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August 2, 2013

No Such Thing As 'Guilty Pleasure'


The idea that any music is any better than any other music is a ludicrous concept that leads to severe arrested development. This is something that I have only learned in the past few years, and I came to it painfully.

As a musician, the temptation is to shit on whatever anyone else is doing. We either say, “That band sucks,” or “I’ve heard it before.” We say “It’s too poppy.” We say “It’s too mainstream.” We say “It’s ‘good,’ BUT it’s not ‘marketable.’”

Highly educated/theorized musicians deride the music of less educated musicians as rudimentary. Less educated musicians say it’s all about feeling and dismiss theorized music as superfluous and mechanical. 

All of this is nonsense and is generally either a form of envy or insecurity. It’s also a hallmark of most failed and struggling musicians. This thinking is something musicians use as a justification for why they are not hugely successful and all it does is keep them treading water while they stand around, seething about other people’s success.

I was that guy for a long time and it took years for me to realize that my taste is not a measure of what is good. Just because I don’t want to listen to something, or it doesn’t resonate in me, doesn’t make it bad. If the majority of people like something and you don’t, logically, where does that put it on a scale of good and bad? If the barometer for good and bad is dictated by general popularity, and you are not on board, what does that say about your taste? NOTHING! Taste is personal and not a group experience. The fault lies in trying to apply your personal tastes as a measure of good and bad.

I see this in music listeners as well, especially in the US.  People become so genre specific about their tastes that they discount anything else, out of hand, regardless of if they actually like it or not, dependent upon whether or not it fits easily into what they already consider cool.

Example: On the coasts of this country, especially the West Coast, there is no place for Metal. Multi-platinum artists, who sell out arenas in Ohio, can’t fill a 500 person club in LA. There is no real commercial outlet for Metal on the coasts and most huge bands in the Midwest of the US have never been heard of on the coasts. This works in reverse as well. The large multiplatinum artists from the coastal areas, with less aggressive sounds, tend not to be heard on the radio at all in the Midwest and therefore flounder when trying to play in those markets. It’s strange, and stupid, and exclusive, and leads to an artistic monoculture that is at it’s best, FUCKING BORING.

My sincere hope is that this will be changed by the constantly growing and easily accessible body of free music available online. I hope that people’s tastes will be changed in their houses, on their computers, following a link to something they wouldn’t normally listen too. I hope that people’s “guilty pleasures” become their public pleasures, because, to paraphrase Dave Grohl, there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, only pleasure.

Expand your palette. Explore the differences. Let go of what you thought you liked and find out what your tastes truly are. Stop being the architect of your own boredom, and insecurity. It helps nothing, not your state of mind, and least of all the state of music.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Jeremy,

    Stumbled across this page after I clicked through to Stephen Cohen's twitter page (Stephen and I went to Loyola together).

    Couldn't agree more with you. What is it in our hearts as musicians that pulls us to hate on every other band we come across? I always have an air of "Impress me" whenever I listen to other bands' sets, and I catch myself nodding my head in encouragement during these sets while my inner monologue mutters "Bo-Ring!"

    I, too, have recently made the conscious decision to broaden my aural horizons. As a guitarist turned born-again-drummer, I'm seeking inspiration wherever I can find it: 70s funk and jazz rock, early 90s hip hop, some current prog metal (ugh... apologies for the pretentious genre dropping. I'm proofreading this and I want to slap myself up side the head). There's so much music that is out there for the listening, and something good can be found in damn near every recording ever made even if it doesn't mesh with one's taste.

    I spent some time on your youtube page (Demo Vocals for Demo Songs and Nothing to Let Go- Solo Bass are really good), and I hope I can make it out to see you guys live some time, either to a jjxo show or an Oedipus one. You guys should definitely come down to Orange County to play.

    Anyways, enough Sunday rambling. Just wanted to compliment you on the post and on the music.