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We Can Work it Out by jason
August 4, 2010, 12:56 pm
Filed under: Homework | Tags: ,


At work yesterday, my coworkers got into a heated argument about popular music. It started when two coworkers, we’ll call them Bob and Nathan, were ragging on Lady GaGa, mainly because they know that several of my coworkers, as well as I, like her music.

OK. Taste is subjective. You don’t like GaGa. We can still be friends. I’m not a big fan, anyway…I just like a few of her songs. But then, Bob, in an effort to show how “brilliant” GaGa is, quoted from her song “Bad Romance”: “Rah rah, ah ah ah/ Roma Roma ra, GaGa, Oh la la.”

This irritated me a little. You see, pop music often has these little nonsensical things in them. They aren’t lyrics, per se; they’re sounds. So I pointed out that the Beatles sang the lyrics “Ob La Di, Ob La Da,” as well as an extended, 3 minute, 30 second “Na na na nananana, nananana, Hey Jude.”

This prompted a fight over what pop music is. My coworkers claimed that the Beatles, because their music challenged society (“Revolution,” “Taxman,” and “I Me Mine,” for instance), and because their music has staying power, it is not popular music, which they have defined (quoting Wikipedia) as:

…commercially recorded music, often oriented towards a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple love songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.

Their argument here is that the Beatles made “art,” not pop.

So, “Love Me Do” is not a pop song. Neither is “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” And “Octopus’s Garden”? That’s Serious Business.

This whole thing has started me into an existential crisis. There’s so much pretense in, like, everything. It seems like most of the time, we, and I’m referring to music fans specifically here because this is a music blog, though this crisis has bled into other areas of my life as well, try to explain that what we listen to is The Real Thing and that everything else is beneath us somehow.

And before you say “what about your ‘Indie is Ugly’ thing? Aren’t you criticising those bands’ lack of pretense?” Well, I’m not. Those bands’ seeming lack of pretense is just another form of pretense. When did making and listening to music become a lifestyle choice? Has it always been this way? It’s been this way as long as I can remember. But why does it have to be that way? Why do we judge others based on their musical choices? Why do we turn our noses at what “they” listen to? And don’t say that you don’t do this. Even if you aren’t vocal about it, you do make these judgements. We all do.

So I’m going to do something here. Everyone do this, and we’ll talk about it on Friday. This is your homework.

Take a genre that you don’t normally listen to and listen to it. Don’t watch videos, though…these are often filled with the trappings of the pretense that exists in every genre. Instead, just listen to the songs themselves. Close your eyes if you have to and try to see why, sonically, this music has the appeal that it does.

I’m not saying you’ll like what you hear. In fact, you may hate it. But hopefully, if you hate is, you’ll hate it for reasons other than you don’t like that genre’s scene. Or maybe, you’ll realize that there is something to what others like, and you’ll be less quick to judge them.

-jason

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2 Comments so far
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Okay, dogg. I am locked on to netradio station AlwaysHOTCountry. Let’s do this.

Comment by ymatto

[…] Merge Records, Pomplamoose, The Extra Glens, the Mountain Goats, Trouble Books, Weezer Ok…I gave you all a homework assignment on Wednesday, but I didn’t have time to do it. This is the last week of work for the semester, so […]

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