Friday, 29 August 2014

Let It Be, Seriously Let It Go Because You Don't Want To Miss a Thing

If you look at the archives of this blog, you won't find any musings on music. But that's not because I don't like music. I love music and talking about music. It's one of my favourite things. However, people can have pretty extreme reactions to people talking about music. Reactions which are often just bizarre when you realise they're upset that the collection of sounds which sound like awful noise to them are loved by someone else who hears those sounds as pleasurable music.

As is no surprise to absolutely anyone who's ever spoken about music in public or read YouTube comments below a music video, there is a lot of elitism, hate, and aggressive views involved in talking about music. Aggression that often is just so unjustified and uncalled for.

Why do people watch a Led Zeppeling video just to log in and comment that this is "So much better than the music today", "And kids today listen to shit like fucking Bieber", "This is real music" or "I really wish I lived in the 70s when I couldn't access the internet and find all the wonderful music I now love thanks to the modern technological wonder of YouTube which provides a virtual archive of practically every song ever recorded". That last one might have been made up. No YouTube commenter on a music video is that self-aware.

Can you believe it? Some people don't like the Beatles! That's just messed up.

I think some people have this really visceral gut reaction when they discover someone has different musical tastes than they do and hates a band they love or loves a band they hate. I should know, I was like that for a long time in my teens and early twenties. It actually felt as though I just got smacked in the face with a Molotov cocktail of utter disbelief when someone either didn't like a band I liked. How could they not? Did they just listen to music the same way as I did? Didn't they hear the craft of the song's structure, the subtle nuances in the melody, the weird use of dissonance, or that kickass riff which elevated what I liked into the realm of art?

Well, then they were deaf obviously. And I could feel superior to them since I could hear (not being deaf and all). As though what I liked was really good artistic stuff made with soul, not generic commercial popular music devoid of any creativity. You know. That crap most people listen to which they listen to because most people are stupid, am I right?

I know, right?

Actually, that's rubbish. It's a load of horse radish wrapped in a steaming dump of bull waste. I mean, yeah, much of the most popular music out there doesn't have much creativity or originality but that's because it's not supposed to. It's not supposed to be weird or try something different or really express something other than the most basic feels that everyone gets with vague statements about love, break-ups, and other stuff (like partying, can't forget the partying).

Often there is little to no specificity in the lyrics precisely so that they could apply to anyone but to no one in particular. Also, the people that complain about pop music are often not the demographic that pop music is catering to, so no duh they don't like it.

If this sounds dismissive, it's not really. Well, it kind of is, but it's more of an acknowledgement that pop music has its place, and that people listen to pop music and that's okay. Like seriously, whatever. It doesn't affect me in the slightest and I have no right to get upset or act smug (read: pretentious) about my musical tastes. So, I don't.


But I do get upset about the way people talk about music.


Yes, the music of today sucks argument.

Now first off, everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if that opinion is silly. And the idea that pop music is 'dead' is a silly opinion. And I know that music, perhaps more than any other art form, is a highly subjective thing. Music can affect us in often profound ways, tapping into memories, recalling feelings, making us want to move our bodies, evoking emotions, and so on. In fact, the influence music has on us cannot be understated. It literally tells us what to feel.

Think about the last movie you saw that made you feel so sad you wept like that day you realised there was no farm and that Puppington Barkelous the fourth was in doggie hell since he peed on the carpet all the time. Now think about the music that was playing in the scene which made you feel that way. The music was in all probability in a minor key and sad-sounding. And it was sad-sounding since the music is what cues your brain that "holy shit, this is really sad", even if the scene itself doesn't pull on your emotional heartstrings since the actors involved skipped out on their heartstring playing lessons.

This guy however is a virtuoso.

Actually on a side note, watch a horror movie with the sound off and you'll realise just how important music and sound is in making you feel scared and selling the 'creepiness' of a scene. Without the sound it becomes really boring or alternatively, really funny.

But back to the music today sucks argument. This is a line of thinking that is so limiting to me. Now, everyone has their own personal tastes and music that they like. And yes, there was a lot of good music made in the past. Like a lot. So much. But there is a lot of good music being produced today. A whole lot.

However, some people seem utterly convinced that music of this decade or other is better than now, which is fair enough if you feel that way. But what bugs me is the suggestion that there is no good music now. Not that they don't like the music being made due to their own personal taste, but that objectively there is no good music being made. That's ridiculous.

