I never used to think of myself as a music snob, but it turns out I am one. In my defense, however, I’m not your typical music snob. I don’t go out of my way to seek out obscure bands, and then throw a hissy fit if they become popular. Such a thing is happening as I write this. This week the enormous buzz behind the new Arcade Fire actually translated to sales, and Neon Bible debuted at #2 – that sound you hear is thousands of hipsters flagellating themselves.
To be honest, I know where they’re coming from. Not on Arcade Fire, who I find to be a modern take on the same annoying Cure-style music featured on MTV’s 120 Minutes. Nevertheless, a recent blog entry on the A.V. Club got me to thinking of when I have been guilty of snobbery. Like way back in the day (1992), when a little film called Wayne’s World led to a renaissance of sorts for Queen, a band that had been left for dead in the United States for about 10 years. I got into Queen at a very young age, and felt like I had tapped into something special. Next thing I know, I’m getting asked by a bunch of idiots if I like the new Queen song, “Bohemier Rhapsody.” Ugh. It took all the self-control I could muster to not deliver a kidney punch right then and there.
So even though I’m a music snob, it’s not as if I disdain something just because it’s popular. I know Queen still has legions of loyal fans, and that’s fine (although the current abomination with Paul Rodgers needs to be stopped). It’s just the Johnny-come-latelys I can’t abide. But soon enough, they were back listening to Boyz II Men and I could enjoy “Ogre Battle” and “Brighton Rock” in peace.
And my type of snobbery has nothing to do with the inherent quality of the music itself – I will go to my grave as a lifelong Kiss fan, even knowing that once you get past the volume and theatrics the musicianship really isn’t there. And before iPods, when I was forced make my own cassette and CD mixes, you’d find a classic Yes song followed closely by the What’s Happening theme song.
I guess my snobbery is defined more by what I don’t like than by what I do. And what makes me sad about most popular music isn’t that it’s bad, it’s that it’s so damn mediocre. And that’s the biggest offense at all. For most people, music is just something to have on in the background while they do this or that. So whether the music is good or not, it doesn’t matter. It just has to be pleasant and non-confrontational.
That explains why someone as utterly untalented as Ashlee Simpson doesn’t get laughed off the stage every time she lip-syncs another one of her bland numbers. It’s why the current country music (which is now basically bland pop music with bigger hats) scene pretty much stinks on ice. And it’s why the creators of the Kidz Bop series have not been sentenced to capital punishment.
Yeah I know, I’m a grumpy old man. And yes, I know that lame music has always existed and has always been popular. But dammit, that doesn’t mean I have to accept it!