Music Snobs: How to Deal
A Personal Experience
Now before I get into this hub, let me be clear. I understand that not every person likes every genre of music, every artist that comes out, or each song that they hear. That's okay. What I'd like to talk about are people who for one reason or another pass judgment on acquaintances, schoolmates, family and friends for their respective taste in music. And by pass judgment, I mean make blanket statements about one genre or another without really going beyond what's presented on the surface.
Why do I think this is important? That's simple. I think how people judge one another about their respective choices in anything, rather it be music, movies, television, food, friends, career, etc. deeply affects relationships in a negative way. I say this because I've dealt with it on a personal level and when I was younger it gave me a bad perception about myself.
When I was in middle school, I was very much into the pop music of the day. My absolute favorite was *NSYNC. I had their albums, two marionettes, and a lot of posters. The only people that really knew were my cousins who I grew up with, my best friend who I would share my feelings with, and my parents. My parents made jokes and the family members they would tell would just kind of laugh as well. But where it really hurt was school.
In eighth grade, I was in history class and we were asked to share three things about ourselves. One of those things I shared was my love of *NSYNC. As soon as my teacher read my index card, he and many of my classmates started laughing. I was humiliated. It wasn't that they laughed, but how they continued to make jokes at my expense was very painful. After that, for an entire semester I was constantly made fun of for that among other things. Most kids in my class were fans of Eminem, Ludacris, Linkin Park and the other less-frivolous artists of the time. So I felt alone in how I felt. I couldn't even tell anyone that I did like other artists because I felt that would be considered fake.
The truth was that I grew up with a lot of different music. My parents are boomers and listened to a lot of Motown. However, that wasn't all. My mom listened to alot of p-funk and my dad listened to Janis Joplin when he was younger, so they encouraged me to listen to what I wanted. I never felt like I had to listen to something because my parents did or indulge in it particularly because they didn't listen to it. I was free enough to be myself at home but at school I felt trapped.
In high school, I decidedly kept my feelings to myself unless I felt comfortable enough with the person to share about my musical tastes. It was bad because I felt like I couldn't express myself and my ideas in a way that I deserved to without fear of being ridiculed. By the end of high school, I was a little more comfortable and started to open up and eventually I felt okay.
Finally in college, I got to be around people who were different than me but I felt comfortable around enough to say, hey I like this kind of music and not feel judged. And it's not like every artist or genre got the same reaction, some people would understand one choice but not another.
I understand being confused but to put people down because of their choices or tastes is bullying plain and simple. Or in some cases when people say "rap sucks" or "I hate pop" you're not only making a generalization but your making the person who expressed themselves to you not feel comfortable enough to express a part of themselves to you
So I'd like to discuss some common music snob statements and how you can effectively deal with that person's assumptions or in some cases ignore.
I understand that a lot of people are down on pop music. Some say it's banal, trite, lacks real staying power, etc. But that could be applied to most types of music. The only people who say music is worth something are the people who download, buy, listen to it. Critics do have some say in your perceived expectations, but as long as people listen to it- it's going to be around you.
Another thing that I'd like to reiterate is that pop is short for popular so that really covers most genres. However the specific term of pop usually encompasses artists who combine various genres (R&B, Rock, Dance, etc.) into one that appeals to the masses. Contemporary pop as we know it really didn't come around to the 1960s. Before that pop music usually meant standards out of the Great American Songbook sung by chanteuses, crooners, and harmonizing groups. That all changed once groups like the Beatles and the Beach Boys emerged on the scene with their own unique combinations of different genres but no one dared called them bad.
The real catalyst in people criticizing pop music came in the 1980s when put-together groups like New Kids on the Block and New Edition came on the scene. The 1990s didn't help that assumption with the rise of teen pop in the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, for all of the bellyaching some people do, there are great pop artists out there. Pop music is what you make it. For me, it has a lot to do with growing up. I still listen to *NSYNC because it brings back great memories. But also it's a way to capture youth and excitement.
There are current artists who still give pop a good name. It's just a matter of taking your time to find them. And not all pop is meant to be serious and thought-provoking. Sometimes it is good to have a good time.
In terms of introducing someone to pop, I would definitely start with something simple like Hall and Oates. They're soulful and have insanely catchy lyrics, but they're as far from put together as you could imagine. From there, I would say move into the modern era by playing your favorite songs from your iPod and telling a story.
Now like I said, there'll never be a way to really change someone's mind. They have to want to listen, but my thing is that the person can't make a generalization without actually doing some work.
