Do We Take Music Too Seriously?

Preface: I write based on inspiration and today this is what I was inspired to write. I know I've talked about these topics before, so hopefully this isn't too much of a rehash and if it is, I hope it is at least a little entertaining. I thought going a little more in depth about some of these ideas (read: take another crack at ranting about it), would be interesting... Enjoy.

As any good music fanatic knows, when meeting other equally "obsessed" people, there are bound to be sparks that fly as intense discussions about musical validity take place. You know these conversations... they usually take the form of "No, band X is totally overrated!, Band Y, they're the true geniuses... No, Band Y is Overrated, Band X is awesome!" and last until it either comes to fisticuffs, or one side stomps off with a stream of curses, obscene gestures and the phrase "You don't know what you're talking about, man!".

Ok, not EVERY conversation goes like that, but that result is relatively common from my experience. Of course, if the both sides are of a similar mind about a band, then things veer off into an intense discussion about how "band X's creative genius is just so far beyond anyone else around" and how "all those other bands are just pale imitations"... with plenty of hurtful bashing of "those other bands" etc etc.

Alright, maybe both of these examples (the good and the bad) are a bit of exaggerations, but not by much as I'm sure many could attest to having more than a few conversations about music that have followed these formulas. It's part of being really into the music scene. As fans we tend to engross ourselves in our favorite bands; search for meaning in their lyrics and musical interplay; await anxiously for new releases and then engage in these serious discussions filled with passion, philosophy and the kind of deep intellectual thought that is normally reserved for religion, politics and sociological issues as we defend our favorites to the death against those who obviously "don't know what they're talking about, (man)".

And all in the name of... what? An artistic media in a sonic format, often used for entertainment... The auditory embodiment of popular culture... Music.

It's kind of absurd when you think about it. Music is primarily a form of entertainment. Sure it has evolved into a more intellectual and more artistic forms over the years, but that is still it's primary purpose. Yet we defend, discuss and relish in it with such vigor that you would think we defending our family honor, or debating basic societal ethics... or something else of substance, not a lowly bit of artistic culture.

Yes it's true... sometimes I think we take music just a little too seriously.

--SIDEBAR--

I'll take the time to mention here, just for fun, that I also think we (as a society) often take things like television, movies, politics, work, our own everyday lives, religion, and countless other things, just a little too seriously as well. I could go on an equally lengthy rant about how absurd I think things like religious debates are... each side just waiting till they're dead, standing alongside whatever God/gods they worship, so that they can point at all those non-believers and say "I told you we were right! You losers picked the wrong omnipotent being(s) to believe in! HA HA!"... but I won't. The Soul of Rock 'n' Roll is a music site and so I will keep this post on topic. Religious debate is definitely a topic for a different site and that comment was purely designed to make light of the issue, not be blasphemous or offensive, although I do plan on doing just that when I'm dead... pointing and laughing... but I digress.

Anyways, I think it's worth mentioning these things because at the end if you happen to think this rant has a little bit of merit, try using it as a lens to look at the rest of your life and some of the other things society argues about so vehemently.

It can be pretty amusing to say the least.

Also worth mentioning briefly... It's not all fun and games. There are some things I think we (society again) don't take nearly seriously enough, but that is REALLY a topic for a different site.

--END OF SIDEBAR--

I'm the first to admit I'm guilty of taking music too seriously, after all in my free time I go on the Internet and publish all my "serious" thoughts on my favorite bands for others to read... for fun! In fact it's kind of ironic that this post, is actually the Soul of Rock 'n' Roll's 401st real post. I actually had been planning on writing this piece/rant for a while (and actually thought I did write it, but I couldn't find it in the site archives or my personal archives. I know I've mentioned these ideas in a few other posts, so maybe I did write it and this is a rehash?). Then today when I finally do write it, it's also my 401st post... sort of an ironic milestone where I'm looking back at the past 400 and going: "Look at all that absurd seriousness!".

