Music: The Great Equalizer

I love music. Always have and always will. I was raised on it: My mom used to sing me Beatles tunes when I was a baby, and my parents used to always have the radio going when driving around places. I think this let me develop my tastes and knowledge of music early, leading to a hefty attachment later in life. My parents kept a very open mind to my connection to music, never actively telling me “hey, you can’t listen to this” or “this is garbage, turn it off.”

I love music, but I love even more what music can do for people. Music can bring people out dark times by providing them motivation or simply the proper atmosphere to handle their emotions. Music can attach itself to memories, sparking vivid nostalgia with just a few notes. Music can pull out our emotions and passions in a way where we can actually lose ourselves in its presence, lose ourselves in the moment that it reaches us, as if it belongs to us and we refuse to give it up (Hm, that would make a solid rap song All rights to Eminem and Mars, Inc). All of these qualities show music as this rooted, primal thing in our psyche, as if it triggers all these raw, instinctual synapses in our brain that lie in wait for that one particular Shakira song (don’t lie).

However, I think one of music’s most fascinating and tremendously abused qualities is its ability to bring people together. Music draws from us a passion, and we direct that passion as an outspoken love for the music that we attach ourselves to. Whether you’re writing a thesis on Romantic Era Sonatas, or just simply at CVS during a late night munchies run shouting “this is my JAM,” you’re exhibiting a response to the passion that music has built up inside you. The act of sharing this passion and love is truly one of the best things about music. Some of the quickest friends I’ve made have started from a discussion of music, realizing we both appreciate the same genre/band/artist/style (from here on “G/B/A/S”) , and sharing that passion. Playing music at work and someone recognizes a song and gets excited. Walking around somewhere and notice that multiple people get a little happier when a certain song comes on. I find so much delight in watching just how happy music can make people and how much happier they are when they find someone to share it with. They just light up, as if someone complimented their child or just handed them a signed copy of The Room (signed by Greg Sestero, not Tommy).

As with many things, there is a dark side to this passion. People often use their own personal passions as reasons to despise certain types of music and even hate on the people who like those genres or simply don’t like their own adopted genres. It happens all the time. For example, Jim likes country and hates metal, while Roy loves metal and hates country. Jim is indifferent to Roy’s tastes, but Roy now decides to not associate with Jim simply because they have opposing tastes. Plot twist: those two guys are brothers and they grow old and die never knowing anything about the other’s life all because Roy had to go and be a total dick about it.

Okay, that might be a bit extreme…

But it truly does happen, and I know you’ve either had a friend who felt this way or even possibly felt this way yourself. The type of person that dramatically acts disgusted whenever a certain G/B/A/S comes on the radio or possibly is even brought into conversation. The kind of person that actively considers the contents of someone’s CD/MP3 collection as qualifiers of their date-ability (I’m looking at you, Lorelai Gilmore). The type of person who would totally go to a record shop and actively try to sway the opinions of strangers who happened to express interest in a G/B/A/S they were opposed to. This kind of behavior is bad and just kind of dumb.

And as with a lot of things like this, if you’re thinking “I don’t know anyone like that,” than it is very likely that it’s you. Seek help.

Or you have no friends. In which case, sorry…

Now, I myself honestly and truly like/appreciate all forms of music. I honestly do. I have my go to genres, but I will sit and actively listen to anything of anywhere. I don’t expect everyone to be this way. For most people with more refined tastes and who are not indecisive jerks like yours truly, certain things will just be hard or even impossible to enjoy. Some people will never like pop music, while others may just never truly understand dubstep. It’s all good, dudes. It doesn’t matter if you actually don”t like a certain G/B/A/S, you do you. What matters is how you react and treat people when in proximity to that G/B/A/S, and I think this comes from an acceptance of the one fundamental truth of music: There is no bad music. What I mean is as long as someone’s perception of that music is good, then it is good music. Now, obviously there is music that might not qualify as “good” on a scholarly level, and that’s fine if you want to bring up death metal or pop or whatever else in your class essay on “The Death of Complex Melody: or why I’m such a pretentious douche,” then you go right ahead. But the real purpose of music isn’t melody, it isn’t complexity, it isn’t danceability, it isn’t resonance or cadences or fifths or harmony or lyrical quality or key changes. It is one simple thing: to trigger an emotional response. To make someone happy. To tap into your ennui. To help you rage against some kind of tool containing one or more parts that uses energy to perform some kind of action. To entertain us. To plug into our emotions in whatever way. Even songs considered “bad” on a scholarly level succeed in entertaining at least someone somewhere, and thus there is no bad music. A “bad” song would be something like one sustained, mechanical tone played over the sound of Styrofoam being rubbed together while a man with a goiter recites the script to Face/Off and arrhythmically slaps the growth on his neck with a spoon covered in mayonnaise, but EVEN THEN there would probably be some subculture somewhere that found that awesome. Websites would start popping up, subreddits would be formed. It would still illicit a response.

Bad music is a myth we create in our own minds because we don’t want to accept that someone gets something that we don’t. That someone out there likes a G/B/A/S that we just can’t wrap our heads around. That doesn’t trigger the response we desire. That we can’t feel passionate towards. It’s egotistical and envious. And thus, the concept needs to stop. So I challenge you, if there is a particular G/B/A/S that you are completely opposed, and you happen to find someone who loves it, strike up a convo. Ask them what they like about it. Tell them you just can’t get into it and why. Because I guaranty, in doing so, you’ll find common ground. Some G/B/A/S that you do both like, or even something they appreciate in music that sparks in you a G/B/A/S that you can share with them. And then their knowledge and appreciation of music is a little bigger. And the world is a little brighter.

So what do you guys think? Is this overly pretentious or just underly intelligent? Would you say you have any friends that hate on other people’s music? Are you gonna try this challenge with a G/B/A/S that you aren’t fond of? Let me know!

~C

NOTE: Any Genres I used in examples were simply because they are usually the most common to get referenced in arguments of that nature. The examples don’t reflect my personal opinions. Just clearing that up.

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