There’s no such thing as a bad taste in music. Those who love music will probably disagree, because if you consider yourself to be passionate about music, regardless of the genre, chances are you know someone whose taste is less than satisfactory. Whether it’s because you think Country music is dull and repetitive or because you think EDM is overbearing and unlistenable, there’s a pretty good possibility you’ve shamed someone for their music taste. Think about it: How many times have you caught yourself disliking someone after finding out they like a genre you don’t? Not to say that people with diverse music tastes can’t get along; many rising artists are finding new ways to combine genres, and therefore combine their audiences. There’s more new music in circulation now than there’s ever been, and the fact that music still has the ability to bring people together is a sign that it has only become stronger and increasingly important as an art form in our society. Perhaps this is why we form such passionate feelings about what we listen to. Interestingly enough, these opinions we form are more and more becoming based on which genre someone listens to, and less founded in whether or not someone listens at all.
If you’re reading this, chances are you like music. However, what we (people who love music) often neglect is that it doesn’t have the same impact on everyone. Just think about it. Everyone has their own their passion, and while there are a large amount of people who have chosen music, there are billions of other people in the world. So what makes your favorite genre better than another one? If somebody likes country music with the same passion that you love jazz, why do you still lose respect for them? This comes down, as most things do, to a true American instinct, which is essentially to be a dick to other people. There’s no such thing as a bad music taste, at least, genre-wise (I’ll come back to this). Take this example:
Say that I, for some reason, only like Sufjan Stevens, because it’s what my dad played for me as a kid. I get to college, and I’m listening to music with Terry (name in progress), and he tells me he likes the Sufjan song I’m playing. After, I excitedly pass the aux to Terry, thinking he’s gonna play Fleet Foxes or audio of someone crying or something, and he starts playing Run the Jewels. Naturally, I’d be shocked, and probably wouldn’t enjoy it very much, and that may, in turn, make me like Terry less.
In this situation, I’m the one with a bad music taste. Not because Sufjan is bad, because that’s clearly the opposite of true, but because of a bigger problem. Music is an art form, and art can be expressed and interpreted in many ways. Genres of music are a prime example of different ways artists can express their feelings. If I can’t even think about expanding my taste to something other than what I’ve been listening to forever, then what happens when I wake up one morning and Drake has been atop the charts for 6 months? So, my assertion is this: the only thing reminiscent of a “bad” music taste is one that is unwilling to acknowledge and respect change in the industry. Take, for example, the new form of hip-hop known to some as “Mumble Rap.” Artists like Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Yachty have changed the game in terms of the trajectory of hip-hop, as well as music as a whole. However, they still receive a lot of criticism because it’s unlike anything the public has heard before. It doesn’t matter to people if it’s revolutionary; if it doesn’t sound like what people think they want to hear, they’ll turn it off. As we’ve learned from the 2016 Election as well as many other hilarious/depressing large-scale debacles our country has had as of late, it can be disastrous when people are unwilling to recognize change. A progressive taste in music can lead to a progressive outlook on life.
So, what if you only listen to the Billboard top 10 (soundtrack at The Rec/ Rollins/ fucking everywhere)? Does this mean you have a bad taste in music?
This poses a complicated debate. If you’re choosing only to listen to the Billboard top 10 (songs like “Closer” and “One Dance” really resonate with you somehow), then odds are your music taste is pretty limited. However, most of us don’t have a choice about whether or not we listen to that stuff, because we’re bound to have it shoved into our ears at some bar, on the radio (not KCOU), or at any location where they don’t know what to play. You’ve got to acknowledge the fact that some people don’t have a choice. Not everyone has access to services Spotify and Apple Music, and so they end up happy with what they’ve got, no matter what it sounds like. There is nothing wrong with this.
The conflict arises when people are choosing these songs as their favorites, and are exploiting the access people have to it by playing it over and over and over again. Not only do we get beyond sick of these songs, but the more you hear them, the more you realize it’s manufactured to be a hit just like the rest of the songs, but maybe in a slightly different way (not usually). This can be an indicator of a bad taste in music, not because the songs themselves are bad (which they often are), but because people are choosing to listen to this robot of a song instead of trying to find something that resonates with them. (Unless “Closer” really resonates with you, in which case, I am sorry.) Here’s a prime example:
You’re at a frat party, and the DJ, inevitably named Bryce or something, puts on “Jordan Belfort” for the third time that night. While the quality of the song can be debated (easily), the fact that this guy played this song three times in two hours must mean he doesn’t know any other ones, right? So, you go up and ask him to play “GLOWED UP” by Kaytranada, an incredibly solid party song that you know people can get lit to, and a song that wasn’t made by a white dude with a 4-button keyboard. The guy tells you to kindly fuck off, and proceeds to play it a fourth time twenty minutes later. That is what we consider a bad taste in music. Awful, actually.
But, once again, it’s not because of the song Bryce chose, it’s because he played it four times and shut down every request to hear something other than exactly what he wanted. That’s why a selfish music taste can also be a bad one, unless you listen to everything and queue up almost every song that’s requested (which plenty of good DJ’s do). When it comes down to it, people just need to be more open-minded when it comes to music. When people insist the top of the charts is home to the best music, they experience a fundamental lack of understanding of music as an art form. It’s a changing industry, but that doesn’t change the fact that music is art. Understanding a song’s intricacies and complications is just a part of appreciating it, and the sooner you start to do this, the sooner you can recognize what effective music sounds like and begin to expand your taste.
by David Colton