Granted, reading MP3 blogs is something I only do when I’m desperate for something to read, but as it’s been too hot to go to the library…
Usually I skim through the Pitchforkian self-examination and get to the interesting live tracks or top 5/10/50 lists and engage my inner monologue. It’s like doing a crossword puzzle: they’re short, digestible little deals that you don’t have to invest much in. But, again, I’ve been desperate for something to read. And that’s when I came across Ten Great Records I’ll Never Listen To Again. If you’re less desperate for reading material than I am, here’s the two key passages:
Kind of Blue is a gorgeous and timeless record, absolutely necessary for anyone with any appreciation of music. So weâ€™re all in agreement here? With that being said, exactly how many times will I have to hear this record during the course of my life? Somewhere in the tens of thousands, perhaps? I understand that Kind of Blue is the â€˜go-toâ€™ jazz record for most of the population, but please, folks, know that itâ€™s not a bad thing to branch out a little… In the same way that you probably wouldnâ€™t want to eat lasagna every night for dinner, some of us donâ€™t want to hear this record every time we step outside.
Iâ€™ve always been a firm believer in the adage that the best things come in small doses. Like, I donâ€™t know, chocolate. Or a fireworks show. Or a concise little four-bar guitar solo. Not an entire album, in this case Wilcoâ€™s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002), that I had to hear on repeat for an entire summer, played by everyone from my closest friends at parties to unknown hipsters in their shiny new VW Beetles at stoplights. Even now, when I hear â€œHeavy Metal Drummerâ€ or â€œWar on Warâ€ in public and everyone begins tapping their feet and bouncing delightfully, I restrain myself and smile passively, silently wondering how a perfectly decent but far from exceptional album swept an entire generation by storm.
Easy though it is to pick on music hipsters, this is, like, the most depressing article I’ve read in a long time. Not because I don’t think you can “burn out” on records or songs – there are plenty of things I listen to less often now than when I was 14 – but because, essentially, the author gave up on some of these great records because other people liked them too much.
For one thing, where is there a place in the world that Kind of Blue is playing “every time we step outside,” and would it be all right if I visited? When I go out in public, I hear Scorpions, or Blues Traveler, or that loud OOM-OOM-OOM-OOM bass sound that teenagers play in their car. As for Wilco, no one plays music at parties anymore – because it interferes with the nonstop Guitar Hero tournament.
I can’t share in the disdain when good music gets heard by people who aren’t “cool.” I heard “Big Yellow Taxi” at the grocery store the other day. Sure, it’s a little weird to be picking out bagels to Joni Mitchell, but in the grand scheme, isn’t it sort of a minor thing to get worked up about? It sure beats having to listen to the Counting Crows version. And yeah, I’ve been to parties where people throw on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot too, and you know what? I didn’t have to “restrain myself,” because I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to hear that U2 record with “Beautiful Day” on it.
Pete Townshend did a great interview with Musician magazine in 1989, where the interviewer got on his case about he and other artists selling their songs for TV commercials; he singled out Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” as a song that was diminished because the California Raisins sang it in an ad. Pete fired back:
“Is your perception of ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ so shallow that it’s violated by dancing raisins?”
Doesn’t that just sum it all up? I doubt that Miles Davis is somehow sullied because people in coffeeshops like to toss it on. Man, if the folks in my neighborhood all played Miles Davis ad nauseam, I’d celebrate. Everybody would be in a good mood. Road rage would dissipate, property values would go up, Money Magazine would write articles about the place.
I suspect the difficulty many of us music nerds have with “the population” is that we equate passion with a sort of psychic ownership. “Time Out” means more to us than just background jazz, you philistines, so keep your hands off the good stuff and go back to your freaking Taylor Hicks CD’s. This ownership is key to our identity: if I listen to different music than the trendy goofs down at Starbucks, then I’m different, and therefore more special.
These days I get more pleasure in being inclusive – sharing music I love with “the population” – than being exclusive and trying to keep those songs from them. And while perhaps I don’t listen to, say, “In the Street” as often as I did before it was the theme song for that wretched sitcom about the 70’s, my love for the song has not been diminished.
I guess I can agree with the author about overexposure – you hear a song everytime you turn on the radio, you probably won’t feel the need to put it on when you’re picking the music – but I can’t go as far as saying that “external factors” can push me away from a song or an album until there’s “no appeal left in it.” Good stuff will remain good; it transcends dancing raisins and coffeshops and annoying hipster parties. That’s what makes it good.