There Is No Universally Good Music

The most common rebuttal I've heard in reference to my previous blog (other than unimportant, and ill-informed insults) has been “well, if bands would just write good music...” and things of that nature. Apparently some people think musicians have been trying to write “bad” music this whole time. All cynicism aside, the problem with the aforementioned bit of well-intentioned advice is that “good” music is entirely subjective. Some people define good music as anything that will sell out an arena, while others define it as anything that moves your soul, regardless of popularity.

Personally, I'm inclined to agree with the latter. A platinum selling pop singer might speak volumes of wisdom to your average pre-teen, but I'd rather be beaten with pointy sticks than listen to that stuff. I can't agree with the notion that yet another one of eighteen billion songs that rhyme “love” with “above” is good just because a bunch of kids like it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are plenty of people who could go through my entire music collection, and not find a single artist they consider “good”. So who's correct? Neither... and both.

Right about now, I could throw out a few tired clichés like “one man's trash is another man's treasure” to drive home my point, but I'd much rather tell you a story: I used to work with my Dad, and I'd bring a cd player with me to work every day. In an attempt to not rattle his nerves with disc after disc of “extreme” Heavy Metal all day, I'd mix things up a bit with catchier Rock fare. I'd even throw in some Outlaw Country on a rare occasion. Sometimes he'd say “Hey, who is this? This is alright.” and of course I happily informed him with probably far more detail then he desired.

One day, a third party was working in the same house as us while I was listening to some melodic Black Metal. This previously unseen contractor walked in, and said “can you turn the noise down?” to which I politely obliged, but not without offering a look of mild disdain. Much to my surprise I heard “It's called music, jackass.” from my Dad as the other guy walked off. In addition to making me laugh, it was a moment that brought a glimmer of pure joy into my life. After hearing comments like “it's just noise” for as long as I can remember, finally someone showed they understood. Not another Metal fan, or even a musician, but my Dad of all people, defending my taste in music.

The only person in that house actually enjoying the intense barrage coming out of those speakers was me, but at least one other person understood that not everything is for everyone. Some people think “Velvet Elvis” is great art, but you'd never see something like that in an art gallery. As Mike Muir once said, “just 'cause you don't like it, don't mean it ain't no good”. Take Nickleback for example, they've sold truckloads of music, and merch, but I'll be damned if I know anyone who enjoys their output. Are they good? Someone obviously thinks so, but clearly not everyone.

How about Insane Clown Posse, the “world's most hated band”? I can't go much longer than a couple weeks without seeing or hearing someone go on a rant about how much they hate this easily-avoidable group. They've made millions of dollars with their music, but you won't hear many people say it's good. Following that logic one can determine that sales alone can not define music as good, there has to be something more. There has to be an emotional connection.

Some people get chills, or maybe even tear up when they hear “Nessun Dorma”, but play that at a Rock show, and you'll likely just get blank stares. Does that mean one of the world's most famous arias is no good? Of course not! So to say that “bands should write something good, and people will come out to see them” is laughable. That's like saying every good cook should be able to run a successful restaurant; it simply does not work that way. This isn't a Kevin Costner movie; “build it, and they will come” only works for dead baseball players.

All music is good because it expresses genuine human emotion, or at the very least, creativity. Even pop music written by a team of professional songwriters for a blonde girl to sing is good in it's own way. It takes a certain level of knowledge to be able to write the same song over and over without people immediately realizing it's the same thing they've already heard a billion times. (Oh darn, there I go being cynical again.) Truthfully, there isn't very much that's new under the sun, if anything.

It doesn't matter what you play, someone's probably already done it. There are bands all over the world that sound exactly like another band, but I guarantee someone thinks they're good. Playing “good” music is only a small part of the puzzle, you have to get better at every aspect of being a musician. Promoting, networking, (I hate that word, I think it implies fakeness) performing, and maintaining an appropriate image. Even much simpler things like showing up to the venue on time, and knowing the right way to send an email to a blogger or radio station. It's really not much different than life itself, you must strive to improve yourself in every way possible.

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