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Monday, April 24, 2006

Girlfriend Music

". . . and everyone's girlfriend knows the words by heart"

-Horace Pinker, "Appreciation"

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I'm not sure where I heard the label, "girlfriend music," but I've been trying to come up with a more concrete understanding. From what I've gathered so far, girlfriend music essentially is music that the boyfriend doesn't really like but he listens to it because his girlfriend likes it. I know I hate pigeonholes, but I think it's fun to come up with some ideas about what falls into this category and what doesn't. What's interesting is how wide people's love music goes beyond gender.

If I were to think of Top 40 girlfriend music, I'd probably say light rockers James Blunt, Daniel Powter, David Gray and Train are culprits. I'm talking about music that features a rather soft voice over a polished mix of guitars, piano and drums. I have nothing against artists like this (as a matter of fact, I like a few Train songs and a number of David Gray's songs), but I'd rather listen to something that has a little more oomph in the music. The deal is, for people that remain at bay with Top 40's parameters, it's very easy to be befuddled by someone that likes music that cannot perfectly fit into one or two formats.

A lot of females I know and hang out with aren't buried in the sand of Top 40/mainstream music. I think that's awesome because I find myself really opening up to people that have no major constraints with a broad view of music. Since music is as important to me as eating, sleeping and writing, I'm drawn to people that get something deeper out of listening/playing/critiquing it. Rather than viewing music as background space, I think a strong connection can be made out of all those notes, beats and lyrics.

Now I think about what females may think of as boyfriend music. This could really be anything (just like girlfriend music), but if I were to think of the Top 40 crowd, some bands would include Nickelback, Velvet Revolver and Guns n' Roses. Yeah, that may work for people who want to slowdance to "November Rain," but music can't be bound by radio format, pigeonhole or gender preference for me. Certain artists attract a larger ratio of one gender over the other, but I'm all for the kinds of artists that attract a blurred audience.

In case of something like boy band pop (like Backstreet Boys and NSync), chances are good you'll find that in a female's music collection more than a male's. Yet I wonder why somebody like Lou Pearlman (the mastermind behind those aforementioned groups) wanted to go strictly after the demographic of preteen and teenage girls. There's a wide world out there, so why would somebody want to go after what has jokingly been called the incredibly wide demographic of 13 to 15-years-old? Yeah yeah yeah, I know, studies have shown that girls are rabidly attracted to this over that when they're coming of age more than guys. But you know what? I think that's a very slim view of mass-appealing music. The targeting may work for a little while, but as anyone who has lived longer than a day can attest, we're always growing.

Thinking about this slim demographic of pop music makes me think about how wide it used to be. For example, in the 1960s, Berry Gordy wanted to make his R&B acts on his Motown label to be appealing for blacks and whites, males and females. He did just that, but he didn't water everything down for the lowest common denominator. So many Motown artists continue to strike a chord with a wide range of ages, race and gender. These days, being so broad with music would seem crazy for the major record companies, but whenever I hear a Supremes song, Jackson 5 song or a Four Tops song, I think of music that means something deep and is for almost anyone. The same can be said for other artists like the Beatles, Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach.

I think about all the people I've come to know and really gravitated towards because of music. These people may have not shared the same feelings I've had with the music I like, but there is a mutual respect going on here. Sure, there's some music that only girls can really dig into and there's some music that only guys can get into. Regardless of gender, if I feel very open when someone really understands how powerful music can be in his/her life. The broader the spectrum, the better.

2 comments:

Sarah E. said...

Stuart and I definitely break the mold on this one.

His "girlfriend music": Bad Religion (I actually dragged him to a BR concert once in Houston and then got him to admit the band was "pretty good.")

My "boyfriend music": Indigo Girls (He forced me to listen and I eventually decided I actually like two of their songs, "Closer to Fine" and "Kid Fears.")

So whaddaya think of that? ;-)

Truthfully, over time, I think our tastes came to overlap more and more. Although I still love punk rock and he mostly doesn't like it, and he still likes artists like Tori Amos and I don't.

Will said...

Not to nitpick but the name was Berry Gordy, also on a related note Rockwell of "Somebody's Watching Me" fame, is Berry's son. Ok, that said David Gray put out a decent couple of albums that rocked in the mid-late 90's before all of his stuff started to sound alike.

I like girls who like it rough, music wise and otherwise.