A humorous essay critiquing "music snobs", including personal experience
|So, I'm not much of a musician. As a kid, I took a few years of piano, hated it, and eventually quit because I somehow couldn't play the left hand and the right hand together. After that, I played percussion in my middle school and one year in high school as well. Out of everyone, I was one of the few people it just didn't click naturally for. I took all the easy parts, and the only time I sounded half-way decent was when I wrote in the very high and very low notes onto my sheet music and had practiced over and over again, only once I was able to figure out what the song should sound like. So I accepted that I would never be a talented musician. But I have always loved music, and I decided that was enough for me.
In my circle of friends, almost all are accomplished musicians one way or another, mostly amazing pianists. Surprisingly, all of these people are incredibly humble, and while they have extensive music knowledge, they never feel the need to throw it in your face.
Yet somehow, a friend of mine (let's call her June), who doesn't know the difference between treble and bass, thinks that the world needs to know her opinion on music. And no one really protests, because they just assume she's probably right. She says things like, "If I had to choose between giving up my sense of sight or my sense of hearing, it wouldn't even be a choice because I couldn't live in a world without music." Like it was a casual fact that people should know about her.
While watching a movie trailer last Tuesday, her first response was about the song featured in it. "Arcade Fire went so mainstream, I have no respect for them anymore". Joke? Nope. In class I would overhear her say things like, "I don't really like any of the Beatles' popular songs, weirdly enough." People stared at her in amazement thinking she was some kind of refined genius whose ears would bleed if she heard anything mediocre or well-known. One could only hope.
She would always burn me these Indie playlists that she found from the Urbanoutfitters website, which I was actually grateful for since I usually liked the music she gave me. In return burned her my music which she liked as well, although in front of others, she would claim that she had discovered it herself. "Hey, you should really check out '[insert cool band name]', they're my new favorite band. Aren't they amazing?" she would say to someone in class. Do you really think that makes people like you? Apparently it did.
She also claimed that out of the 20,000 songs she owned, she barely recognizes any of them. Isn't it kind of sad to accumulate music without knowing what it is you're listening to? For someone who is supposed to know the life history of every indie artist and band, she has set herself up for an impossible task.
Besides indie music, the only type of popular music that she told people she liked, were legends like The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, mostly because she didn't want to appear uncultured. When I revealed to her that I didn't really know any Pink Floyd songs, she was so appalled that she exclaimed, "It's so sad that kids these days don't know anything about real music. What has happened to society?!" shaking her head with the derision of a jaded music industry person. Simmer down, ok? Jeez.
If you knew how much she prided herself on being a "music expert," you probably wouldn't try to question her. Yet the only music experience she had was playing the violin for one year and then quitting. Every time someone had a question about music, kids would say "Just ask June, she probably would know!" They weren't even being ironic about it. They really did think that whatever made up response she gave was the product of serious dedication to keeping up with the music industry. All this while a kid who is good enough to be a concert violinist sits in the same room. "Gosh I'm such a music nerd" she would say. Pretending to be self-deprecating when it's obvious that you're actually complimenting yourself should be a dead giveaway that you aren't qualified to call yourself an expert.
"Shaili, do you download your music illegally?" she asked me one day, as if it was something scandalous for a high school student to be doing. The raise of her eyebrow and little twitch her face made told me that she was itching to lecture someone. Maybe I do, I said sheepishly. She stared at me as if I was a little kid who had just stolen a toy from a store and needed a scolding. "Do you really think that's an ok thing to do? It's just a freaking $1.29 for a song on ITunes, are you really that cheap? My parents would never let me download stuff the way you do. I thought you were better than that, Shaili. But I guess I'm just really against stealing since I'm Catholic". Wow. Not only did she make a jab at me, but she also made a jab at my parents who apparently let a criminal loose into the world. This is coming from a girl who blatantly stole another girl's homework, turned it in as her own while the girl got a zero, and got away with it. Thou shall not steal, huh? Never mind that she continued to take my mixed CDs, the product of illegal downloading, without any problems.
Sorry, maybe I am a terrible person who is "starving the artists" as they say. But artists make most of their income from touring, not from selling music online. It would go against the principles I was raised on to spend $2000 (it adds up fast!) on music that I might not like 5 years from now. My family was never poor, but my parents attributed that to the fact that we were frugal. We collectively own probably 3 store bought CDs (all gifts) while the rest are burned. And yes, we are the family who owns a bootlegged copy of Spiderman from Malaysia.
But before you get all high and mighty, June, did you ever think about the fact that your family also just lets you buy whatever you want even though you haven't worked a single day in your life? You get into concerts for free because of daddy's connections, and just because you own a state-of-the-art vintage turn table and vinyl records doesn't make you an old soul, it just means you're rich. Sorry for the bitter tone.
Before condemning someone else, maybe you should look at your own life and ask what needs improving. For example, contrary to your notion that people who like popular music are narrow-minded, consider the fact that by only liking bands for the sake of their obscurity, you miss out on so much other music that you might otherwise enjoy. And know that opinions are just that: opinions. They aren't facts, and yours is not any more qualified than anyone else's. Music by its nature can't be categorized as universally good or universally bad, so don't act as if the "masses are too stupid to know what they should like". Musical preference shouldn't be a fashion statement to flaunt, it should be something personal that only makes you happy. Snobs are bound to occur in every type of art form, from fashion to film to food. I guess it's just something we all have to accept and learn how to rise above. But if only June would change her tune. Now that would be music to my ears.