Like my libido, my musical appetite has waned over the years. I’m not interested in every song or album that crosses my desk anymore. I’ll only invest time in artists that have proven themselves and, in the one or two chances I give them, immediately appeal to my sensibilities. Simply put, I don’t have the time or inclination; I’ve got kids for chrissakes.That bit about my libido was a joke. Those of you who know me know that I don’t have a penis… or a very little one at best.
While I have discerning tastes, I will listen to anything a friend recommends. However, you should know that out of ten recommendations I might receive, nine are abruptly stopped in the first 30 seconds of the song. I know what I like.
I have three criteria for music: mood, melody, and arrangement. That’s it. As long as those criteria are met, that’s good enough for me. Sure, I like to get into every now and then. Like most people, I have my favorites and ideas about what’s good and what isn’t. I also understand the tendency to view artists and sports teams in the same light; that is, those that work hard, are true to themselves and their fans, and write ‘proper’ music ought to be rewarded.
Well, that’s nice and all but it really doesn’t mean anything. At the end of the day, if a song makes you hum, tap your foot, or nod your head, then it’s good.
I know. You probably feel unclean. You remember when you instinctively sang the refrain to Aqua’s I’m A Barbie Girl when it came up on your friend’s playlist. Don’t be embarrassed, 34 million other people did too. To the reviewer at Pitchfork who gave Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head a 5.1 out of 10, let’s try a little experiment. Close your eyes and imagine your boyfriend, girlfriend, and/or mother singing the refrain of “The Scientist” to you.
Nobody said it was easy
It’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh, take me back to the start.
Oh, what’s that? You need a tissue now? Every tear drop is a waterfall, bitch. Admit it, you don’t like that album cause you don’t like the band. Not enough post-punk cred, I suppose? Unfortunately, this is an issue I’m all too familiar with. A little part of me is an indie hipster. I have black frame glasses, I smoke American Spirits, and I spend an unnecessary amount of time dressing myself in the morning. Accordingly, I disavowed Coldplay after X&Y because they betrayed my initial impression of them. They were my best kept secret but the world took them away from me. They sold out.
Coldplay didn’t sell out. Coldplay cashed in [to be read deliberately, slowly, and with exaggerated movement of the lips].
To the uppity music critics, professional and amateur, take note: music doesn’t have to mean or say anything. Sure, it’s nice when it does but the only thing music has to do is elicit a response. Over analyzing music is a pointless exercise. Don’t get me wrong, cultivating connoisseurship is important. Like my partners in crime, my taste in music was developed through years of blind consumption then reconstructed as my values and identity took shape. I know what I like now. I have kids, for chrissakes; I don’t have time to be farting around on the Billboard Top 100. Just don’t overdo it, I say, or else you’ll become the characters John Cusack played in the Eighties. Cool, yes but thoroughly miserable and lonely.
This last section is my music disclosure/value statement. I always like knowing where people are coming from and how their views are informed. Because I believe nothing we do is objective, I think it’s better just to come out and say what you like and don’t like. So here goes…
- I like guitars. I’m partial to guitar-based music. I like rap, electronica, dance and other forms of music but I always go back to the guitar.
- I like a clean drum sound. Unless it’s a hip-hop, dance, or dub-step record, the drums should have minimal enhancement. Entire songs/records have been ruined by over-processed drums (see 80s music).
- I like soulful singing. Gillian Welch, Otis Redding, Cat Power, Van Morrison. These are great, soulful singers (terrific songwriters too). Too often, vocal acrobatics are interpreted as soulful singing. Inflection and range are not enough. When Otis Redding sings the opening verse to I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, I wish he was singing to me. And I have kids for chrissakes!
How is this different than the criteria you list above? The criteria above is what I use to evaluate music to determine if a song or album is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I won’t dismiss an album that does not feature any guitars or relies solely on processed beats if it excels in creating mood, memorable melodies, and/or interesting arrangements. If it has guitars, a clean drum sound, and/or soulful singing, it’s just an added bonus.
Enough. I’m tired of writing and you’re probably tired of reading. Thanks for visiting our site. Now go download I’m a Barbie Girl.