Music Superiority Complex (Insights Into Musical Tastes and Pretentiousness)

I have it. Lots of self-proclaimed music followers have it. We all want to believe that we have good taste in music. However, this frame of mind often comes with a fear of inadequacy, a fear that someone may someday come along and point out that one album we’re ashamed to own. Believing that we can tell the difference between “good” and “bad” music is self-affirming. That’s why people gravitate towards other people who share their likes and dislikes.

We create our own scale for what is good and bad based on our background, personal tastes, and the tastes of those we admire.

I grew up hearing a lot of classic rock, so of course I learned to revere artists like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and The Beatles (among others). People around me constantly reaffirmed the value of these artists. Now, I’m not saying that these artists shouldn’t  be valued (I will forever cherish Abbey Road), but who’s to say what music is more or less important than other music?

I’m guilty of musical prejudice, especially within the pop genre. I’ve secretly judged people for liking certain artists or felt like I needed to hide my enjoyment of certain songs. When I encounter these personally unlikable songs yet seek to hear them over and over again, it produces this weird internal battle of the self (one such song that comes to mind: “Swalla” by Jason Derulo).

I think it was around high school when I started to feel bad about certain music that I liked. Maybe it was the teenage angst that suddenly made me associate the quality of my music library with the quality of my personality. Whatever it was, I didn’t want to admit that I still preferred Demi Lovato to Bon Iver. It was around that time that I started to deny myself listening rights to past favorites because I didn’t want to taint the future of my music appreciation. It sounds so melodramatic in hindsight.

Since beginning college, I’ve become a little more aware of musical pretentiousness when it comes from myself or others. There’s usually something behind a person’s cringe-reaction to a song—some personal association or feeling. I think it says a lot more about a person who actively hates a type of music than it does about someone who likes it. I find myself really paying attention to the reasons I like or don’t like songs. We’re not robots. We don’t evaluate music on a chart—checking off lyrical genius, creative composition, etc.

Liking music depends heavily on feeling. That feeling isn’t always immediate—sometimes it takes a couple of listens—but, ultimately, it’s about the way it affects us emotionally.

Listening to music can be a ponderous experience or a drowning out of thoughts. I’ve found myself listening to pop more and more when I need a pick-me-up. A song might be shallow, repetitive, and uncreative but, despite everything, it can put a spring in my step. That’s the kind of thing that you can’t measure.

So, I started to think about perspective and how someone may have grown up with a different set of artists to value. Maybe they never even heard of Led Zeppelin. Maybe the songs that I ragged on were the songs that got them through a difficult part in their life. You never know why someone may gravitate towards a certain genre or artist. It’s a different thing to discuss the reasons  behind not appreciating certain music (elements, style, tone) versus dismissing it all together as trash.

I think it’s important for us to check our musical pretentiousness every now and then because it can be a really limiting thing.  Life’s too short to deny ourselves access to the music we like or to shame others for refusing to deny themselves. Sometimes the music we want to hate creeps up on us and we end up breaking down in tears by some unmistakable force of emotion that it touches in us (or is that just me?).

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that music should always be an open discussion. We’re never going to agree on what is “good” or “bad” but at least we can agree that there is no definitive answer. We all have that “guilty pleasure” that we blast with headphones in, the song that we love to hate to love. Once we admit that we aren’t perfect music connoisseurs, we can start feeling a little less guilty about it.

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I am a student at UC Davis, currently working toward a B.A. in English (with an emphasis in creative writing) and a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. I especially enjoy the works of Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, and William Shakespeare. My affinity for the arts is evident in my support of local bookstores, museums, and theaters. Besides reading and writing, I live for discovering new music and revisiting classic jams from the 70's, 80's, and 90's.

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Music Superiority Complex (Insights Into Musical Tastes and Pretentiousness)

I have it. Lots of self-proclaimed music followers have it. We all want to believe that we have good taste in music. However, this frame of mind often comes with a fear of inadequacy, a fear that someone may someday come along and point out that one album we’re ashamed to own. Believing that we can tell the difference between “good” and “bad” music is self-affirming. That’s why people gravitate towards other people who share their likes and dislikes.

We create our own scale for what is good and bad based on our background, personal tastes, and the tastes of those we admire.

I grew up hearing a lot of classic rock, so of course I learned to revere artists like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and The Beatles (among others). People around me constantly reaffirmed the value of these artists. Now, I’m not saying that these artists shouldn’t  be valued (I will forever cherish Abbey Road), but who’s to say what music is more or less important than other music?

I’m guilty of musical prejudice, especially within the pop genre. I’ve secretly judged people for liking certain artists or felt like I needed to hide my enjoyment of certain songs. When I encounter these personally unlikable songs yet seek to hear them over and over again, it produces this weird internal battle of the self (one such song that comes to mind: “Swalla” by Jason Derulo).

I think it was around high school when I started to feel bad about certain music that I liked. Maybe it was the teenage angst that suddenly made me associate the quality of my music library with the quality of my personality. Whatever it was, I didn’t want to admit that I still preferred Demi Lovato to Bon Iver. It was around that time that I started to deny myself listening rights to past favorites because I didn’t want to taint the future of my music appreciation. It sounds so melodramatic in hindsight.

Since beginning college, I’ve become a little more aware of musical pretentiousness when it comes from myself or others. There’s usually something behind a person’s cringe-reaction to a song—some personal association or feeling. I think it says a lot more about a person who actively hates a type of music than it does about someone who likes it. I find myself really paying attention to the reasons I like or don’t like songs. We’re not robots. We don’t evaluate music on a chart—checking off lyrical genius, creative composition, etc.

Liking music depends heavily on feeling. That feeling isn’t always immediate—sometimes it takes a couple of listens—but, ultimately, it’s about the way it affects us emotionally.

Listening to music can be a ponderous experience or a drowning out of thoughts. I’ve found myself listening to pop more and more when I need a pick-me-up. A song might be shallow, repetitive, and uncreative but, despite everything, it can put a spring in my step. That’s the kind of thing that you can’t measure.

So, I started to think about perspective and how someone may have grown up with a different set of artists to value. Maybe they never even heard of Led Zeppelin. Maybe the songs that I ragged on were the songs that got them through a difficult part in their life. You never know why someone may gravitate towards a certain genre or artist. It’s a different thing to discuss the reasons  behind not appreciating certain music (elements, style, tone) versus dismissing it all together as trash.

I think it’s important for us to check our musical pretentiousness every now and then because it can be a really limiting thing.  Life’s too short to deny ourselves access to the music we like or to shame others for refusing to deny themselves. Sometimes the music we want to hate creeps up on us and we end up breaking down in tears by some unmistakable force of emotion that it touches in us (or is that just me?).

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that music should always be an open discussion. We’re never going to agree on what is “good” or “bad” but at least we can agree that there is no definitive answer. We all have that “guilty pleasure” that we blast with headphones in, the song that we love to hate to love. Once we admit that we aren’t perfect music connoisseurs, we can start feeling a little less guilty about it.

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