On Loving Uncool Music – For All the Music Lovers

Earlier tonight, a song I liked came on the radio while I parked the car. I sat and listened until it finished.

That doesn’t happen to me very often, but when it does, I think it’s one of life’s great pleasures – when you can sit alone somewhere and listen to a whole song, in silence. And the song is one that speaks to you.

My husband and I have very different taste in music. In fact, I seem to have different taste in music than a lot of people, and certainly different from the kind of people who talk about how much they love music.

You know who I mean.

When I was growing up, there was a whole group of people who seemed to want to lay claim to “music” and become the arbitrators of what was, and was not, “good” music. They often had bands, or spent hours and hours listening to music, and talking about music, speaking in a code that you had to learn in order to be part of their group.

They loved Modest Mouse, but only before Modest Mouse “sold out”. Jack White, and all the musicians who looked like him – white,¬†greasy-haired, vaguely inspired by Johnny Cash – were “cool”.

If you liked Britney Spears? Forget it. You didn’t know “music”. She was too “manufactured”.

Me? I didn’t see it. Johnny Cash is cool, and Jack White is very talented, and I like a lot of Modest Mouse, but I like Britney Spears sometimes too.

In fact, often, I prefer female vocalists.

I like them better, because I think they’re more soulful.

There. I said it. Come and get me.

So much of music is about emotion, and I still don’t think Jack White and I have that much in common. In fact a lot of these bands, the bands formed by boys in high school – or the bands formed by boys and their girlfriends in high school – I couldn’t identify with.

My high school experience? I didn’t get to hang out with my friends and listen to music or chill out at coffee shops. I had to work, basically the whole time. Get better grades, exercise more, be fitter, smarter, more accomplished. I swear to you, I will never again be as bright as I was at 17, competing in debating tournaments, trivia tournaments, rowing and running and reading more than a book a week. (I am still coasting on those achievements.)

These bands? They seemed to be formed by kids with cushy lives. Kids who didn’t have to worry about hitting a certain score on their SATs.

It seemed to me like they felt they had something to share, some feelings to share – but I didn’t want to listen to their feelings. I didn’t want to relate. I wanted to relate to someone who also had to work. I didn’t want to hear some whiny suburban boy sing about his high school crush not going with him to prom, or how much he liked smoking weed in the bushes out by the creek. I wish I’d had it so easy.

Britney Spears at 17? She was supporting her entire family, a whole industry. These other bands? They were still eating food out of their mom’s fridge.

Yep, I said that too.

So many of the music fans – the ones who determined what was, and wasn’t, “cool” – they seemed vaguely misogynistic. The bands they liked were all comprised of men. Maybe with one token female member, who was always “hot”, blond, and had an eating disorder/drug problem, preferably both though – because then she’d be more “hardcore”. This struck me as an indicator of that misogyny – that there were so few women, and the ones who were seen as “cool” were such fragile objects.

I couldn’t ignore how many musical men seemed to use women as objects. One of my good friends, her boyfriend started this band, and she spent so much time going to his shows and packing snacks for him. Girls used to throw themselves at him.

Boggles my mind. Still.

Again – Johnny Depp – it boggles my mind.

And this guy, like so many musicians, loved it. He loved the adoration, the sex, their insecurity – having all these young women tell him he was such a genius. It made him feel like a God.

It grossed me out. It still does.

You know who I liked? Aretha Franklin. It’s not an accident that the only Jack White song I can quote is a Beyonce song. I still sometimes cry when I listen to Sarah McLachlan – I think she sounds like the angels.

There you go.

And I love Adele.

So go on, love who you love. With pride!

(On second thought, this may have been a better choice than Adele:)