Thursday, February 14, 2008

The One Kind of Music

No matter how varied your musical tastes might be, everyone seems to have that one they don't like. I was talking about this with someone recently. The only kind of music he doesn't like is death metal.

He says, "I don't get it. How can they call screaming music? They should just scream."

I'll admit I did listen to a lot of "screaming" back in the day (and still do when I get in that mood), but for me, the music I don't like is country. Sometimes, someone will think they can convert me, but I might as well tell you not to bother. Oh, there was a time when someone took me to a country/western bar and insisted I pay attention to lyrics. I grudgingly admitted that some of them were funny. But, most of the time I just ruin the experience.

I remember one time there was a country singer on the Colbert Report. He said he was going to sing a song about a maintenance man who has a crush on the lady of the house.

I had to ask, "Doesn't that sound like a porn scenario?" (Oh, come on! Wasn't anyone else thinking it?)

I get frowned at in return.

As it turns out, he realized he didn't have a chance with her because he's just a maintenance man.

I say, "Well then, he should have been a poolboy."

More frowns. I was apparently ruining a heart-wrenching song. Oh well....

When I was a freshman in college, my roommate was from inner-city Detroit. She didn't believe me that anyone in the suburbs liked rap. At the time, I thought she was being incredibly prejudiced, but in retrospect, maybe it wasn't that strange an assumption. After all, people from the suburbs can't exactly relate to the lyrics of gangsta rap.

Of course, it's probably this very difference that gives it appeal. Yes, suburban white boys sound funny when they try to talk like rappers, but it's probably a phase they need to go through. They'll outgrow it. (Or, they'll go straight to the midlife crisis.)

The thing I remember most about grunge is feeling like I should just give all the musicians a big hug. And, this was not just because the flannel shirts made everyone so damn cuddly. That was the first time I remember music embracing male vulnerability, instead of the tough guy image while still being hip and cool. Some would argue that the lyrics didn't make much sense, but it seems like they were the kind of lyrics that were a little too easy to project your own issues onto. It was always about you. I can see this from looking back at my college notebooks and seeing the lines from songs I would randomly quote in between calculations.

When I was younger, the kind of music we liked created our sense of identity. If you were a metalhead, you were just not the same person as someone who was not. It dictated how you dressed and who you automatically looked down your nose at based on their musical tastes. It was a serious matter. I couldn't do that, now. At this point, my tastes are much too varied. And, that's okay, now.

As a final thought, here's my most controversial opinion about Axl Rose. I still say that he was the only guy in 80's metal who could write ballads that weren't cheesy. ("Monster ballads" are fun, but no one would deny they are cheesy.) You can like them or not, but they're not cheesy.

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