And often this view is rooted in a lack of awareness of the bias we can easily develop when we pit music of a past decade against the current decade (whichever decade it is currently, since this isn't a particularly new thing). This is because when you think of a decade like the 1960s or 1970s, you think of the best music of that decade. Bands like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Some of the biggest acts of all time.

Back when the line between looking like a pimp and a rock star had never been more blurred.

But that paints an extremely rose-tinted view of the music of that decade. For example, when you watch a Vietnam movie or a movie that tries to invoke the life and times of the late 1960s there are several stock songs they always have on standby to make everyone go, "Oh, yeah, it's the 60s". Two of those songs are Jimi Hendrix's version of "All Along the Watchtower" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son". But what was the number 1 single in 1969 around the time these songs were released and have now so completely been embedded in pop culture as invoking that time in history?

"Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies. A saccharine (sorry), admittedly catchy yet disposable pop song by a fictitious band based off the Archie comics. Actually, I don't even think "Fortunate Son" even charted at the time, although I didn't research due to supreme laziness so I could be wrong about that. In any case, there is a lot of disposable commercial music in any decade. The problem is when people compare the music of a past decade with the current one is that they cherry pick the best of that decade against the worst of the current decade, usually contemporary music they hear on the radio that they hate.

Like the Led Zeppelin/Justin Bieber comparison people love making. That comparison makes no sense. Now, it would be fine if people were just stating that they liked Led Zep and didn't like Bieber, that's fine. But people actively compare them as though they are things that could be compared. Yeah, they can in the sense that they both make music... and that's about it.

It really doesn't help Bieber's case that he's a giant douchecanoe with a wimpy pedo stache. 

But it's an unfair comparison. You're comparing a hard rock band with a totally different demographic and approach to making music to a teen idol making pop music for teenage girls. A fairer comparison, if you really wanted to do a "this decade's music is better than that decade's music" thing, would be to compare Led Zeppelin to a contemporary rock band like the Arctic Monkeys or somebody like that. And compare Bieber to one of the teen idols of the 1970s like David Cassidy or whomever  was making teenage girl music. Then you're at least in the same genre or general music hall.

Most people make the argument that there is no good music on the radio anymore. And they're correct. There isn't. But that's not because there's no good music being produced, it's because most radio stations play the hits since that's what people want to hear. And that's the thing, we don't need the radio to find good music anymore. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, pirate radio stations were vital to discovering the latest and coolest music coming up at the time. And then in the 1980s and 1990s MTV did a pretty good job of convincing everyone that songs needed a music video while also playing alternative music because that was in at the time until the boy band/bubble gum pop explosion of the late 90s.

And now thanks to the power of nostalgia, people listen to a completely manufactured assembly-line boy band of the late 1990s non-ironically and despair at the lack of Jewfros and frost-tips in modern music.

That's how it happens by the way. As soon as a decade ends the music of that decade gets crystalised and cherry picked into "Man, music in the [insert decade here] was so good, kids today don't even know".

But today, we have the internet. The greatest invention ever devised by man. Where the sum of all human knowledge rests. There is literally no excuse for not finding good contemporary music nowadays when it is just a YouTube search away.

However, therein lies the problem. You have to do the search yourself. There's no single medium telling you what is out there like radio or television which shout out at you. The internet asks you to tell it where to go. Therefore, music is more dispersed now, so it's way more common for you never to hear a band that could be huge or have stare at you incredulously since "this band is so good, man, I can't believe you haven't heard them".

(Speaking of which, I can't believe you haven't heard Hurt Everybody. Like man, seriously)

Now the point of this extended rant is not that people have to like music of today. They don't. It's totally fine if they don't. It's when people suggest that there is no good music today, like at some point in the past, music just said, "Okay guys, I'm gonna be shit from now on and nobody will be able to write an amazing song ever again because that's just how it goes". That argument is so weak and "You kids get off of my yard" it's not funny.

If you're stuck in the 1970s or whenever, good on you, have fun there, they made some amazing music that has really stood the test of time and probably always will. But I'm gonna be over here enjoying the best that the past had to offer while being blown away by the best music being produced today. Seriously, there's some good stuff out there right now. Maybe you should check some of it out.

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This introduction is supposed to let you know that you have found the correct Caleb. 

I am here to tell that your search is over. I am indeed the correct Caleb for any given situation. Parties, hunter-gatherings, long walks on the beach, shindigs, guest appearances, and so much more. I am an multi-purpose Caleb guaranteed to impress friends and influence your uncle.

I also write stuff online.