Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hooplah: Moral Quandry

So I feel dirty for purchasing a particular CD. See, I downloaded (for $5) Viva la Vida by Coldplay, and I don't know how I can rationalize it next to other CDs of true artistic merit in my collection. It's not a bad CD, rather catchy at times and better than other singles I've heard from them over the years. But I can't shake that by buying this, supporting this sort of...pop...I'm sullying my artistic integrity as a consumer!

This is tearing me up inside.

I understand, logically, that I shouldn't care about this. Buck thinks I worry too much about other people's opinion, but I could care less about the general public. What concerns me is me.

Friends who have discussed music with me over the years know I have broad tastes, but I tend to shy from mainstream pop & rock and hip hop/rap. All else is fair game. So the purchase of a Coldplay CD, one of the most successful pop-rock acts of the last decade forces me to reconsider, where I might not want to, those bands and CDs and genres I've so long avoided.

This is not the first time I've faced this dilemma.

When I met my wife, some six years ago, she (re)introduced me to country music, a genre I'd avoided like the plague since the early 90s and some...line dancing...that we shan't mention again. Back in Garth Brooks' heyday, I enjoyed some country, but not enough to buy any CDs. As country degenerated sharply during the 90s (not that it was at some creative heights before), I shut it out. Then came Mandy, with her bold appreciation for this type of music I had outright vilified.

Now I have two country radio presets programmed of my own free will. I found artistry within country music; more than any type, country best continues the storytelling tradition of balladeers and folk singers that form such a huge basis of American music over the last few hundred years. Dig past the top 20, and you'll discover a wealth of material that isn't all twangy, overproduced songs about wives in pick-up trucks running away with the dog.

Circling back around to Coldplay, I have derided them since I first heard "Yellow," a song still terrible to contemplate. Their emo stylings, masquerading as rock or mainstream pop didn't sit well, and I wrote them off to weepy girls and the guys who want to get them (sorry, Lindberg). So ignored, they slipped off my radar until this summer when I heard bits and pieces from their new album, which promised less falsetto and angst and arrangements more in line with the "alt. rock" tag they get in the press. It has more weight than previous material of theirs that I've heard (of course, it's also their first full-length album I've deigned listen to, so a full accounting might have to wait until I've gone to the library or dallied in illegal downloading).

In short, I like it. But I don't know if I like that I like it. Get me?

It's hard to set aside a musical elitism, especially one so finely cultured over hours of dead-end arguments with with other sonic snobs. Does this mean I've changed somehow, perhaps matured?

Do I have to vote Democratic next time?

Ah, but who cares? None of you. We're all sonic snobs in our own way (how many of you refuse to consider the idea that country music or rap or prog. rock might have merit?), and to overcome that obstacle and embrace new bands and genres (change you can listen to!) is a grudging thing.

Thank God Queen is still unpopular in the US outside of high fallutin' classic and prog. rock circles or I'd be screwed.


1 comment:

The Den of Mystery said...

All this pontificating from the man who had no difficulty justifying buying Nothing But Trouble on DVD.

They're called guilty pleasures for a reason, my friend. Just enjoy your new music purchase and don't worry about what it says about you. Take it from me, the guy whose movie collection boasts a 2-film DVD featuring Tango & Cash and Cobra.