There is no such thing as having “good taste” in music, only similar tastes.
Now I know a lot of you are going to disagree with me on this, but let me explain.
There’s a meme that’s gone viral on Facebook lately, “Here are X number of bands I’ve seen live, and one that I haven’t. Pick the lie.” I personally found it to be fun because not only do I know 90% of my friends through music—so that’s what we bond over—but also because I’m very vocal about my favorite bands, so it was fun for me to try to think of 14 bands that maybe people wouldn’t have expected me to see live, and then one that I hope to see eventually.
Naturally, this being the age of everyone getting butthurt over nothing, half of the internet is having a good time and enjoying themselves discussing their experiences at these shows and learning more about their friends’ tastes in music, while the other half just wants to criticize us for enjoying something.
Let people enjoy things!
Okay, well now that that’s out of the way.
That’s not what struck me the most. The comment that most stuck out to me was along the lines of “All you guys are doing is vocalizing your bad taste in music.”
My initial reaction was: “Well yeah, duh.”
Despite broadcasting all of my musical whatever on the internet, every time I’m talking to someone about my tastes or making a list a la Facebook memes, I always feel like I should preface myself with, “Yeah, I know I have shitty taste. It’s fine.”
But don’t we all? Or don’t we all at least think that about everyone else’s musical tastes? I was once in a car with a couple who were arguing about who has better taste in music when I had to interrupt with, “Don’t you have the same favorite bands?” (And yes, they do.)
Here’s the most glaring example: I know multiple people who have been terrified to admit that they like Nickelback. Nickelback has become the band to hate just for the hell of it. Am I a fan personally? No, but I don’t really give a shit if you are. How does that affect me? You like what you like and you shouldn’t be ashamed of that.
I guess it all kinda goes back to the point of “let people enjoy things,” huh?
At the same time, I also know some people that have absolutely no shame about liking Nickelback. Good for you. We should all be that way.
One that I had that issue with is Linkin Park. They seem to be one of those bands that just gets a lot of unnecessary hate, but I think they’re awesome. For a while I kept my mouth shut when they came up in conversation because why should I admit to liking a “shitty band?”
And to make matters even worse, my favorite of their albums is basically the one album that even unashamed Linkin Park fans hate: A Thousand Suns. I absolutely adore that album. And yes, I know it’s because it came out at a time that all those songs were exactly what I needed to hear, and no, that’s not the case with most people. But whatever. I love it, end of story.
Album-wise, I have the same “issue” with Coheed and Cambria. Their most hated album? (Or maybe second most hated depending on who you ask.) Year of the Black Rainbow. I LOVE that album. For pretty much the same reason as A Thousand Suns. I really got into it at a time when I really needed those songs.
And why should I ever be ashamed of bands or albums that I like? My all time favorite band is Green Day and my all time favorite album is American Idiot for god’s sakes. My entire middle and high school careers were spent in Green Day t-shirts telling everyone who had something to say to me about it to fuck right off because I didn’t care.
Why should I care?
But then there are bands like Glassjaw.
I have seen Glassjaw live eight times, and let me be completely honest with you, I do not like them. I didn’t like them the first time I saw them, and they never grew on me. They’re boring to watch live, and honestly the songs themselves kinda bored me too. I will admit that I like “Ape Dos Mil,” but that’s probably the only song I’d even recognize. And I’ve seen them eight times.
I once knew a guy who took so much heat for being the only person in the entire Coheed community who loved Glassjaw. Almost everyone agreed with me that they’re just not…good. Or enjoyable. And maybe more people did enjoy Glassjaw, but they saw how much hate this guy was getting and stepped back the way Nickelback fans do. Deny deny deny.
But it was pretty remarkable how he handled it. He accepted the hate with open arms and decided to vocally love Glassjaw enough for the entire Coheed fandom. And honestly his unabashed passion for that band that no one else seemed to like, for a band that I myself didn’t even like, made me think we would make good friends. He’s not ashamed of his shitty taste just like I’m not ashamed of my shitty taste. But they’re different shitty tastes. So are they really shitty?
He once tried to tell me that popularity doesn’t matter, it’s about talent. And that Glassjaw is more talented than Green Day. Green Day, who is in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.
How do we define talent?
What if talent isn’t about showing off how fast you can hit all the drums or how many chords you can play in a short amount of time with it still sounding decent? What if talent is the ability to make people feel real emotions and keep coming back for more with only three chords and simple melodies?
Green Day has influenced so many other people to pick up instruments and become musicians, many of which are famous and have their own followings now as well.
“Yeah, well, the bands they influenced are shitty, too.”
Don’t their fans prove otherwise? The sheer existence of them?
To me that’s talent. Inspiring people to follow their own dreams of playing music, inspiring them to travel the country (or the world) just to see the same show over and over, bringing people to tears or just giving them a band that truly makes them feel at home, and doing all that without being overly flashy.
But to some people talent is about the chords and drum tempo, etc.
And to some people talent is about awards received or the size of the venues they fill. Or the kinds of people who fill those venues.
It’s like the whole stigma against teenage girls. Why aren’t we allowed to like the same bands as teenage girls do? Who decided that all teenage girls have bad taste? Clearly they don’t, or they wouldn’t all be flocking to the same bands. How does that make any sense? It’s just misogynistic propaganda, nothing else.
We all have different tastes in music, but that doesn’t make them bad. I know plenty of people who have the same “bad taste” as me, but that just means we have similar tastes. And when you have similar tastes, it’s easy to bond with them and make new friends. Nothing has ever brought me closer to people than having music in common.
My favorite thing about my music communities is how many times I’ve heard the phrase: “I’ve never known anyone else in real life who loves X until I met you guys.” And that’s more often than not followed up by: “And I love spending time with you so we can talk about it.”
Why? Because that’s exactly how I feel!
I’d never even known anyone who had heard of the Matches until I started going to their shows. And I found people who love them as much as I do. I’d never known anyone who can say things like “Green Day is my heart and soul” until I went to the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, and now I have people who understand my dumb jokes like “Uhhh wanna have sex and get married? Sorry.” (I don’t expect you to get that, don’t worry. That’s why I linked ya. I’m looking out.)
Does it make any sense for us all to have the same level of devotion to these bands, but ALSO have bad taste? Just because someone told us we did?
Maybe. Sure. To that person. But that’s why I’m saying we all think that about everyone else. No one person has the ability to decide what’s truly good and what’s not.
And to me that’s just part of the beauty of music.