Friday, January 29, 2010

Bad (Music) Romance

Sometimes, I like really bad music. I'd call it a guilty pleasure, but I think a person is only allowed so many, and I'm over my quota. 

It sounds cliche, but I am really open minded when it comes to music. I can equally enjoy songs from such disparagingly different genres, even in the same playlist. The only criteria, really, is that it's good music. If you do what you do well - whether it's electro-pop or bluegrass or hardcore rap - I'll listen. And appreciate. I have my dad to thank, and Alex of course, and in a way my diverse pool of friends who have all opened my eyes to a world of sound. 

In high school, I was open minded, but didn't have the influences or exposure that I do now. There was always my Dad of course, who knows more about music than my musician husband and anyone I have ever met. From him, I learned early enough to appreciate the obscure and the obscurely old. But back then, my "new" music library consisted of a paltry handful of CDs (and even some tapes), most of which were produced by Master T (Roxxxxxyyyy!) - yup, that's right: Dance Mix 92, 93, 94 and 95. And of course I jumped on the grunge bandwagon. With all of that angst, how could we not relate?

I've evolved musically since then, and I'd like to think that my iTunes playlist and more-than-a-handful of CDs represent someone with sophisticated and diverse - and not entirely embarrassing - music taste. 

So what's so bad? Truth is, I sometimes guiltily love songs I know I shouldn't. They are in bad taste, or performed by sexed-up untalented amateurs, or they rely on gimmicks, sampling or auto-tuning. It rarely happens. Mostly, and for the sake of my real-live musician husband, I have disdain for these all-image "artists". Rhianna, for example, has used sampling and auto-tuning in every hit to date. I doubt she writes a word of it. That's not art. But, sometimes, I can look at music objectively, as something other than art, for exactly what it is. Only then can I enjoy the way it makes me feel, or its ability to make me dance. And that's true of more than one Rhianna tune.

Reluctantly, I share a shameful secret: I have the following songs in heavy rotation on my iTunes playlist:
  • Barenaked Ladies - Hello City
  • Bel Biv Devoe - Poison
  • Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy
  • Bran Van 3000 - Drinking in LA
  • Britney Spears - Toxic
  • CeCe Peniston - Finally
  • Chingy - Right Thurrr
  • Corey Hart - Boy in the Box
  • Culture Beat - Mr.Vain
  • Dixie Chicks - Wide Open Spaces
  • Flo-Rida ft. T-Pain - Get Low (Apple Bottom Jeans)
  • Gwen Stephani - Serious
  • Heart - Alone
  • Katy Perry - Hot and Cold 
  • Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton - Islands in the stream
  • Kris Kross - Jump
  • Lady Gaga - Disco Stick
  • Madonna - Lucky Star
  • Martha and the Muffins - Echo Beach
  • Moxy Fruvous - My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors 
  • Nas - Shoot 'em Up
  • NKOTB - Step By Step
  • Organized Rhyme - Check the OR
  • Pet Shop Boys - Domino Dancing
  • Phil Collins - Easy Lover
  • Rhianna - Disturbia
  • Salt N' Peppa - None of your business
  • Shakira - Te Aviso, Te Anuncio (Tango)
  • Technotronic - Pump up the Jam
  • Young MC - Bust a Move 
  • ...and countless soundtrack tunes from musicals like Rent and The Sound of Music 

Sure, it's humiliating to admit, but I can't deny their power to make me flail and tap and jump and belt out (bad) lyrics. Most are cheesy and/or have very little music integrity, and I can barely credit them as art, but I suppose the ability to write catchy riffs and hooks is a talent, if not an art. And in my humble opinion, MOST of them aren't bad-bad (Alex disagrees here), they're "good-bad". This is not unlike the term "ugly-hot", occasionally applied to Kevin Bacon.

It becomes harder, day by day, for me to just enjoy music. My foot wants to tap, by my ear is now trained, with Alex's help, to dissect music and hear each instrument. I know the parts of a song, and when they're missing, and can detect sloppy recording, over-producing and lyrical crap. It's a bit of a challenge to turn that mind off and just feel music. Visual art is ruined for me, in this same way. After art school, I am left unable to just appreciate a gallery of work. I pick apart, and feel angered at pretentious, bad art, lamenting sometimes that people far less talented than me just happen to be better bullshitters. At least 50% of art is being good at justifying it as art. I'm only good at the art part. However, I know it's a valuable skill to be able to observe and discuss art and music critically, and I am grateful to have it. 

Occasionally, though, it might be nice to turn off what I know and forget the injustice of true struggling artists while talentless boobs swim in fame and money. Sometimes I really just want to sing along to Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. What?

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