September 6, 2006

No! YOUR music sucks!

So I was talking to a friend about things I am passionate about, and I kinda went off about music. It really is one of my favorite things in life. I feel like I am constantly fighting about ignorant people who don't care about music but still feel like complaining about, ignoring and generally making fun of music that isn't played on MTV or the radio. I'll admit it, I watch MTV all the time along with VH1. But I don't watch it just for the music. I tend to watch shows that have absolutely nothing to do with "music television". Most of the time it's out of sheer boredom, or procrastination. Yes, I did watch the VMAs the other day, but it wasn't to see Justin perform his new song, or to see if the Pussycat Dolls win their first award. It was to observe pop culture and music the way the ignorant people view it. For many people that's the biggest thing in music there is; they think that music stops at TRL and what ever DJ-Pop plays on their local "variety" radio station. I watch the VMAs to see bands like OK GO, the Raconteurs and the Killers. Bands that have somehow slipped through the cracks and made it big in the pop scene. Good for them. I would love to be there too, but what most people don't know is that they are on stage simply because it will help them sell more CDs and prolong their record contracts, so they can continue making music for the real fans. They don't yearn for sold out stadium tours and clubbing with P. Diddy. They enjoy playing for smaller crowds that know every word and stay for hours after the show talking to them. I've been to shows with little bands that are up and coming. They love it when people sing their lyrics and look for them after their way-too-short set. My best example is a band from St. Louis that my friend Sarah discovered called Ludo. The band is a quirky quintet that sings about parties, pirates and puppy love. They also have a rock opera EP out that involves time machines, zombies and the anti-christ. I personally love it. This summer Sarah and I made the 5 hour drive from Minneapolis to Des Moines to see them open for Will Hoge. After the show, we hung around until Andrew Volpe, the lead singer, came out and sat down to talk to us. Sarah had met him during their show in the mini-apple, and he was glad to see a familiar face. We talked about the meanings of a few songs and he told us the story of their newest, yet to be released song, Lake Ponchatrain. It was very cool for me to talk to another singer-songwriter about what inspires him and how he writes lyrics. He told me that one of his biggest things is to "show, not tell". He does this in more than one song, by adding long comedic monologs in the middle of a few songs. Even their EP builds up and up about the man risking his life to save his wife, and then finally not being able to. Such suspense!

Anyway, I'm off topic. Another thing that bothers me about music is how people seem to think they own it. People love to tell you how much your favorite band sucks, or how much other genres are stupid. Country is for hicks, rap can only be performed by black men, and christian music is a discrace. What the hell?! Elvis played songs that were HEAVILY influenced by gospel and the 'black' music of the time. Record Execs loved him because he made it ok for white people to listen to black music. But he was just singing the songs that he grew up singing. Eminem has topped the charts, although I'm not quiet sure why people seem to like him. I like him because he tells it like it is. He talks about how the record label's PR people make him into what they want him to be, and how rap battles aren't what he wants. He doesn't constantly talk about how he's from the projects and how women are objects. Instead he raps about what makes him mad, and soccer moms everywhere find this offensive. Up until a two years ago, I hated country music. But now, because of an ex, I find pride in the lyrics. I like how they don't opologize for being from the country, or how proud they are about where they are from. I wish I had that. Besides Ben Folds, no one sings about being from the suburbs. I've also found a great musician Keith Urban, who plays country. I've seen him live and he is an amazing guitarist. Country or not, he deserves more play time on any radio station. The last example of musical intolerance that I mentioned was Christian music. I used to listen exclusively to Christian music. I also used to listen to Weird Al a lot, but I was young and we don't talk about that anymore. I went through middle school listening to Jars of Clay and the Newsboys. Then I left the Xian scene for a few years, and wandered into pop and MTV. By the time I returned, only about a year ago thanks to my now roomate Koo, the genre had completely changed. Not only did it change, it exploded. Before it was mostly pop and folkish songs that you would sing around a campfire at church camp. Now bands like Switchfoot, P.O.D., Relient K, and Evanescence have broke into main stream. Most people don't even realize they are listening to Xian music too! Entire Xian labels have appeared like Tooth and Nail. Two of my favorite bands of the past year is Anberlin and Mae. They are both very much xian, but are also two of the most amazing bands I've heard.

Ok, off topic again. Let me just close in saying that just because you don't like a particular band doens't mean they suck. Just like people, every band has it's good qualities and should be respected. I know that James Blunt will never be the new Eric Clapton, but I still respect his music. I like how simple it can be, so I can just let it flow and not have my head filled with complicated drum beats and soaring guitar solos. Sometimes that's all that matters. Sometimes you just want to feel relaxed. I enjoy listening to music that reminds me of certain people when I miss them. It makes me feel closer to them. Or a specific lyric might hit home, and even though the song itself isn't amazing, I still enjoy listening. I've heard people say that a band sucks ass, and then when I tell them the band isn't so great but the drummer is amazing they agree. Many people think Dave Matthews Band is hippie music and for 'gay frat boys'. Hippie music it is, but if you really listen you have to respect the band for how musically talented they are. I respect Twista for being able to rap at record breaking speeds, but I'm not going to go out and buy his album. Even so, when someone says their favorite rapper is Twista, I will tell them I don't listen, but his rapping is off the hook. It's not that hard, and probably kept from getting a beating from a die-hard fan. Sometimes I think of it as racism almost. If we don't learn to respect eachother's differences, there will always be biggotry. If we don't learn to stop saying every band but our own sucks, then we will always have the hicks, black rappers, and pussy Christians.

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