Friday, December 31, 2010

This is not a matter of taste...

Some people say that what constitutes good music is a subjective thing, that it’s all a matter of taste. To a point these people are right - hooray for them - but they’re totally wrong too (go to the back of the queue). The music you enjoy is subjective but what constitutes good music is not. There is no denying some music, whether you like it or not, is just fundamentally mind blowing.

I’ll give you an example. A lot of people my age do not like Elvis and that’s ok because the Government still allows morons to breathe and breed. Even if you don’t like the King, have a listen to Suspicious Minds and even if you hate every guitar lick, every wobble in the the deliver, even if you hate the lyrics - you cannot deny that this song is incredible. I’ll give you another example, some people don’t like Nick Cave (idiots!) but regardless of your prejudice, The Carney is a masterpiece and there is no way this can be denied.

Now I don’t discount myself from this. I have a number of friends who are Boboholics. This is a term coined for people who follow Bob Dylan relentlessly. They chat endlessly on forums comparing setlists from one night to the next, have hundreds of bootlegs and have even bought the Bob Dylan Christmas album (and just maybe they even listened to it). They are hardcore and if you take the sickness metaphor - Beiberfever is a mild cold while Boboholism is the music equivalent of Ebola - once you’ve got it you’ll start bleeding from the eyes, ears and rectum and nothing can save you (those symptoms only occur to Justin Beiber fans who actually listen his music).

Now, that being said, I can’t stand Bob Dylan and I’d probably prefer Justin Beiber any day of the week* (and trust me, that’s a hard thing to admit publicly). I don’t know what it is but I can’t stand his voice. Despite my loathing of all things Bob, one thing I can admit - the guy is awesome. The songs, the lyrics and the sheer audacity of the man is something that is unique and special in music history (did I mention the Christmas album?). So I hate it but even I can admit that it’s awesome.

Now, how can you distinguish what is fundamentally awesome regardless of your personal opinion and the wider context of music. Firstly, there is some music that will never be in the hallowed canon of music - generally this is europop (excluding ABBA), diva’s post 1980 and any band with a stupid name (for example, if you’re in a band called Biffy Clyro rest assured you will be nothing more than a footnote in music history).

Secondly, music tends to gather import over time. The Velvet Underground barely registered when they were in their prime but there is no denying their importance or vitality of their music. This isn’t always the case. On first listen to Smells Like Teen Spirit (I can remember the time and place I heard it), there was a palpable feeling that it was life changing from about 30 seconds in and that instinct turned out to be correct. I’m not sure but I’ve been getting that feeling with the new Kanye West album too - that thing feels as vital as anything I’ve heard in a long time.

This second point complicates things. For example - The National’s High Violet is a stunning album but is it fundamentally awesome or just a great album of the 200o’s. That’s an example of where this all get’s screwy but if we can agree on anything, let’s agree that some music is amazing even if you hate it. And while we’re on this point, let’s just agree that my taste in music is better than yours. Just accept it.

*Update: I heard a Justin Beiber song all the way through for the first time. I was wrong, forgive me.