Chords and the truth...or at least an opinion on it:
A defense of music fans
All music critics want
to be rock stars. I mean that's just the way it is. It's the bottom of the
barrel truth on the matter. One boy grows up and learns to play the guitar, he
writes some songs about the girl next door and how she screwed him over, meets
some guys in college, forms a band, and boom, bam, there you have it...the guy's
a rock star. He buys vinyl clothes, beats up club patrons, and hangs out with
supermodels and character actors while ducking Winona Ryder's phone calls.
Another boy grows up a few houses down, never gets around to learning the
guitar (though he does buy a tambourine), aces his English classes, writes some
bad rhymes about the girl next door going for the guy with the guitar that lack
the melody to be called ?song lyrics,' so he writes his opinion of the guy with
the guitar, and boom, bam, there you have it...the guy's a music critic. That's
just the way of it. I've accepted that and, hey, I'm not even a professional
music critic. I have two groups of people to be jealous of. At the end of the
day, though, music critics are music fans. Knowledgeable, opinionated, and
arrogant music fans...and there is nothing wrong with that.
A lot of ink has been wasted on why music is important and why it does illicit such a strong response from people. I guess I shouldn't say wasted. There are a lot of people, most of them right now watching sitcoms with genuine interest, that don't understand how deep music runs into the human brain and even deeper into the human soul. It is what moves us. It is what grabs our emotions and takes us somewhere. It is the soundtrack to our lives...or at the very least the badly edited home movies of our lives. One prominent European dictator once stated that the quickest way to control people is through music. The U.S. Military has used rock music to drive people out of hiding. (Maybe the bad guys liked Twisted Sister? Did they ever think of that?) Good movies have been deemed great on the strength of great soundtracks. Doctors and Scientists have opened people's heads, touched a certain part of the brain, and the test subject has started singing songs that the brain has locked away, forever attached to specific memories. Music, we can safely establish, is powerful. It's only natural that our opinions of it should be equally as powerful.
I actually get worried about the people that lack strong opinions about music. I mean, if you like Celine Dion I will attempt to save you from that sin for days on end, but through it all I will respect that you at least like something enough to necessitate the conversion attempt. The people that own four CD's, two of which they downloaded from the Internet and one that has words like "Big," "Hits," or "of the" in the title, are to be feared and/ or prayed for. These people walk around totally unaware of the depth they lack without a favorite album, influential artist, or cherished song. These are the people that hear a classic pop song sampled in a hip-hop track and are floored, literally in some extreme cases, when you point out that Donovan or Joni Mitchell actually wrote the catchy part to that song. "Are they West Coast or East?" is usually the response. I've lost years off my life after talking with some of these people and asking if they like music only to have them respond with a shrug and the words, "Eh, I don't listen to the radio much." AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH. This why we have bands winning best new artist awards based on what is actually their 8th album. The music tastes of the general public start and stop at whatever MTV is shilling out. And then these people have the audacity to point the finger at passionate music fans and label us as "freeks, lonely, or British." Well it's over. The anti-music critic undercurrent in this country stops now.
You can't write us off or look past our reviews, comments, or blank stares when we see you buy Creed and Bon Jovi albums at Best Buy. For we as passionate music fans are simply appreciators of great art. Why do we as a modern society look at sculptures and paintings as great? Because some dude, probably in a toga, looked at said sculptures and paintings and labeled them as so. We should thank toga dude because certainly the dude working his mechanic-like magic underneath a nearby chariot wasn't going to let us know what was great or not. And so it is with music critics. Musicians are the great artists of our time. Critics, whether their opinions are published in Rolling Stone or stated at the water cooler, are just carrying out their part of the legacy.
It's a legacy that can't be faulted either because to be a critic, a good critic, means that you are in touch with what stirs the soul. You have the ability to hear something, know how it affects you, and, most importantly, let it affect you. People who push aside music seem to shy away from certain emotions or for the most part they just mistake sadness and tenderness as "gay" and think the latest Rap/ Rock combo is in touch with their anger as opposed just being pissed off for record sales sake. If you're depressed and it's raining and you know that "The Sweetest Decline" by Beth Orton is the perfect song for that moment. You know it is one piece of music that will sooth you. Then you know how to live this life, or at least manage it. And it's a great feeling to pass that knowledge onto others. There is a great misconception that being a music lover is all about being pissy, judgmental, and wearing cool or ironic band T-shirts. Sure. That's part of the fun. Who doesn't like putting a Puff Daddy fan in his place? Honestly, though, there is a great urge to share the knowledge. A great joy in giving someone a heads up on an album and having them thank you for the tip on a life changing album. Mix tapes were created by music fans to make it easier to share the moments and emotions of great bands and wonderful songs. Maybe the pissiness comes from seeing one too many people overlook great music in exchange for the summer's latest overplayed single.
Or maybe we're pissy because we know what is cool and you don't. We know that The Replacements are cool. Cheap cover bands Soul Asylum and The Goo Goo Dolls, despite one or two good songs, are not. We know that the one song you thought you heard in a commercial for a car, hamburger, or floor wax is actually a song by Nick Drake or some other underappreciated artist. We know that an anthem-like duet sung by two lead singers of crap bands for use in a super hero movie are comical at best. We know that downloading songs from the Internet is okay, but nothing compared to finding that one import album you needed tucked in some far corner of a dusty record store. We knew that U2 single before it got re-released. We knew Aimee Mann before Paul Thomas Anderson did. We knew of Smog before they appeared on a soundtrack. We know what's cool. You don't.
You can't hate for us that. The reality is that we have that and you don't, but you do have the guitar, the girl, and everything else we were told to forget about in high school. We have this one little market of the world cornered. And it brings us great pleasure and immediate understanding with others like us. It brings us sanity in a sort attention span, pop cultured dominated world. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world...well...maybe I would for one night on stage with vinyl pants and a hit song.
...if that hit song was released on an Independent label and my video was directed by Spike Jonze and not Nigel Dick. And instead of winning a Grammy or Blockbuster Entertainment award I was able to present a Moon Man alongside Natalie Portman at the MTV Video Music Awards. Then...maybe.