Being, as I am, an obscure and rarely read blogger I don’t get many responses to my journal entries outside of my immediate familial circle. The fact that I ruthlessly excoriated the one soul not related to me who was brave enough to send me an email of commendation probably didn’t help matters much. However, my last entry did receive a response from some fellow who, in real life, is named Dave but on Xanga.com is better know as A_Lerxst_For_All_Seasons.
Brava. Couldn't have said the same myself...[BRIEF ASIDE]Matt Dart, take note. This is the sort of letter I like to receive. Mr. Seasons is well-spoken, has good musical taste, expressed his disagreement politely, used the word “patchouli”, and did not feel it necessary to call me “pritty”.[END BRIEF ASIDE]
Personally, I very much enjoy the Dave Matthews Band...at the very least, the older facet. I find them - to lack a better way to phrase it - to possess a groove, a genuine, passionate groove, that's sorely lacking in today's musical world.
But, then again, this is coming from a fellow whose usual musical exploits through the course of a day include anything from Louis Armstrong to Edgar Winter to Yes to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Greenfly, Norah Jones, Tom Waits, and back again. I don't get out much in the modern scene, as it were, and I find very few of said bands worth my time and energy to listen to. Albeit, there are some gems here and there, and Mr. Matthews is one of them, no matter your opinion to the contrary.
I hold firm, resolute, and reeking of patchouli.
In reviewing my comments on the Dave Matthews Band I have come to the conclusion that I was a bit harsh on them. Although I find their songs too long, too similar, and too boring, mentioning them in the same breath as Creed was a bit over the top, and for this I apologize and ask forgiveness.
In all honesty, the Dave Matthews Band was not a good group to bring up in expressing my dislike of popular music, and, indeed, the only reason they ever graced the pages of this blog was because I felt duty bound to warn my beloved readers about the potential latent maniacal tendencies bubbling beneath the surface of everybody’s favorite purveyor of romantic melodies.
One runs into difficulty when discussing what is good and bad about popular culture and entertainment because those dialogues frequently result in nothing more than the creation of lists naming the good artists and the hacks.
I enjoy the Dave Matthews Band even if many of their songs are boring. They are talented musicians even if their songwriting skills leave something to be desired, and that is more than I can say of many other contemporary recording artists.
When it comes down to it, the problem I have with popular music does not have a great deal to do with the mediocrity that pervades it. I think the mediocrity is just a result of a greater issue which is that of how the public listens to and responds to music.
When I observe the teens and twenty-something-year-olds of today I do not see a great many people who are passionate about the music they listen to. Many listen to music simply because they don’t want to listen to silence. They vaguely like what’s on the radio today, but they wouldn’t care if it changed completely tomorrow.
Others seem more interested in music. They go to concerts, buy t-shirts, and obsess over the latest bands. However, to me at least, they don’t seem to view music as a way to be emotionally moved and taken outside themselves, rather, they seem to view it as a way to make a statement about who they are. As a result, they chose their music the same way they chose their clothes or their hair color or any other fashion accessory—which usually means they end up choosing whatever everyone else has chosen. They may legitimately chose a particular style they like, but once they’ve chosen that fashion--once they’ve entered that subculture--they don’t venture outside its confines. They end up declaring (though not nearly so succinctly), “I’m a Goth. I wear all black, paint my face white, dye my hair black, and listen to Evanescence.” Or, “I’m a Punk. I dye my hair pink, wear pants ten sizes too big for me, make sure my t-shirts all have cheeky phrases on the front, and listen to Green Day.”
Although these people may be legitimately drawn to a certain style of music, they look to that music as a way to define themselves. There are any number of songs spread out across every genre of music in existence that a sad, angry person could listen to, but, in this day and age, a person is more likely to latch onto a single style of music and let the musicians give form to their sadness. Instead of listening to some classical music and some blues and some rock, a depressed person latches solely onto System of a Down and similar bands and joins a group of people who have also latched on to the same musicians. But now, instead of being sad and angry about things he is genuinely sad and angry about it, he becomes sad and angry about the things the subculture he’s involved in is sad and angry about.
One musician may come out with a CD that resonates with a particular subculture. Ten minutes later one hundred other recording artists come out with one hundred derivative CDs. They may try to put their own spin on it--one person may try to be more angry, another may try to be more depressed, one may sing more about how much he hates his parents and one might prefer to direct his rage solely at “the Man”. Regardless, all the CDs sound basically the same, but many are still hailed with as much (or even more) enthusiasm as the first CD by people who are less concerned with genuine skill and talent than they are with appearance and fashion. Because the listeners use the music as a way to define themselves they loose the ability to listen to it objectively and decide if it is well or poorly done.
I see so many people whose musical tastes (to say nothing of their tastes in a great many other things) seem to be defined by the people around them. The people of my generation are so desperate to be accepted by someone that they go to great lengths to make themselves outwardly acceptable to others. They listen to the music of a particular sub-culture, and watch the movies, and wear the clothes, and speak the lingo--all in a desperate attempt to belong. This ends up breeding mediocrity because no one wants to be so different that they are no longer part of the group.
If popular music is to ever become better than what it is now I think that people have to change the way they listen to music. They have to start getting passionate about it. They have to be willing to listen to what moves them emotionally even if everyone else in the entire world tells them they have bad taste. I don’t care if someone listens to Britney Spears as long as they genuinely enjoy her. I don’t care if someone thinks Creed is the most talented rock band since the Goo Goo Dolls, provided they come up with that thought themselves and aren’t just parroting something someone else said. I don’t care if someone owns every No Doubt/Gwen Stefani CD that’s been released as long as they bought it of their own accord and not because MTV told them they should.
And I’m glad that Mr. Season’s likes the Dave Matthews Band and didn’t let my words alter his opinion.
We live in a culture of conformity; of course our music is bland and mediocre. But, there is always hope. All it takes is one second for a person to jump out of the box they’ve been sitting in all their life. Carpe Diem. You only have so many.