We saw the new Josh Radnor movie "Liberal Arts" on the weekend. I really enjoyed it. It was thoughtful, insightful and generally entertaining. Anway there was a crucial scene in the film where the two main characters have an argument over the validity and worth of the 'Vampire books' (they didn't specifically name the 'Twilight' novels). Jesse, 35 and well read, said they were poorly written and basically trash. He couldn't possibly understand why anyone would waste their time with them. Elizabeth, 19, enjoyed them and thought that was enough. She knew they were of lesser value but didn't really care as she enjoyed them and so did millions. She thought Jesse was a snob who shouldn't worry whether people enjoyed this sort of writing. He should tell people what he loved but keep quiet about what he hated. In her words, 'it's not cool to hate'.
So, this got me thinking. I have sometimes, without malice I hope, been called a musical snob. In someways this worries me. In other ways it doesn't. I love my music and take it very seriously. I mean I get enormous enjoyment from it but I also respect its impact and value. To me it's not disposable nor lightweight. Naturally I think I have very good taste. But who doesn't? I'm pretty sure know one declares that they have bad taste and revels in it. We all believe what we like, whether it's music, film, books, etc., is pretty damn good. Why would we like it otherwise? I guess then, in my case, if you put a lot of time and effort into music then it's hard to comprehend how someone can love Robbie Williams or LMFAO and not understand the majestic sounds of Grizzly Bear or Mount Eerie. Which I guess is the nut of Jesse's frustration. He sees a society drowning in modern pop culture (mostly bad) and can not understand the situation. The counterpoint to this is the argument that all taste is subjective and there is no such thing as good or bad taste in reality. It's just one person's opinion against another. It's natural that we gravitate to people that share our taste. It's basically the reason why I started this blog. To write about the things I loved and hope that people were out there that shared my taste. In fact it's kinda how I met my wife. It started with Modest Mouse and extended to The Mountain Goats and Frightened Rabbit. We shared our loves in many things musical and that continues to this very day.
I often have the argument thrown at me that I don't like commercial music. Or I only like music that people haven't heard of. In some ways this is true. I look at modern pop charts and can not comprehend people liking this sort of stuff. I'm accused of thinking that if a band like Spoon for example somehow had a number hit I would therefore stop liking them. Of course this is not true. I would love it if bands like them or Arcade Fire or Menomena had world wide hits. It would bring back the glory days when musical titans like The Beatles or Springsteen topped the charts. Instead we are left we dreck like Flo Rida or Pitbull to shape our modern culture. I think this is basically the fault of modern radio which dictates what the general populace listens to. They need to find a song that they believe is easily digestible, is repetitive, has hopefully a catch phrase and has a good beat. It's not too in depth. That's why the charts end up being filled with The Black Eyed Peas. Which is also because for a lot of people music is not that important. It's something to provide background noise, something to fill in their gym schedule. Taste it, like it, move on. Godspeed You! Black Emperor is not part of the equation. This also brings up the question, what exactly is 'pop music'. It's short for popular music so basically anything that sells units by the millions is pop music. But I think we regard pop music as disposable, short and catchy. So it doesn't have to be bad but it often is. It could be The Shins or The Beach Boys, but it's normally Guy Sebastian or Delta Goodrem. I even see respected online sites singing the praises of Carly Rae Jepsen or Taylor Swift. I have tried but it's just not my taste. Aha! So we return to the argument. Is it good taste or bad taste? To be honest there is not a correct answer. There is just taste. I might consider myself to have good taste. But I can't prove it. I can only express it. I can despair of other people's tastes. In fact I probably will continue to do so. But I know it's futile. It doesn't really matter. If you love it, express it, tell people. If they don't get it, then move on. Find some one who might. Just make sure what you love you really love. Embrace it and devour it. And don't like something just because you are 'supposed to'. Or don't have 'guilty pleasures'. If you feel guilty for liking something then perhaps you shouldn't like it in the first place. Judge it for yourself. In the end you are the only person that you have to please. Be happy with your own taste. Keep searching. Keep looking. It's a great journey.