This part of the hub is not focused on a particular genre, but a particular group of people. These people usually think that whatever music from their childhood to early adulthood is the best era of music ever. So this applies to younger people who refuse to listen to oldies and older people who refuse to listen to music that came out after a certain year. I personally know these people and honestly it gets exhausting to talk to them about anything related to music.
Why? Knowing music is just like knowing history and current events, the connections between music and everyday life is endless. That being said, it's hard to get to know someone when they don't know who current artists are or in other cases don't know anything before the year (fill in the blank). It's kind of hard to get into details about something that's so involved.
The best way to deal with a generational grouch is to simply find ways to expose them to other music beyond their generation. For example, if your dealing with a Generation Y person who doesn't know a lot of older acts, a good way to expose them is to make a playlist for their iTunes or music media player. And for dealing with an older person who may not have the same technology, you might want to ask to help plan the music for the next family get together. Therefore if they really like the music you can have something else to share and if they don't, well that's what the skip button is for.
Now mind you there are some generational artists who I do not recommend playing for someone with certain tastes, values, or ideologies. It's just like politics- you have to play your cards right or it could get real ugly real quick. For example, if you have a younger person who wants to know about funk, don't start with Rick James, save "Superfreak" for another occasion. And if you have an older person interested in alternative, don't venture into an act with cryptic lyrics but start big with a group like Coldplay.
And beyond that, you have to be ready to give an explanation for the context of the music. My roommate in college had never seen the music video for "Thriller" and after I picked myself off of the floor, I decided to screen the video with her. We had a great time and it was a lot of fun. It then became a habit that once one of us mentioned something the other wasn't familiar with, we'd share and it helped us grow closer.
Of course not every story will have such a great ending, but my encouragement would be to be patient with these types of people because it can end up being a really good thing. Sharing and exploring music is one of the most personal ways to get to know someone.
Now for all of the flack hip-hop has gotten, people forget it has only been around a few decades compared with many other genres that've been around at least twice as long. I understand the reservations that some people have with hip-hop music and some of them I agree with. The degradation of women, homophobic slurs, and encouragement of violence is something that I don't condone. However, for all of the hip-hop that features that, there are still a lot of songs that are important because of their cultural impact.
Hip-hop connected people within and across generations initially because it dealt with social issues, everyday life, or just having a good time. As the genre evolved and more individuals from different regions got interested, a natural schism occurred. Every genre has its sub-genres and off-shoots and hip-hop is no different.
Gangsta rap is one of the more controversial sub-genres, however it doesn't classify every rapper or rap song. Gangsta rap arguably houses the most controversial hip-hop figures such as NWA, Tupac and Biggie Smalls. And the lifestyle it promoted unfortunately encouraged an untimely death for Tupac and Biggie. But aside from the controversy, these artists sparked thought and debate on several cross-generational social and cultural issues such as poverty, racism, and crime.
Party rap is another sub-genre that is known to be more frivolous and encourages having a good time. While the first big hit in this group would arguably be "Rapper's Delight" by Sugar Hill Gang, the influence of party rap has managed to bridge cultures and demographics. However, it is not without controversy as several songs have stirred issues about the glorification of women and an unhealthy lifestyle.
Whatever anyone thinks of rap, it's meant to be an expression. Not all of it literal, not all of it figurative but all of it thought provoking. A great way for anyone to learn more about rap music is to read Jay-Z's Decoded. I did earlier this year and it provided insight into many things about Jay-Z as well as other artists. He does a great job of characterizing his lyrics in a way that's honest and self-deprecating.
In terms of getting someone to listen to hip-hop, I would start slow. And by that I mean by introducing them to old school and going forward. For instance, Run-DMC is a great group to start with. They're great at rhyming, storytelling and making you want to move. However, if you want to provide prospective on the social consciousness of hip-hop songs like Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" is essential listening. Another group that would be good is A Tribe Called Quest because their music was heavily fused with jazz and also spoke about alot of relevant issues.
Now of course this doesn't mean the person you're with will understand fully about hip-hop. To be honest, it would be nearly impossible. But helping someone decipher their assumptions in a way that is non-confrontational is key.
In the End
Music is what you make it. But it is very much personal to a lot of us. I think the best experiences come from when people share who they are. But others have to be open. Like I said, when you insult someone's taste in music- it can leave a lasting impression but it shouldn't. Everyone should be willing to take a listen.
Now of course, not everyone is going to be open to sharing music but it's worth a try. A new experience is always worth the memories it can bring.
I look forward to your comments below and again thanks for reading!