Music Snobbery

Much of music writing is surrounded by saying “____ sounds like / pays homage to / is influenced by / rips off ____”. I do it myself. I think it has value as a reference point, since music writing is attempting to put in terms of written language something that is aural. But, I think to get hung up on it as “_____ sucks because _____ did it first” only leads to denying yourself great music. I think at this point in history, 2009, there is little that has not been done before. No band or artist truly defies comparison anymore. Even Animal Collective, who are about as an original sounding band as you can find today, can be compared to the Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Orb, etc. Getting hung up on this kind of thinking is what separates a snob from someone who appreciates and enjoys good music. I think a term like “retro” is losing it’s utility. Music, whether from the 50’s or from the 80’s, is all part of the world’s collective consciousness now. The question is, do you find it enjoyable? You like the Jesus And Mary Chain. Great. The Raveonettes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are clearly influenced by them, and have made enjoyable albums that recall their sound. Saying “I liked them better when they were called Jesus And Mary Chain” only serves to make you, who didn’t create either music, feel superior. All that ultimately should matter is whether or not you enjoy what you hear. I think most people, if they get past the nose aloft snobbishness, would realize that The Raveonettes take all their influences and write great songs. But, we all can’t be innovators in life. It’s insane, and probably leads to hypocrisy, to expect that of the music we listen to. To put a fence around the sound My Bloody Valentine pioneered, and say “no others shall drink of this well” would deny the world great music like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Talent is less subjective. I can’t write or play shit. After all, music is an art form and not all of us are artistically inclined. But, I think to simply define musical talent as “were you the first to create this sound” is far too strict and limiting. And, that is what you do when you dislike a band simply on the basis of “yeah, I liked them better when they were called ____”. Music makes the world a better, more bearable place. Snobbery only denies yourself a life enhancing, at times life changing, thing.

Finally, there’s a subtle distinction to be made between enjoyment and artistic appreciation. And, a lesson I had to learn in life is to separate the two. I had to stop caring if music I enjoyed listening to was also critically highly regarded. I enjoyed Britney Spears’ last two albums, but will I say she herself is talented? No. Think of it this way: I don’t like onions. People ask me, “How can you not like onions?” And, my only answer is, “They go into my mouth, and something in my brain says that I don’t like how they taste.” Music, in the end, is the same. Taste can be refined over time, especially if you take in more and more music. Perhaps if I ate more onions, more kinds of onions, I’d appreciate them more. It took a long time for me to appreciate Steely Dan. And, maybe all it took was a maturing of my musical palate. Yes, I just compared Steely Dan to onions. But, maybe I won’t ever like onions, just like I have never really liked The Cure. And, that’s OK.

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One Comment to “Music Snobbery”

  1. i love love love this post.

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