And it's true! Some of my past 400 posts are probably a bit more serious than they need to be, but I'm not the only one guilty of this and compared to some, I think my "absurdness" is relatively mild. I'll point you towards any number of major music forums on the Internet for proof. There you can witness large numbers of individuals debate (with vigor, of course) who was the most talented Beatle... whether Slash is a better guitarist than Jimmy Page... if Metallica sold out on the "Black Album"... or whether or not 80s hair metal was and is actually a crime against all intelligent life on planet earth.

Or I could just point you towards any number of people who seem to want to argue music with me, but I might be (and probably am) an instigator is many of those conversations so that wouldn't be very good evidence.

Of course if you've followed the Soul of Rock 'n' Roll at all and aren't of my age group, you might be saying: "Dude (or is is Sonnie Boy?), you're a pretty young guy, and so are all those people on the forums/people you talk to... it must be YOUR generation that has the problem, taking music too seriously". And maybe it is, or maybe it's not... I mean I've gotten in plenty of debates with people older than me about how "modern rock and roll is nothing compared to classic rock"... that's not normally a debate as often times I agree... and even a few with even older people about how "this rock and roll has nothing on 40s jazz". No, I don't think it's a generational thing or something based on the specific musical scenes I frequent. Instead I think it has to do with how we identify ourselves through the things we like.

One of the things that make music so popular is it's emotional charge. Good music is emotionally charged and fans are attracted to it when they can relate to the emotions portrayed. Sort of a "we see ourselves in the music we like" idea... which is probably why people get so passionate about their musical tastes... if someone is attacking them, it's like they're attacking your soul or something. And that tends to cause "passionate" responses... hence the debating, all the seriousness and the subsequent fisticuffs that result.

The point I'd like to make through this piece/rant though, is not necessarily about why we take our music so seriously. And it's not that musical seriousness, debate, defense and passion is necessarily a bad thing. Without passion, music falls flat, has no soul and lacks substance, but with passion it can change the world, move people, inspire and cause an overwhelming number of emotions. At the same time though, I think it's always important that we remember that it's just music and although it may be a huge part of us, may inspire us to greatness, spur our passions and change our lives... It's not life and death or the end all be all... It's just music.

The time spent making, enjoying, sharing, talking about and being passionate about music are all part of what makes it so great. When we forget though, that the most heart wrenching love song is not something everyone is going to be moved by and not everyone is going to like... or that that album that changed our lives may be a masterpiece, but it's also just another album from a particular time period... or that the most serious, artistically progressive composition is still also just a song meant to be enjoyed... things start to get out of hand and absurd pretty quickly.

And that's what I'm getting at... Yes, take your music seriously... but not so seriously that you loose sight of reality.

So that guy you punched out for insulting your favorite band... probably didn't need to punch him out. And not getting tickets to see your favorite artist come to town... probably not such a big deal. And all that time you spent on the forums/comment boards arguing who was the most talented Beatle... whether Slash is a better guitarist than Jimmy Page... if Metallica sold out on the "Black Album"... OR EVEN whether or not 80s hair metal was and is actually a crime against all intelligent life on planet earth... probably a waste of time.

Inevitably bands will break up, new releases will flop, concerts will be sold out, arguments about who's better will break out and people will bash your favorite bands. It's all OK... remember as has become something of the Soul of Rock 'n' Roll mantra: Music is what you make of it. So make it something important, powerful, and meaningful to you. Enjoy your music, share it with others, discuss all those artistic nuances and debate with vigor... oh and don't forget to turn up the headphones and rock out a bit too... but don't forget, it's only music. Don't take it TOO seriously.

This rant is concluded. You can make of it what you will so feel free to storm off with a stream of curses and obscene gestures... I can almost hear you shouting "You don't know what you're talking about, man!" right now.

- The Soul of Rock 'n' Roll is a division of Fifth Column Media - www.fifthcolumnmedia.com -