This week, I have found myself listening to more music than I typically do. And by more, I mean more variety -- things I normally wouldn’t figure I’d catch myself listening to. It could be something poppy, mellow, or an old tune I listened to when I was a little kid. It’s weird.
It’s all got me thinking about music in general again. Now, I don’t like to go on rants about these sorts of things. When it comes to something subjective, I don’t want to be the guy to try and force my opinions onto you or be the self-righteous critic. But with everything that’s been going into my ears the past couple weeks, I’ve caught myself making a mental list of things that sort of ... irk me. My musical turn-ons and turn-offs, so to speak. It doesn’t necessarily annoy me, it just doesn’t create a spark in me. The things I think are boring in music.
Here’s a list:
1. The “Whoa-Oh-Ohs”
You know what I’m talking about here. Typically, they’re at their most popular in catchy mainstream pop songs. The stuff you hear on the radio that everybody complains about. When the beat gets going, the song builds up, and the chorus kicks in, then bam: There it is. The “whoa-oh-oh” that everybody listening can sing along to.
For what it’s worth, the hook is what keeps people listening. It’s the moment of the song that the mumblers can sing and the singers can mumble. Because, well, it’s not hard to remember melodies. Roar? Bad Romance? Tik Tok? Even as far back as "Hey Jude." They’re not bad, they’re catchy, but they’re getting old.
2. The Insincerity
This isn’t a new thing either. And in all honesty, I don’t have anything positive to say about this one. See, the thing is, sincerity doesn’t mean it has to be some deep, sad song that makes you think. Even a party song can be sincere. People give Miley Cyrus a lot of flak for acting the way she does now, but I appreciate the effort she’s putting in.
I’m talking about the people who stand on stage, singing fantasized sorrows of something that never happened to them. Or, the people who half-sing a song about some intense party every time they throw something out there without any kind of variation in their creativity. Just off the top of my head? Pitbull. I don’t like Pitbull. Why is he famous? I don’t get it. Brokencyde is another. Man, I hate Brokencyde.
3. The Forced Angst
When I hear a song that starts out sounding really awesome, I enjoy it. But that enjoyment becomes embarrassment if the first line happens to be something about darkness and broken hearts. Or vampires. HIM is a guilty pleasure of mine when it comes to this, but for the most part, I can’t stand to hear it. It becomes especially embarrassing when you do some further research and find out that a 37-year-old man is writing about being the “Leader of the Broken Hearts” (looking at you, Papa Roach).
There are instances this sort of thing works, reaching back to HIM, where everything ties in together. The vocals aren’t whiny, the music isn’t regurgitated from the last hit single, and the lyrics usually go beyond “she broke my heart, I’m filled with darkness, the world is black, I am so heartless.” It’s incredibly one-dimensional and juvenile to do it. If you’re angsty, be open and honest. Don’t write it like something you’d find on a wristband at Hot Topic.
4. The Same Thing
Whether it’s the barefoot acoustic, catchy drumming of an indie band or the synthesized claps of radio pop, it’s all the same. One tune after the other, whether it’s popular or not, sounds like one long drone of catchy music over and over. I know I sound like I’m being overly cynical. It’s really just feel-good music. Not something you sit down to find some deeper meaning. That’s not always great.
It’s not just the big bands that do that sort of thing. Metal bands are especially notorious of this. It’s great if you’re into a certain genre, but I don’t like hearing about a band playing the same exact style of music after 20 years. If that’s the case, at least try to keep it interesting. Not the same thing over and over and over again.
5. The Autotuned
This is not as irritating as the others. Autotuning is actually pretty widely used in production. It really depends entirely on the subtlety of it. Not everybody can be an Alicia Keys or a Meatloaf. But? When it comes to some talentless businessman like will.i.am? That stinks. Daft Punk’s alright, though.
6. The Bad Fans
This is all about the fans. The fans that like to rub in how long they’ve listened. The fans that like to point out their age. The fans that caricturize the band’s image. The fans that force it into you.
“Oh, well I’ve known about them since before they performed.”
There’s nothing more of a put-off than being called a poser by somebody trying their absolute hardest to outdo their favorite band in the world. I can’t stand the rabid fans that attack and ridicule somebody for not understanding or knowing the same things as themselves. If you find yourself in a position to help somebody into a new style of music – unfamiliar territory – show them around. Don’t belittle them because your musical empire is so much more vast and important than somebody else’s.
Music is entirely subjective. It’s all opinions. That’s what’s great about it. But a smudge on the scenery can ruin an entire painting. And that’s what these feel like to me. Smudges, smears, scratches. Things that can so easily taint something so beautiful.
Neil Kristjansson's "Menifee Plugged In" column appears each week. He writes about two things of interest to most of the younger generation -- music and electronic gaming. He welcomes your comments here or though email at firstname.lastname@example.org.