suit to work and have a framed poster of Doc Severinsen in your living room? Please, tell me more things I don't give a shit about, you creepy lunatic.
Ask me about my crippling loneliness!
Aligning yourself with only one genre is fine, but nobody believes you genuinely enjoy 8-bit Nintendocore mixtapes and hate everything else. What they will be inclined to believe is that you're playing up this one moderately interesting aspect of your life in an effort to hide the fact that underneath that pile of "Math Rock" CDs beats the heart of a person who truly has nothing of interest to say, so they let the music do the talking for them.
And please, understand, I'm not saying that listening to any of the types of music mentioned above is a bad thing. Whatever you enjoy, there's a place for it (techno's place is in hell). I'm just saying that overdoing anything is going to make you look a bit strange. There's nothing wrong with checking the mail until you're doing it every three minutes, then people start asking questions.
It's the same with, say, listening to foreign-language covers of David Bowie songs. Having a few in your music collection makes you hip and quirky. Having a music collection that consists of nothing but foreign-language covers of David Bowie songs, on the other hand, makes you a serial killer. Or at least in the eyes of the important people (dates and employers) it does.
"I Liked Them Until They Got Popular"
Sure, that one band was great when they started out. You went to all of the shows, you followed them on Twitter, you wore the fucking T-shirts, all of that good stuff. But then something awful happened, a fate you could never see befalling your beloved band -- they got famous. Like, really famous. Green Day 2009 famous, not Green Day 2001 famous.
And with that last sentence, a lot of "true" Green Day fans just lost their collective mind, because comparing 2001 to 2009 in the Green Day catalog implies that everything up to 2001 never even happened. And that's some bullshit because, as everyone knows, Green Day was only a good band on those first two albums where all the songs sound exactly the same because they're all the same song. Those were the golden years. Then everyone heard "When I Come Around" and lost their shit and one thing led to another and now Green Day is the worst thing that ever happened to anyone.
Translation: "I only care about myself."
What people leave out when they start waxing poetic about the days when bands sold tapes out of a van after shows in dingy nightclubs is the part where their favorite musicians also keep a day job and die of a tooth infection because they can't afford health insurance.
Wanting to be part of your own little group is perfectly understandable; wanting the entity that brought you together to enjoy as little success as possible in life is not.
I get that some of it has to do with the timeless "indie label vs. major label" debate, but plenty of bands have made the leap to a major label with perfectly legitimate results. Some have spent their entire careers on major labels. It's one thing if the band of your early-days yearning just went on to make some shitty albums. That totally happens -- Google "The Replacements" for proof.
But hating a band just because they make a little more money than they used to doesn't mean you're a "real fan," it means you're a selfish prick.
"American Idol Ruined Everything"
Nobody even has to try anymore. You just post a video on YouTube and you're the next Justin Bieber, simple as that. Once people decided that "talent" meant you were good enough to impress Simon Cowell, music was over. What happened to the days when a band had to pay their dues and stuff?
So goes the complaint, anyway. And it kind of makes sense if you think about it (and don't think about basic math).
Translation: "I misunderstand what the word 'success' means."
So, thanks to American Idol and the Internet, you personally feel like you have a better shot at being a successful recording artist than ever before? Just because you have the option of putting your stuff on the Internet or standing in front of a few television producers with a football stadium's worth of other people in line behind you, everything you need to conquer the rugged music business landscape is now at your disposal?
Of course not, because you're still a talentless dullard. People who become successful as a result of American Idol or YouTube do it because they're either moderately talented or so awful that it's kind of fun to watch. In either case, the most that happens is the record company parades them around to a few red carpets and stuff, maybe spends the cash to let them record an album and then unceremoniously dumps them by shooting them in the back of the head behind the Capitol Records building.
The back is super hard to find because the building is round, so it makes for an ideal killing field.
In the big scheme of things, reality show singing competitions and uploaded Internet videos have given us, maybe, two or three really huge stars. Easy access to a group of people willing to judge your abilities and promote them to others has not suddenly made the world more talented, it's just shed a light on the fact that there are a lot more delusional people out there than any of us likely ever believed.
And besides, it's not like getting that record deal that comes with placing near the top on one of those reality shows is a guaranteed ticket to success. If you think different ...
... Justin Guarini would like to have a talk with you. Probably about today's specials.
Adam hosts a podcast called Unpopular Opinion that you should check out right here. You should also be his friend on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.