Just because you like a song doesn’t make it good
The Mona Lisa is valued at over $500 million. I don’t pretend to understand why. To me, she’s an arch, witchy old man-lady with lanky hair. I find her smarmy. Uptight. I bought an Etsy print of an Edwardian couple to hang in my kitchen that I think is personality-plus compared to her. And they have artichokes instead of heads.
That said, I defer without hesitation to art experts who tell me Leonardo da Vinci knows more about form and composition and painting little smug secret-smiles than some hipster poster artist from Williamsburg. My artichoke people aren’t even smiling (in their defense, they’re artichokes).
And that’s why they set me back about thirty bucks where the Mona Lisa costs roughly the same as it does to plan then abandon a Sydney public transport initiative.
I, on the other hand, am qualified and able to identify exactly what is a genuinely great song and what is garbage for one very important reason: I have impeccable taste.
I can tell you, with complete conviction, the reasons that Animal Collective are better than Grizzly Bear. Blur were better than Oasis. Beyonce’s better than Lady Gaga. I know exactly why the Beatles and The Rolling Stones are as famous as they are (The Doors are more perplexing).
And in the same way I would never walk into a thoughtfully-curated art gallery and squawk “Well, it’s very nice but it’s nothing compared to Anne Geddes’ early work with babies-in-flowerpots.”
I’d really prefer anyone who thinks Jeff Buckley is a genius or that The XX are spearheading a glorious minimalist movement to keep their opinions to themselves. You can like this stuff if you want. But it ain’t good.
A common rejoinder when I make this point to friends and acquaintances is that not all music has to be “good” to be enjoyable. There’s nothing wrong, it’s argued, about listening to a bit of 2DayFM to get you through the working week. True. I understand this. I have a soft spot for dopey novelty songs.
Ugly Kid Joe’s ‘I Hate Everything About You’ is awesome, and Young MC’s ‘Bust a Move’ is the high point of any wedding reception. I’ll always dance to a bit of Gwen Stefani or Justin Timberlake if it’s playing in a club, and Shania Twain’s ‘Man I Feel Like a Woman’ is the musical equivalent of squirting whipped cream into your mouth from a can.
So it’s okay if you like playing Guy Sebastian when you’re getting ready to go out with the girls, or you hum along to the unremarkable strains of Coldplay in the car or think Ben Harper is really moving.
That’s fine – in the same way my artichokes are fine. But don’t start an argument with me where you tell me they’re as good as music’s Mona Lisas: which, indisputably, are The Dirty Projectors’ ‘Temecula Sunrise’, say, or ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears.
Because it won’t end pretty. This year, New Years Eve is likely cancelled for me – as I ruined December 31 2009 for a table of my friends with my frustrated dismissal of the Verve’s thuddingly dull ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ that they were inexplicably championing.
I once nearly came to blows with a highschool boyfriend over his dislike of Weezer one night when we were watching Rage (Boyfriend: “As if you can make a good song using only three chords.” Me: “Are you brain damaged?”).
Some people get it. I recently told a very musical friend (let’s call him James, because that’s his name and he’ll be proud to put it to this point) about a talkback radio caller I’d heard enthusing about a song that he believed was better than anything he’d heard in the past twenty years.
“Wait for it, you’ll die when I tell you what it was,” I said, excited by the prospect of such bitchy certainty. James, who is perhaps a gentler soul than I, interrupted. “Hey, come on. Be nice. Everyone’s got different tastes,” he said.
I paused for dramatic effect.
“It was ‘Kryptonite’ by 3 Doors Down.”
James let out a roar of disbelief so gutteral it sounded prehistoric. “God you cannot be serious,” he croaked, once he’d managed to prise his fevered thoughts from the mental chamber of hell I’d just torn open for him.
I nodded gleefully and James shut his eyes, pained. “There are some songs,” he finished weakly, “that are just fucking abominable.”
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