Arts, Music, Column

The Mutations of Musical Taste

Looking back, I’ve always been a bit of a music misfit. I never really enjoyed much of what my friends listened to while we were growing up, nor did I find myself checking the charts to see the top ten singles of the week or the most popular albums on iTunes. For the most part, my dad was actually responsible for constructing my taste in music. He always had such a diverse collection of genres, sounds, and artists, and since I had been listening to his music my whole life, I found it easy to recognize a lot of the singers and songs I really appreciated. As I started to build my own library, I saw that it didn’t include much of anything new and, with the evolution in digital conversion in the last decade, hidden hits and gems of the disco and soul era were easier to find than ever. But even in this digital age, where music can be produced en masse, cheaply, I find that even my father probably has more new or popular music than I do.

Music taste is an interesting phenomenon. What one person finds to be a beautiful ballad—expressing his confusion or a multitude of human conditions—another person finds to be a cacophonous mess of crap. Of course, the music we listen to allows a broad range of likes and dislikes within a single culture. While some can easily adapt to new or contrasting sounds, taking suggestions from friends, many of us fall into a musical rut, becoming hostile when our personal style is encroached upon by others’ tastes. A jazz enthusiast and a metal head stranded together on an island with one album of their choosing would probably sooner kill each other before strenuously coming to an agreement. Despite the magnitude and scope of talent in the industry and the continual development of new genres and sounds, the most popular music of today is, at least to me, not an adequate representation of the musical variety actually present in our culture.

Although I am not an expert on modern hits, I feel I would only have to list a few superstar singers and club songs to argue that today’s pop music is heavily focused on the party scene, hookup culture, and making gargantuan sums of money. While I may try to defend my music (generally ’60s and ’70s soul and funk) as being more passionate, respectful, and frankly groovier than a majority of this decade’s music, it would take a few discotheque tracks and some trippy lyrics to prove that the messages of both era’s music are very similar, despite their tonal differences. So why is it so difficult for me to try listening to Taylor Swift and for friends of mine to groove to the Bee Gees?

We all fall into countless prejudices, and our tastes in music do not escape this trap. For the oldies (and myself for that matter), it’s hard to give up the rad hits of the good old days. For the younger generations, it’s naturally tough to appreciate something that has been and is now gone (or hidden in sight). What can we do to remedy our differences? How about the next time “Uptown Funk” comes on we’ll give it a shot and the next time “The Hustle” breaks out we can try to form a soul train? All it takes is a little bit of cooperation and some good vibes and maybe we can all find a beat to dance to like fools.

Featured Image Courtesy of Atlantic Records

January 15, 2015