Perhaps it is just my my own experience and this isn’t something that seems as ubiquitous as it appears to me, but why is it that my wife, and before her my girlfriends through the years, have been incapable of letting my taste in music be? Now I’m not going to give you a complete history of “Pop Music According to Jesse” but I will give you a quick synopsis. Never listened to music before the age of 10 that didn’t belong to my parents. I’m a lifelong lover of Billy Joel and Dire Straits to this day because Billy Joel’s “The Bridge” and “Storm Front” and Dire Straits “Brothers in Arms” are the albums I heard the most from the ages of roughly 5-12. The first music I found own my own that I would actually call my own is Weird Al. A friend at school had just gotten his “Alapalooza” album featuring the “MacArthur Park” parody and the “Jurassic Park” inspired logo and soon another friend let me borrow his Weird Al “In 3D” album on cassette which I dubbed. Eventually I would also dub “Dare to Be Stupid” and actually receive a copy, also on cassette (CD’s? What?), of “Bad Hair Day” featuring the world famous “Amish Paradise.” With those parodies firmly in my mind I would eventually start seeking out the original songs featured on those albums like every classic rock song played polka-style on “In 3D” on the track “Polkas on 45”, or the songs that inspired, “King of Suede”, “I Want a New Duck” or “Bedrock Anthem.”
Very soon my brother would discover “alternative rock” of the early 90’s, as would my friends, and soon I was exposed to Nirvana, Green Day, Oasis, Everclear and so forth. I would listen to the music with him and certainly enjoy it, but music was never my thing. For some reason though, sophomore year high school, 1997, The Wallflowers’ “One Headlight” and Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha” hit home with me. Not that I had any idea what either song meant, still don’t, but I’d never heard music before that could evoke emotions in me that weren’t simply happy or excited. But I was never one for spending much of my money on music, though I did finally start seeking it out. I joined the BMG record club a couple dozen times, like you did back then, to grow my CD library when I finally had enough scratch to pick up a knock off Sony Discman, but I was also listening to whatever was popular, whatever was on the radio and most people in my high school had moved on to either good music that they had discovered by actually looking for it, or what was the beginnings of the today’s “butt rock” movement, Godsmack and the like.
Then, my senior year, I guy I barely knew but who I thought of pretty highly because of his musical accomplishments (he played guitar in a friend’s band) turned me onto a the album “From the Screen to Your Stereo” by an unknown, to me, group called New Found Glory. He explained it as a series of cover songs from their favorite movies. I didn’t know what they even sounded like, I just knew I had to have it. Very soon after that I had bought their self-titled. A year or so later I discovered another unknown group called Lucky Boys Confusion. What made these bands stick out, and why I follow them still to this day, is the way their music actually spoke to me in a way that music had never done before. As you can imagine, my musical tastes lie in that above-mentioned stew. Somewhere along the lines I became a Who and Pink Floyd fanatic, pretty much all classic rock of the 70’s is welcome in my ears, Billy Joel, 80’s music that I couldn’t help but hear because it was so unavoidable for so long, Dire Straits, pop-country of the late 80’s-early 90’s (because it was also unavoidable for an Indiana kid of that era) and kinda obscure pop-punk of the 90’s to early 00’s.
Every girl I have ever dated knows this. Every girl I have ever dated, but one, seems bothered by this. Aside from the obvious reasons like, “I’m a guy” and “I don’t like mass-media pop”, I can typically be found actively avoiding popular music. because it doesn’t appeal to me musically or lyrically and I am actuely aware that 99% of the time it is compiled of the work of multiple writers and producers before ever making it to your ears, for specific purpose of making money and “enjoyment” is only secondary. If a song got play on the contemporary station, the pop station, the rap station, the hip-hop station, didn’t matter, I didn’t want to hear it. Now, I’m not saying that the rap and hip-hop stations consisted of cookie-cutter music, in this case, I just never quite “got” it. But regarding pop, not only did I not want to hear it, if I did end up getting exposed to it in some way, I would separate myself from the situation just so I could end it. So, Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, LFO, Backstreet Boys, name a female pop star or boy band and I hated them with a fiery passion. Now, I understand that the boy band thing is something I think most girls grew out of by about 15 or so, but the female pop stars less so, and if I was going to be dating members of the fairer sex, I would have to learn some tolerance but, tolerate was as far as I was willing to take it.
