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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Listening

I often wonder why people's opinions on music get tangled up because of perception. We're not blind; we judge the whole package (the music, the image, the coverage in the press, what critics say, etc.). But why do we discount the value of music because of things that have nothing to do with the listening of it?

I'd like to say that I judge every artist based on the music, but I'm guilty of this kind of scoffing too. For example, I have never enjoyed Britney Spears' music. What I've heard is trashy, beat-intensive R&B with faux-sexy vocals. Other than the outro to her song "Lucky" owing some melodic similarities to Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" and the chorus to "Oops! I Did It Again" reminding me of Barbra Streisand's "The Woman in Love," I have not made a connection to her music. Maybe because of the fact that I like the songs I compared to her songs is why I get some sort of feeling. With what I perceive as a person with hearing with ears and seeing with eyes, I know more about Spears' private life than her music. I have yet to hear of song of her's that I've thought, "Hey, this is a good song" nor have I read or seen anything about her that makes me curious about her.

It's amazing how perception changes over time. I think a big reason why is because stuff is taken out of the context of when it was first introduced. Looking back at certain things instead of every thing yields a thought of black and white clarity. There is a perception of exciting times, while the times weren't really that different from now. Whatever what was going on in politics, technology, music, art, film or pop culture, people were feeling good, bad and everything in between.

How the perception affects music listening paints a very interesting picture. I often hear about how the Ramones were a breath of fresh air when they first came out in the mid-70s. On the pop charts was disco, pop-country, crossover ballads, corporate rock and prog rock. Here were four scruffy guys in leather jackets playing 50s/60s rock & roll at a faster pace. Of course their image was striking for the Top 40 audience, but their music was even more striking. Even in this day with a commodified version of pop-punk, what holds up with the Ramones is their music. Maybe it's great since it was created with no commercial aspirations, but conception is not as important to me as to how I feel about the music.

I like the Ramones, but I enjoy Journey as much. I know that would be considered blasphemous by others, but I'm not going to hide what I like. A mere mention of Journey brings to mind the bloated excesses of '70s/80s corporate rock: monster guitar solos, over-the-top vocals and stadium anthems. Without being aware of their embrace by people when the band was at their commercial peak, all I have are their records to decide whether I like their music or not. Sure, the band wore funny clothes and appealed to the lowest common denominator, but I'm not thinking about that when I'm listening to their Greatest Hits collection.

I'm not saying we should all take a blind eye to music, but I think it's pretty cool to listen to music without having factors like image. I think it's interesting how we have a private relationship with all kinds of music but don't talk openly about them. I don't believe in calling something a "guilty pleasure" since there is no guilt in pleasure.

1 comment:

Eric said...

You like journey as much as the Ramones? Are you kidding me???

Actually, I probably do too. Always right on the mark.