If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.
Of all the things on my list, this is probably one of the top 5 I’m most hesitant to post. You see, I am a musician. The best thing, in my opinion, that I have put out into the world is songs. And musicians are judged more harshly than most anyone else when it comes to their musical tastes.
Now, I completely own up to the fact that my opinions of people are influenced by their musical tastes. I love people who, in my opinion, have seriously questionable musical tastes. But I also see that almost all of my closest friends share many of my favourite bands and musicians. And the thought of being in close relationships with people who hate the music I find most important makes me cringe. (Been there, done that, never going back.) So I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t factor in the musical tastes of others when forming opinions. I honestly believe that a person’s musical favourites say a lot about them.
I was raised in a home that was full of music. We all grew up wanting our own stereos and then played music non-stop on whatever we had access to. We all loved music, though most my family didn’t all love the same music. Plus, my dad and eldest brother were (are) pretty eclectic themselves. And then most, if not all, my friends loved music. There was more overlap there than there was in the music family members loved, but it still wasn’t complete overlap. Which means I had access and exposure to a wide range of music. Lucky me!
With the internet, I also had access to music nobody I knew was listening to. Access to All The Music!!! Lucky, lucky me!
Like most creative teenagers, my friends were vocally and strongly opinionated about music. So there were whole swaths of music that I either avoided completely or that I wouldn’t admit that I enjoyed. It was risky even to say, “I don’t like their music, but they’re clearly talented.” Nope. Just keep your mouth shut.
Which is to say that I was not always not ashamed of my musical tastes.
But, sometime around age 21, I started to care a whole lot less about other people’s opinions of my tastes and looks and actions. I also started hanging out with more musicians and realising that, as much as people judge us strongly for our tastes, it’s a good thing for us to be atypically eclectic. The broader my tastes, the broader the influences on my own music. Even if you don’t hear it, there are bits of songs that occurred to me to approach in particular ways because of some song or genre you might not expect me to enjoy.
People talk a lot about guilty pleasures. I’m not going to claim that all pleasures are okay; there are a lot of questionable people with even more questionable pleasures. But I absolutely refuse to have musical guilty pleasures. Why bring shame in to taint my enjoyment of a song? Not going to happen.
As a bonus, I learned years ago that the quickest way to get certain kinds of boys who were hitting on me to leave me alone was to be forthright about the music I loved that they considered crap. “Yes, I see you posturing there. Do you see me skanking during the song you’re mad the DJ is playing or bobbing my head to Public Enemy as I chat with my friend? Oh, you’re leaving? Such a shame…”
I’m not claiming I love all music. Though, so far, I’ve found that there’s usually a song or two of the types I’ve heard that I enjoy. And not just obscure things. I’m sure I lose my punk card, my goth card, my alternative card, and an assortment of other cool kid membership cards when I gleefully sing along to Taylor Swift or have kitchen dance parties with Jay-Z and Rihanna. When I put on some Genesis or Dire Straits or Fleetwood Mac on purpose. When I don’t protest if my guitarist says I have to check out the new JT (that’s Justin Timberlake, cool kids) album. And I know plenty of rock kids who don’t get it when I spend a night listening to nothing but Chopin’s piano pieces or won’t let them switch albums until I’m done with the whole Salt-N-Pepa album I’m in the middle of. And so on and so forth.
Please also note that I’m not claiming to be an expert on everyone I like to listen to. Not at all. I haven’t had the luxury (of time or of memory) for that since I was about 15. Even then, I always felt a little obnoxious trying to prove I was a super-fan via knowledge of trivia. Because that’s not what it’s about.
I love wallowing in songs I’ve enjoyed for ages. I love hearing new things I enjoy. I love to lose myself in a song, an album, a playlist. I love songs that make me cry and songs that make me dance and songs that make me want to grab someone pretty and do scandalous things.
If we’re listening to music from my collection and it’s on shuffle and I warn you that you will probably end up disappointed in me, that’s not an apology. Not at all.
If we’re listening and something shuffles up that I skip, it’s not shame. It might be that I know you’ll be offended and I’m sparing you or it might be something added to my massive collection by a friend or partner that I have yet to clear out.
If I explain that I know a song I love is kind of lame but there’s this particular emotional context. I’m not ashamed of loving the song. I’m just acknowledging that some of my tastes have more to do with emotions than with the actual song.
But my own ridiculously eclectic musical tastes are not something of which I’m ashamed. And I sincerely believe they make me a better musician. Rawr!
Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).