And yet, every girl but one has not been able to easily grasp how I couldn’t possibly know this song or that song by this vapid blonde or that auto-tuned airhead:
Her: “Here, listen to this. Isn’t this good?”
Her: “You’re not even listening!”
Her: “Oh, I heard that new one by [insert popstar here]!”
Me: “I’ll take your word for it.”
Her: “Oh, I’m sure you’ve heard it, it’s been everywhere lately. She was even on [insert popular talkshow here].”
Me: “Ah. Still don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Her: “Me and [co-worker] were talking about the differences between [two songs by some popstar].”
Her: “And I was saying that [song one] is a party song and [song two] is a break-up song and he didn’t agree with me.”
Me: “I see. I have no idea.”
Even yesterday during the joke that is the Super Bowl half-time show for Super Bowl 49, February 1, 2015, I was upstairs finishing up a little piece of my honey-do list because I had no desire to watch it. I can say with a mild amount of certainty that there were probably many people who changed the channel or found other things to do at the same time. Yet, my wife is still yelling up to me from the living room that it was, “bad ass.” I would later explain to her that while I can use the words “bad” and “ass” to describe Katy Perry all damn day, I would not ever use them in the order and context she used them. Then when it was over she came and got me and tried to explain to me some more of what had occurred to which I said, “I’m sure Pepsi got what they paid for,” and she got mad. After 7 1/2 years of marriage I’d like to say that I know my wife pretty well at this point and she wasn’t mad at me for the comment, she wasn’t even mad at me because I missed the “half-time show”, she was mad at me because I wasn’t even going to try to like the music she liked. She and I actually have a pretty big cross-section of music that we both enjoy, between 80’s music, Broadway musicals, Elvis, Sinatra and even some of my pop-punk stuff, yet she still to this day, every time I say I’m not interested in mass-media pop music by manufactured popstars that represent a “music industry” that is, as we speak, heaving its dying breaths, she gets mad at me because she takes it as a personal insult.
What is going on here?! Why can’t I avoid shitty music and it just be understood that I don’t want to listen to shitty music?! I’m not the most musically aware, I listen to stuff that I understand other people find shitty and that’s fine. I understand that the bands I like are probably derivative of something older or better too but I’m not trying to be a scholar about it either. I know that there’s entire worlds of music out there that I’ve never even imagined, let alone heard of. All I want is to listen to what I like the few times a week I actually get to listen to music, and nothing else. But why has every single female in my life, but one, found it insulting that I don’t like the music they like? My wife has actually tried to argue with me on this point. “I’ve listened to stuff of yours I didn’t think I would like.” Which of course led to a fight because I countered with, “And?” “Well, I liked some of it,” she added. “I’ve listened to your shit too! I’ve never gotten butthurt because you didn’t like my music, I understand that tastes are different but I never asked you or forced you to like my stuff. I’ll be nice when your shit’s on, that doesn’t mean I’m having a good time!”
Ultimately I learned that she thought that because I had heard it, heard of it, might have even been caught humming or singing it because it was stuck in my head, that not only did I enjoy it, but I wanted to hear more of it. Let me make this perfectly clear, anything by the band Fun is straight up garbage, to me. Just because I like to sing, “Sometimes I stay up splashing in my bathtub,” doesn’t mean I like the song. I’m making fun of it. That is my enjoyment. The same goes for pretty much any other band making new music right now. Anything by Katy Perry or Lady Gaga or Ariana Grande is also the musical equivalent of puke. Seriously, if you can listen to the lyrics to any of their songs for longer than 30 seconds without killing yourself, you’ll hear that they’re almost quite literally puking sounds that just so happen to fit the rhythm and tempo of the so-called “music.” Does the music serve a purpose? Is it catchy? Is it making money? Yes to all of those questions. That doesn’t mean it’s good music.
I listen to music because it actually does something to me emotionally. It can actually, “soothe my soul” from time to time. I also listen to music so that I can just shut down. Some of my music is shitty and I can admit to that too. But I only have so much time in my life for the things that I enjoy doing anymore anyway, I certainly don’t want to fill it with stuff that I’m going to just get mad at. I have more music in my library right now than I will ever have free time for until sometime after I retire in 60 years, I don’t need or want any new stuff. JESUS CHRIST, QUIT TRYING TO MAKE ME LISTEN TO THAT!