You see someone with headphones on and what’s the first thing you say? HEY! CAN YOU HERE ME?! Alright jerk, but the second thing you ask is “Whatcha listening to?” For a lot of people this is a simple question with a simple answer. Jay-Z, Kanye, Mumford & Sons, The Beatles, or some country bullshit that everyone loves because you’re all sheep country is a very popular form of music right now. For me and my crazy brethren, it’s a anxiety riddled path down to “I like everything” town.
I admit it. I’m one of the many guilty parties who will answer any question about what kind of music that I like with “I listen to everything”. Which is of course complete bullshit. I might have a more eclectic mix than some people, but I sure as hell don’t listen to everything. I have a few recent pop and hip hop albums, but mostly everything I regularly still play can be vaguely described as rock. Yes, that category can mean almost anything: Punk, Indie, Metal, maybe some bluesy stuff, some folkier rock (Is it folk? Is rock? How much harmonica is there?). But it doesn’t mean that I’m going to know every 2 Chainz song, or I’ve seen Sonata Arctica live 12 times, or that I’ve once gone on stage and jammed with Phish. It’s okay to not like everything. You don’t have to add that House Music sampler to your Itunes library to prove that you like it. You’re not on drugs, it’s okay to admit that it’s fucking terrible.
It’s hard to blame people. We all fall prey to Social Desirability. If you love Harry Potter but you’re on a date, you might cool it with your cape and broom until you figure out what she’s into. But then when you’re with that nerdy co-worker you can debate the rules of Quiddtich until you’re blue in the fucking face. It’s not being a complete fraud. Sure, in some ways you’re altering someone’s perspective on you; to show the most appealing parts of you for them personally. Sure, you’re doing that (you no good phony). But at the same time, you also don’t want to be that socially unaware prick who keeps babbling on about The Walking Dead, when no one around you has watched an episode. Everyday we share specific interests and feelings with people, based on how we think others will respond. Why should the way we approach music be any different? (Because we hate poseur douches. Asshole.)
I don’t think it was always this way. There weren’t enough bands to go around. You either listened to whatever was on the radio, or you were into some shit that no one heard of. Now, with the “find music on the internet generation”, unless you have the musical tastes of a 13 year old girl (Katy Perry, Bieber, Taylor Swift, Twerks McGee) there’s a decent chance of people having no clue who you’re listening to even if they’re moderately big. And who wants to go through the trouble of explaining what a band sounds like? Por ejemplo, my favorite band is The Gaslight Anthem. Kind of Punk-ish. But not real punk. Not pop punk either. Just alt rock? But not like the Foo Fighters. I don’t know, they have a huge boner for Springsteen. And Sam Cooke. But they don’t really sound like either one of them. They sound like…fall asleep yet? It’s a huge pain in the ass and it helps no one. And if someone hears one song from your favorite band (probably their worst song if they heard it on the radio/Pandora/beer commercial/acoustic youtube cover) they’ll assume that’s all you listen to. Here comes the judgment. Like growing up listening to The Offspring and having everyone laugh at you because you’re wearing a shirt from the “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)” band. What a fool. His taste in music must be terrible. He probably thinks he’s pretty fly for white guy. Fucking Loser. He’ll probably die a virgin. Good.
It’s hard to explain what the hell you’re listening to whatever genre you most identify with. And either way people are going to judge you. This? It’s the new Lady Gaga song; what are you in middle school? I’m listening to Eminem; cool, yeah he was pretty inventive back in middle school. I like U2; yeah, weren’t they cool when my dad was in middle school? Everyone too popular is a sell out, everyone too obscure is pretentious. Even when you admit to liking something you down play the shit out of it. I’m listening to the new Fall Out Boy CD….but I really only like this one song, and I haven’t even really listened to them since their first album. BEFORE they were mainstream. Yeah, I went to the New Kids on the Block concert, but only because it was ironic (well worth the $300). I don’t know how I knew all the words?! Crazy. Yeah I love Radiohead. But only the B-sides, like that one where Thom Yorke recorded the whole thing while taking a shit? Yeah, he’s a true genius. I know.
So it’s easier to tell people that we listen to everything. It’s tough because while I don’t really like everything, I really do care about the different music that I listen to. It gives me a complex to the point where I’d rather people don’t ask me; it’s too personal. It reminds me of that old Dave Chappelle bit on asking white people about who they’re voting for. I’ll sit here and share stories of me pissing myself , but if someone hears what I’m listening to, and thinks it’s god awful then I’ll be legitimately hurt. As a result I try to stay open minded about different types of music. I do like some rap, I’ve dabbled in Jazz, and I’ll even tolerate some country. I’ve drunkenly critiqued the Dropkick Murphys entire catalog until 3am, while I’ve also spent hours talking about the strangely impressive musical talents of John Mayer, with another guy no less! (Jesus, I need a life) But if someone asks what kind of music do I like am I supposed to say anything between Irish Punk and bluesy singer-songwriter pop? What the hell does that tell you? (Nothing good, pussy) Why bother answering at all? Might as well just say “I listen to everything”. Don’t judge me.