My favorite type of music isn’t a genre – it’s whatever the fewest people know. This statement is not to be confused for a hipster battle cry against all things “mainstream,” however. Unlike the many who celebrate music simply for its obscurity, I don’t boycott musicians who have ascended to higher levels of recognition, I don’t accuse one of my favorite lesser-known groups of selling out to the popular demand if they happen to score a hit, and I certainly don’t write off their artistic ability. Who says there has to be a distinction between what’s good and what’s mainstream?
So now that I, Dylan “the Dylan” Gallagher, am stating it in print, treat this as a gospel – nail this statement to record store doors, preach the message from atop a soapbox and put it as your Facebook status: it’s time for the musical war to stop.
Let me put it in perspective: in the world’s bottommost layer of expressed minor grievances, falling somewhere between fingerprints on your glasses lenses and the contents of my blog, resides the familiar complaint of “I used to like that song until it became popular.” In response to this I would like to issue a public service announcement to my readership/Planet Earth in general: stop saying this forever. A song’s composition doesn’t fall to pieces the more airplay it gets and the quality of its lyrics doesn’t just suddenly dissipate (unless it never existed to begin with; here’s looking at you, Ke$ha). In layman’s terms, the song was not better when you allegedly liked it before everyone else.
The only instance in which it can accurately be stated that going public has ruined a song is in the cases of songs such as “Rolling in the Deep” and “Party Rock Anthem,” – a fate that I like to refer to as death by ubiquity. I can’t speak for others, but by the summer’s end I began to react to the opening line “There’s a fire starting in my heart” like how I would imagine a dog reacts to a shock collar; the overexposure can genuinely begin to strip a song of its appeal and novelty. Other than this, though, a song’s publicity is no excuse to dismiss it entirely.
My tendency toward relatively unknown music is not a consciously developed habit; I just seem to instinctively gravitate away from songs that are more easily accessible on the radio. I don’t inherently rule out the possibility that a hooky Top 40 tune can find its way into my head, heart and iPod.
I would also like to take some of my remaining space to direct some flak at the readers on the other end of the bell curve. Yes, I’m speaking to you, fans of Katy Perry, LMFAO, and – Lord have mercy – Ke$ha. Elitist hipsters aren’t the only demographic culpable of the crime of unjustly marking music as good or bad; your neglect of the unfamiliar is the reason that talented “indie” artists such as Sky Ferreira, Marina & the Diamonds, Lykke Li and Frankmusik go virtually unnoticed in the mainstream. The fact that they don’t have a fanbase tantamount to Gaga’s brigade of Little Monsters isn’t a problem per se, but it’s an embarrassment that a singer like Robyn, who’s been in the pop writing/recording game since the early-to-mid ’90s, has gotten her most U.S. exposure in years as the opening act on Katy Perry’s California Dreams Tour.
As much as I talk about it in such a sweeping manner, I’m starting to think that perhaps the only just way to pass judgment on music is to stop thinking about it on such a grand scale. Perceive music independently of the artist’s status in the industry or the song’s position on any of the Billboard charts; remind yourself that it’s okay to think that Rihanna’s latest single is complete tripe or to admit to actually liking Justin Bieber. In the end, you’ll find that it won’t matter what other people have to say about your musical taste — you’ll always think yours is better anyway.
Love life issues? Friendship drama? Problems in the bedroom? DYLAN GALLAGHER won’t give advice on any of these things, but would still love to hear all about them at firstname.lastname@example.org or via cleverblog.tumblr.com/ask.