Friday, July 11, 2014

People Observation/No More of That: Musical Snobbery

photo courtesy of The Verge.

This blogpost is inspired by a post a good friend of mine named Eric put on Facebook a couple days ago reading this: 
"Helplessness Blues is a great album by the Fleet Foxes. So late to the game."
First of all, Helplessness Blues is amazing. Eric, I'm so glad you found such a wonderful album. So many feels. 

Second of all, I know you didn't mean it in this way, but IT ISN'T A GAME! 

There is something empowering about being unique, the first, or one of the few in the realm of knowledge. It makes you feel special, I understand. This stupid thing that happens in fandom that I have dubbed Musical Snobbery, however, has got to stop.

I've explored a lot of genres. I like to sing music and play music and dance to music on a morningly, afternooningly (that's a word..) and nightly basis. With the exception of country music sap songs because those are awful, I like music that grabs my heart straight out of my chest and gives it a good smackin'. I like music that leaves my heart alone, but instead yanks at my brain and tickles my curiosity HQ. I like lyrics that mean something. I like lyrics that mean nothing. I'm a classically-trained Soprano with a secret love for a little bit of screamo. (I guess it isn't a secret love once you put it on your blog.) I can recognize a Strokes' bass line from three houses away. I can shout Bruce Springsteen lyrics at the top of my lungs and only mess up on the parts that he's mumbling his face off and I've never understood.  Just like most of you, I, too, had an emo phase. And going to college in Appalachia turned me into a lover of anything with a banjo. I'm lookin' at you, Steve Martin.

In high school, I took advantage of the surprisingly awesome bands that would come through Columbus (thanks for being a good stop-through town CBUS!), and -- without any actual expenses -- I spent every last dime that I earned at my minimum wage job on the relatively cheap basement shows. Possibly like you, I have memories of talking to bands after shows and accidentally elbowing middle school girls in the face for being the worst crowd members in the history of rock. 

While 90s music envelopes the brilliant nostalgia of early Generation Y, I find the early 2000s to be a musical dark age.  I thank heaven for things like Myspace, which would eventually lead the way for new and creative musicians to gain followings without having to sign to a major record label.  I love the things that are happening currently in the music world (for the most part). (Sidenote: It isn't a coincidence that the 90s and now are both musical eras of awesome as pop culture cycles every 20 years... but that's another blogpost for another time).

Alas, here we are. With so much music being home-brewed and accessible to fans all over the world every day, I can see how a subculture of music snobs could emerge. In every kind of category and hobby and subculture of anything you've ever seen or heard or smelled, there's always some group of snobs trying to make it exclusive. (It's all somewhat preschoolesque in a Neener-neener-neener-I-know-something-you-don't-know kind of way). 

But what kind of true fan of a band would want to hide the music they enjoy? 

I have friends from college who stopped liking Mumford once everybody knew who they were. Why wouldn't you celebrate their success? Why would you not want something you love to live on? 

A true fan of a band would want to support the band and share it with people, not keep its supposed awesomeness to him or herself. Hide it under a bushel, no; blast it in your car with the windows down and scream it at the top of your lungs. 

Take these non-musical, yet also applicable references: I love Bob's Burgers. I need everyone else in the world to love Bob's because without their according fandom, Bob's will get cancelled. (See: Arrested Development.) My love for the Columbus Blue Jackets represents a similar situation. I've loved the Blue Jackets since their Inaugural season in 2000. No true fan would get upset that a bunch of bandwagoners are hoppin' on after this year's playoff run. More fans leads to more tickets, jerseys and other random crap with a CBJ logo on it, which leads to more money, better players, and thus, a better team. As Paul Brown used to say, "There's always room on the bandwagon."

Don't let the hipsters fool you. Music is meant to be enjoyed regardless of how obscure it is. Classics are meant to be heard. And thank God for it too. Cheers to all of those times I was recommended a great song or band, and double Cheers to the times they have led to friendships and experiences and, a lot of times, easing some pretty harsh pains. 

Which takes me right back to Helplessness Blues: 
I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking,
I'd say I'd rather be A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me
The music game is not a game. It's an awesome collective of fandom and shared experiences that were meant to be shared. You are a functioning cog in some great machinery of amazing sounds and lyrics and beats serving something far beyond a little music ego. 

My message to hipsters: Revel in the obscurity of the songs that you find. Enjoy that strange sound that tickles your ears in a way you've never heard. And then, when you've downloaded it (probably illegally) and played it on repeat for ten or twenty times straight, share the crap out of it. Good music is meant to be heard. 

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