Do You Like Music?

I once asked a girl, “Do you like music?” She smirked and said, “Uhm, I’m pretty everyone likes music. What kind of a question is that?” This is one of those times I wish I could go back and say something that I didn’t at the time. I wish I would have said, “What I really mean is, ‘Do you like good music?’ Because most people like to listen to total garbage. Do you like good music, or do you like garbage?”

Perhaps she would have responded that everyone has their own tastes, and that for some people a piece of music might be “good” which wasn’t to me. And believe me, I’ve tried to look at it from that perspective. A whole phase of my life was dedicated to convincing myself that a person’s difference in taste was completely valid, inasmuch as that person’s taste was developed, to a large degree, based on their own experiences, opinions, ideas, and personality.

That all seems to check out — except for one thing. Just because someone’s tastes are developed by their life’s circumstances doesn’t automatically bring validity to their views. A person, after all, can develop a taste for drugs, alcohol, pornography, domestic violence, and racism all based on their background.

What I mean is — there is definitely such a thing as good music and bad music, regardless of taste. And I don’t refer here to the quality with which music is produced. Almost no one will like badly produced music. But I’m referring specifically to popular music. I’m talking about the merit, the significance, of each song. There is music that affirms courage, forgiveness, peace, honesty, strength, and morals. And then there’s music that does completely the opposite. It promotes pride, ignorance, dominance, lust— things I would clump into the category of “immediate animal gratification.”

A feminist giving a TED talk once said that she would listen to Rap on her way to work, despite the songs’ content. “These lyrics offend me to my core,” she said, chuckling shamelessly, “I’m utterly mortified by my music choices.”

Yeah, real mortified, real offended. If by mortified, she meant infatuated. It’s amazing how many people out there listen to total garbage, not only because of their circumstances, but as this woman clearly demonstrates, despite their circumstances.

In reality, the list of popular songs with garbage lyrics made in the last 20 years is…beyond my even citing them. What I would like to cite, however, are people’s increasing obliviousness to the trash they’re listening to, which I think is the difference more and more nowadays. It’s so apparent to some that most of what is being produced as pop music today is just base material, but to others it is not only acceptable, but the only option. They start to squirm whenever music is put on other than top 20 pop radio. It’s like people are allergic to music with any sort of lyrical or instrumental substance. These top 20 pop musicians are in it for the money. They’re smart people. They don’t believe in the values they sing about. So why do we?

One last thing. I just want to look at two songs, just to illustrate. Both of them were “pop” songs in their own time. Again, one affirms courage, values, strength, hope, love, and the other promotes pride, self-centeredness, dominance, and ignorance.

Yeah, You could be the greatest
You can be the best
You can be the King Kong banging on your chest
You could beat the world
You could beat the war
You could talk to God, go banging on his door

And…

Well the good ol’ days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn
I’m learning to fly around the clouds
But what goes up must come down

So, my question still stands. Do you like music?

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