Wait, wait, come back. I’m not proclaiming myself some arbiter of taste. We all know taste is subjective, and so it should be. I have my fair share of what you might call ‘critically dubious’ albums amongst my record collection. But here’s the thing: there are far too many people out there – take a quick look at the mocking of fans of certain acts, if you need an example – who clearly and vocally associate their views on music with some kind of cool factor.
I’m guilty of it myself. For years, I was an indie rock man to the absolute core. The Libertines, Radiohead, The Rakes and Future Of The Left were my everything. I’d dismiss anything outside of those kind of genres almost off-hand. Before that, it was punkier stuff, and some emo crimes I’m going to keep to myself. That’s youth, I guess. Or, perhaps, musical arrogance.
I left what had become a clique-y music comfort zone by moving abroad. In Seoul, I was thrown into the world of K-Pop and learned to appreciate almost anything in a language I understood. Some of it I tolerated, some of it I liked, but as I belted out The Eagles and Oasis in the city’s karaoke rooms since they were the only options available on the systems, the brand of musical snobbery that many of you will recognise was quickly shovelled out of me.
If you want to see musical snobbery at its finest, though, check into music journalism. Don’t get me wrong, music is a wonderful thing to write about. The entire endeavour inherently makes no sense – who can describe music with words and truly make you get it, after all? – yet it’s fascinating, culturally vital and can be ridden with emotion. It’s also often snide, and unnecessarily harsh. Yes, I’ve been guilty of that myself, too.
Typically, it’s the same acts that are regularly dismissed by music critics that end up being the most beloved, and those who are most niche or most ‘of the moment’ that are declared ‘cool’.
Sure, it’s fashionable to like Stormzy right now (I mean, the man’s an icon), but I’d much rather talk to someone with a fascination with Lithuanian electro-rock (seriously, check this out ), The Spice Girls, or Bavarian trumpet-hosen music (yes, I made that last one up).
I have nothing against Stormzy, it’s just that I read about him in every music publication worth mentioning, alongside Coldplay, Radiohead and Billie Eilish – constantly. Those with less conventional tastes are far more likely to open my eyes to something genuinely unique.
In journalism, it’s those who stand firmly behind modern music’s whipping boys, heartily backing Westlife or The Coronas, who are the ones making an interesting and left field choice. Those who can write a nuanced, detailed take on the Spice Girls’ recent tour, or examine the visit of a Bolivian roots band – they’re the ones that are truly going against the tide of Foals and New Order reviews. And yes, both of those bands are great. It’s just that that opinion makes me about as original in the music industry aisles as autotune or love songs.
You see, here’s the thing: your taste in music – whether it’s bang on the zeitgeist or miles away from it – doesn’t make you cool. Especially when you use it to judge others. Having a personality and engaging with people in a way that means something makes you cool, and you can achieve that by being swept up in the latest musical trend, or by exploring the vaults of something from the 50s.
When it comes to music, at least, it’s exploring those really off-the-beaten track tastes that, for me, actually make you interesting. I’ll take that passion over shared tastes absolutely every time.