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Musical elitism

[This entry was originally posted on my MySpace blog. It was transferred to WordPress on 1/20/2013.]

What was the last song you listened to on your CD player or your tape player or your iPod? The radio doesn’t count — you don’t control what’s played there. Seriously – think about the last piece of music you actually chose to listen to. Do you have it in your mind? You don’t have to tell me what it is, but if you did, how would it make you feel? Would you be embarrassed at how cheesy or trendy it is? Would you be proud of how obscure or indie it is? Or would you say, “who gives a crap what I listen to”?

[A fun fact about Tony’s iPod: Ace of Base’s entire album, The Sign, is there.]

I love music. For the first two years of my higher education I was a music major. This included studying, analyzing and performing many diverse pieces of music. From Fauré to Glenn Miller, from Dvorâk to Melissa Etheridge, music was my education and it was central to my world. It was in the music program that I became very critical of music — oftentimes not being able to enjoy songs because I was too busy analyzing the arrangement or how nasal and immature a vocalist sounded. In some ways, being a music student cursed me because I began imposing rules on art. I was less about the passion and diversity and more about the structure and the form. Eventually I left the music program because music was becoming a chore instead of an activity that I could love. I’ve recovered from many of those issues. But something that I did end up walking away with was a certain degree of music snobbery or elitism. I could be very opinionated about what other people listened to.

[A fun fact about Tony’s iPod: Nu Thang, dcTalk’s entire second album, is there.]

One time, amongst a gathering of friends, a younger person in the group said something about Christina Aguilera. In a derogatory manner, I responded, “Pfft. Christina Aguilera.” A different member of the group, my old friend Clint, said something to the effect of “You have something against Christina?” I said, “She’s not good.” “To you,” he replied. “At all.” “No, just to you. A lot of people like her. She fits their musical tastes. You can’t say that just because you don’t happen to like her that she’s not good.” It’s so simple, but it’s so true. A person can have preference amongst genres, but that does not mean that the omitted genres contain untalented miscreants. A person cannot control what type of music makes them feel good, or which particular song strikes them. A person should never be ashamed of what kind of music they enjoy listening to. Conversely, a person should never feel elite for liking a band that is not in the mainstream. A person should never try to hoard other people’s music to oneself. Musical elitism is just ridiculous.

[A fun fact about Tony’s iPod: An extensive assortment of Junebug live tracks are there.]

After I left the music department at my school, I continued exploring my own musical creativity, which was far different than the music I studied at school. I enjoy playing guitar and singing my own songs — songs which, of course, would never hold up to music major scrutiny. But I have continued just the same. It has not been for the sake of form and structure, but rather for expression, art and fun. That’s what music should be. Everyone who writes and performs music has some artistic ability — even if it is minimal. Obviously, some people are not as skilled as others and not everybody is good at what they do — but if a listener enjoys it, what is wrong with that? No one should be looked down on for liking a particular singer or band. Likewise, a music writer and performer should be allowed to enjoy their own music without being looked on as arrogant or full of themselves. Once after a Junebug show, Dustin, Anthony and I were viewing a videotape of the show and when a particular song came up we tapped our feet and bobbed and really got into it. An observer made the disparaging remark that it was silly that we were “getting down to [our] own music.” If we don’t get down, how can we expect anyone else to? Also, I now and then like to listen to a track that I have recorded myself — but I sure as heck don’t want anyone to catch me doing so. And why is that? I’m not arrogant about my music in the least. I just feel that if I’m not allowed to enjoy my songs, I don’t know who else can.

[A fun fact about Tony’s iPod: I recently purchased the song “What Goes Around” by Justin Timberlake.]

I think that people should stop using music as a means to determine a person’s personality or as a way to cast judgment. I think that if a person enjoys Top 40 radio, they should be allowed to do so without reproach. I think that if a person enjoys super-rare, unheard of indie bands, they should be allowed to do so without snobbery. I know plenty of people on all sides of this and I’m not singling anyone out — I’m just making my views heard. Different types of music exist to accommodate different tastes. People do not control what they like or do not like. If you like N*SYNC, listen to them. If you like Cannibal Corpse, listen to them. If you like the Smashing Pumpkins, listen to them. If you like Justin Timberlake, listen to him. Don’t let anyone get down on you for your music.

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