Like everyone, I’d like think I have good taste in music. But the more I listen, the more I have no idea what my taste is. I love 90′s/00′s alternative country, I love 1960′s gut wrenching blues, I love 90′s gansta rap, I love classical, if I’m in the right mood and want to impress someone. There are very few genres I don’t like.
A colleague I taught with and wrote musical reviews for some online magazines once said that he loved any music that “sounded like it took passion to make.” I understand what he meant. I appreciate passion, and it can certainly help a good song or artist become great. But I think first and foremost I want musicians to have talent. And a good writer. So for me to love a song, I want passion from a talented musician, and good lyrics. As long as the musician is authentic.
Problem is, while I’d like this all to be true, it’s not. I mean, it is true. Many of my favorite artist and songs — Bob Dylan’s Isis, Buddy Guy’s First Time I Met the Blues, Johann Sabastian Bach’s Toccata & Fugue (this is an outright lie — I had to look up what Bach’s first name and best songs were), or the Old 97′s Time Bomb involve talented musicians singing well-written songs with passion and authenticity.
But often — very often — I just want pure, unadulterated, shitty pop. It can be clever — Lily Allen and Kate Nash’s brand of Brit pop works great — but it doesn’t have to be. For a full year I could not get enough of Sheryl Crowe’s bubble-gum-like “Soak Up the Sun.” For another 18 months Gwen Stefani’s completely mindless “Hollaback Girl” was number 1 on my Ipod. I told people it was ironic. It wasn’t. I just wanted to hear that beat.
At my bachelor party, which involved steak, beer, golf, and guns, all in copious amounts, my friend asked what music I wanted to hear. ”I’d love to hear some Dave Matthews,” I said.
“You don’t have to be a dick about it,” my friend said. I played it off like I had been a dick. But I hadn’t. I wanted to hear Dave.
Perhaps most humiliating was when my mom found a single tape of Madonna’s Vogue in my room in 6th Grade. ”You like Madonna’s music?” she asked.
“Uh,” I answered.
“Because judging by this picture, it doesn’t seem like it’s her songs you like.” I stayed silent. The single cover had a pre-Gollum-armed Madonna arching her back while wearing skimpy lingerie. I did really like that picture, but that’s not why I bought the single. But I let my Mom think I was simply horny rather than admit the truth. I had a far more shameful lust for mindless pop.