I always give the same answer whenever I’m asked what music I listen to: There are three types of music I will listen to: 1) Music that is technically challenging 2) Music that has lyrics that are about something relevant in my life, and 3) If is it witty and clever (this category was created mainly to allow for the inclusion of Flight of the Conchords)
So, despite my mild manner, it may surprise some that I have a few heavy metal songs kicking around on my iPod. While their lyrics of scary things and the alleged bleakness of life do not qualify under s.2 (I apologize here: s.2= Section 2. Legal Studies habits die hard) of Kirran’s Code of Quality Compositions, the skill level of the drummer, guitarist, and bassist (as long as he’s not standing there playing one note 4 times in a bar like a fool) allow the song to be accepted under s.1.
Although I do try, it’s very hard for me to mask my displeasure when a typical ‘mainstream’ song comes on. I struggle to find a point to them. Most songs merely represent a painfully obvious euphemism about sex, drugs, or alcohol and proceed to tell me, with awful grammar and vulgar language I must add, about how the combination of the three is the ultimate satisfaction a person can experience. Throw in a drum machine, add a repetitive, yet catchy, synthesizer line, and turn on auto-tune, and, presto, yo yo yo Kay-T Prizzle iz in da houz!
Well, I certainly hope that said “houz” is, in fact, in the middle of the street somewhere in Soho and Talking Heads will shortly be Burning Down the House. Since The Pogues have already told us it’s A Rainy Night in Soho, let’s get Adele to come in and Set Fire to the Rain (perhaps with Francium?) just to make sure no one fleeing “da houz” escapes the blaze. I could go on but for everyone’s sake I’ll end it there.
Okay, no, I do not wish a fiery fate upon mainstream listeners; I wish simply for them to see some sense. Don’t get me wrong though, I still want that house taken apart; even if it is Brick By Brick.
A song should be created when the composer has something to say. A composer should have A Certain Romance with the song, a tie to it and behind every song there should be a message. Whether you like the song or not will likely depend on if you agree with that message, unless s.1 applies to you as well.
My problem with mainstream music is that songs are no longer created because the artist has something to say, but because the artist thinks that is what the audience wants to hear. I always loved the quote, “A wise man speaks because he has something to say. A fool speaks because he has to say something.” This is essentially the mainstream music business in a nutshell. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is clearly a good marketing strategy. If you wish to make some money, appeal to the masses. However, what you sacrifice is soul and originality and you sink so far into banality and shallowness that in a few months you’ve gone From The Ritz To The Rubble (unless you cut off all your hair or end up in rehab- because NOW we have a story).
I really dislike the culture that pop songs create. There is rarely anything more to them than talking about some hot thing they met in a club and the scandalous behaviour they indulged in. There is no beauty or class in the lyrics, or sophistication or tastefulness in the music.
Here come the die-hard fans. They then bring to light some of Lady Gaga’s lesser known songs or ask if I like “old” Coldplay. Lady Gaga does have a nice voice and can, in fact, create decent songs. There is one that is dedicated to her drunken father that clearly has a lot of meaning behind it. Yes, I do love Parachutes and Rush of Blood to the Head. They are two solid albums and I still will sit in my room and play In My Place on my acoustic. I like Coldplay’s stuff up until Viva La Vida. That’s just me personally though. However, are these songs you would blast and “rock out” to? No. They are just used by you to justify your artist, which in turn, apparently justifies anything they do. You use it as a shield and not much more.
Do I consider myself an elitist and educated in my musical choices after going to an arts high school for music? Yes. Am I? No, of course not, I’m only 19 (okay fine, 18 but my birthday is in 17 days). However, what I have found so far is that I have a hard time carrying, or caring about for that matter, a conversation with someone who is blasting “Call Me, Maybe” from their Macbook Pro. Harsh? Perhaps, but I’ve found people who have varied musical choices to be far more interesting people to converse with and be around (and I really have to say how on earth do you miss someone before they come into your life? Hmmm? Seriously… The lyrics are getting so pathetic).
So, I am deeply sorry if I anger you by rolling my eyes at “Party Rock Anthem” and I apologize if my putting my headphones in while you sing a pitchy version of any Taylor Swift song offends you. However, you don’t see me blasting Radiohead or Arctic Monkeys in the middle of a crowded study session. However, I do get incredibly excited when someone asks to hear some of my favourite music. I’ll admit that said invitation may result in some noise complaints.
I usually get the question of, “Why can’t you just respect our music choices?” Yes, I believe that everyone is entitled to their likes and dislikes and understand that sometimes you don’t want to analyze a song; you just want to dance and party. That’s great. I understand we also go through phases and different people experience them at varied stages in life. However, as I said, I’ve found that the most interesting people have very interesting tastes in music. I want you to become more knowledgeable, explore your world, find deeper meaning in relationships, attempt to understand who you are, and, more importantly, why you are. I truly, truly, believe that your taste in music is a window to who you are. So, if all I see is you enjoying music about money, sex, and shallow friendships, I tend to make assumptions and they worry me. If I am unjustified in this, prove me wrong. Otherwise, when you get up to dance to Nikki Minaj, Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair.
I want you to Do Me A Favour. The next time you’re singing along to your favourite mainstream song, whether it is on the radio, on your iPod, or at a party, I want you to really think about the lyrics and ask yourself if that is the type of life you’d really want, or the type of person you’d really want to be. I ask this because at that moment, that is what you’re putting out to the world.
If you really believe that music doesn’t have any control over your life, well, That’s Where You Were Wrong. While I find that your musical choices have a big say on your personality, I do not doubt that the music around you can come to shape your personality as well. I think you should Google: “Subliminal Messages.”
I also want you to find your song. I’ve found mine, and it’s been my song since I first heard it. I’m not sure why I like it so much. It could be because it has a variant tuning on the guitar to make all the open chords sound gorgeous. It could be that the entire song is one big crescendo. It could be because I find the lyrics powerful and inspire change. All I know is that it gives me goose bumps and it’s the only song I will listen to full blast on my iPod just to be immersed in it.
However, at the end of the day, these are just my opinions. Partying, drinking, and partaking in whatever grandma would frown upon might be your life and who am I to say that isn’t the way to live it? Just don’t expect me to happily sing along to songs about Fake Tales of San Francisco.
Find your joy and sing a Reckless Serenade.