Okay, let's do a little exercise. I'll list a band or an artist, and you try to think of the type of people who listen to that type of music. Ready? Set? GO!Britney Spears
The Sex Pistols
Fall Out Boy
If you're like most people, Britney Spears and Ke$ha probably made you think of cheerleaders clad in Abercrombie & Fitch and Juicy Couture; Elefant and Chester French made images of hipster/indie kids sipping on coffee and discussing the next art show/fim festival they're attending; Mayday Parade, Fall Out Boy reminded you of so-called emo/scene kids who enjoy covering their face with their hair; Anthrax and Disturbed made you think of head-banging guys with long hair; blink-182 and the Sex Pistols made mohawks and punks pop into your head; Avril Lavigne made you think of more preppy girls or girls who thought they were punks, and Lady Gaga made you think of wild, over-the-top chicks who liked to dance (or maybe just everyone in the world, since so many people love her catchy tunes).
Every artist had a sterotype matched up to it. Does anyone else see how wrong that is?
Our culture has come to accept that only this type of person listens to this type of music and if they listen to anything else, it's weird.
I was at a forensics/debate tournament one day, jammin' out to the music on my Zune when my friend came up to me and asked me what type of music I was listening to.
"Uhhh...Killswitch Engage," I said, sort of hesitantly. I knew he would be surprised, and sure enough, he looked at me sort of funny, laughed, and then said, "I expected you to be listening to some happy pop song."
Yeah, I love the song "Holy Diver" by Killswitch Engage. I love "Cowboys From Hell" by Pantera and I also love anything by Skid Row. I'm a metal-head! Whoohoo!!
But I also adore the sweet, springy sound of A Fine Frenzy, Broadway showtunes, the dance tunes of Ke$ha and Lady Gaga, and the older punk/emo tracks of Fall Out Boy. Say whaaat?!
Maybe it's the fact that I never thought I fit into any of those labels our society likes to assign people (skater, punk, prep, emo, scene, goth, jock, nerd, etc.), but I'll listen to anything, not just the type of music I'm 'supposed' to like (which is apparently 'happy pop music'). Sometimes I get into those moods where I HAVE to listen to some heavy metal or classic rock right NOW (or the Rent soundtrack or some Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy to remind me of my early teenage days), but that doesn't mean it's the only thing I'll listen to.
At this point, some of you may be thinking, This girl is nuts. I don't think people listen to music they're 'supposed to' at all, so here's another example for you:
One night my cousin was eating dinner with me, my parents, and my brother. Somehow we got into a discussion of these labels we seem to like so much, and my mom asked, "What's the difference between goth and punk and emo and all of those?"
And if you've never had to answer this question before, it's actually really hard. As a teen in America who is exposed to these stereotypes every day, it's not something you consciously think about. You just sort of...know.
As I tried to think of the best way to explain these differences, my cousin said jokingly, "It depends on what sort of music you listen to."
"That is so true!" I said, amazed at this revelation. It is true. Think about it for a minute; don't certain bands like My Chemical Romance remind you of certain stereotypes? I know it's a yes for me. Why?
Unfortunately, to make it in the music business, you can't just have a good album. You need good marketing, and a lot of it. Everything a band does appeals to a certain group of people that our society has made up (because those labels we talk about so much are completely ridiculous too). There are always exceptions, of course--but the majority of people will only listen to bands in the same genre, the genre that our society says they should listen to.
This labeling makes people afraid to explore different genres and share with others the music they love. For example: me and Killswitch Engage. I LOVE "Holy Diver", and I knew, just knew, that that type of music was unexpected from a girl who acted and dressd the way I did. Stereotypes and music have almost become instinctive.
When telling one of my friends to listen to Say Anything, he asked what type of music they played. I should have just kept it simple and said "alternative", but I tried to think of how to explain their sound and said, "They're an alternative band...they're sort of like Fall Out Boy."
"Fall Out Boy? That cutter emo band?"
Yes, because every single person who listens to Fall Out Boy is an emo kid who hates their life. And every single kid who cuts themselves dresses in black, and every single kid who likes to dress in black cuts themselves.
And I don't know about you, but when people diss my music like that, it makes me feel bad, like the music I love did not pass a test. So I go on trying to find music that I 'should' be listening to that other people 'approve' of and think is 'good.' I drive myself crazy sometimes by hoping that others will tell me that I have a wonderful taste in music. It's ridiculous.
How exactly does anyone define what 'good' music is? To me, good music is things I like. That's all. Nobody knows what is considered 'good music'. We all know what good means to us personally, but it's impossible to have a universal definitition of good music because everyone is so different.
I understand that certain songs will appeal to you; maybe you can't stand those hardcore bands or the twangy sounds of Tim Mcgraw. There's nothing wrong with that. What's wrong is the way we stick to one type of music because our culture makes us hesitant to listen to anything else.
People shouldn't be afraid to like a certain genre of music. People shouldn't have to worry about if the band they love is one that will get the world's nod of approval. It's music. Music is supposed to bring joy, inspire, help your hearts heal, and make you want to dance. It's for you, and it shouldn't have to go with the norm or please anyone else but you. You're the one listening to it!
Music was not meant to be something we were assigned or ashamed of. Music speaks in a way nothing else can; it's universal and should be shared with everyone, not one tiny group in a world of millions. Go forth, find songs you love, and jam out fearlessly.