Can Your Musical Taste Be Superior to Others?

[Statements, opinion, and views expressed in this column are those of the author named and are not necessarily those of the and Thought Process Enterprises team.]

I had a nightmare once that went as follows. I was driving with my friend and a Nickelback CD was playing. My friend said, “Why are we listening to this? Why do you own this?” I said, “It was only two dollars, and there’s some songs on it that I think are okay.” Then I woke in a cold sweat.

The point made is that there is a notion that some music is considered to be in terrible taste- a philosophy that music can be objectively terrible. If we aren’t ashamed to listen to it, we should be made to understand that shame.

However, everybody has their own notion of what a terrible band is. Whenever I hear somebody say, “oh that band, they’re horrible,” I hear an arrogant, condescending statement. Whatever that person listens to, it’s clearly of a higher culture, and they rightfully deserve to feel superior.

Let’s assume that it is indeed possible to establish objective criteria for the quality of music. What is that criteria? We can go with musical complexity, but where is the line between great and awful? Unless you listen exclusively to Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, there’s going to be somebody somewhere who listens to things more “artsy” than you do.

On top of that, there aren’t too many pop culture experts railing the Beetles or Johnny Cash for being too simple, so complexity isn’t a good measurement of quality.

Could objective criteria have more to do with the “purity” of music? Indie, hardcore, underground metal- these are all movements that have followings devoted to the concept of artistic integrity. On the other end of the spectrum, platinum selling bands only care about money, therefore they are bad bands.

The problem with that assumption is that some music is simply more appealing to a wider audience than others. You might think your neo-indie punk feminist bluegrass gospel band is the truest form of artistic expression and so do your 37 fans, but the rest of the world isn’t buying it.

There are many reasons why people listen to music: to fit in, to have fun at concerts, to express all that angst in their teenage soul, to belong to a subculture, to find meaning in the inherent meaningless existence of postmodern consumerism, to rebel against the system, and most importantly, because they enjoy it.

In the end, that’s all that matters. If you like it, and it moves you, then it doesn’t matter if anyone else thinks its garbage. It’s fine to think bands are terrible, but it’s unproductive to believe our tastes are superior, attack the fans or try to convince others that we’re right.

Arguing about what music is better than another is about as useful as arguing what ice cream flavor is better. You don’t need to defend your music to anyone, and if anyone says what you like is bad, it’s because they don’t relate to it, and they need to justify their taste over yours.

The one exception to this is of course Nickelback. We should all agree that they are indeed a terrible band and deserving of all the ridicule they get, and you are clearly wrong if you disagree with me.

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