I hate to directly contradict Ryan of the Dead Parrots, but if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s the widespread condescension displayed by the self-annointed music cognoscenti toward popular music. It’s the same order of pretentious twaddle advanced by NPR listeners, independent bookstore owners, peddlers of concern about low levels of political knowledge among the American public, and film-school graduates—faux bourgeois superiority, nothing more, nothing less.
You know what? I couldn’t care less that every Nickelback song sounds alike, that Jewel’s music is now the soundtrack for marketing womens’ razors, or that record companies—in their efforts to produce sufficient content consistent with Canadian domestic artist quota rules—have foisted a succession of Alanis Morrissette-wannabes on the North American listening audience. I refuse to care what poor, long-suffering garage band has been pushed aside for Linkin Park, or what nameless-but-nonetheless-vastly-superior Little Rock bands toil in obscurity while Evanescence’s Amy Lee rockets up the charts, or how Kenny G killed the market for Herbie Hancock CDs.
So, if you don’t mind, I’ll get back to listening to Avril while the bourgeois piety police go back to diving into the remainder bins full of obscure, but doubtless vastly more “artistic,” artists in their endless search for art that meets their own exacting standards.
I seem to have struck a nerve with my (admittedly off-the-cuff) criticism of critics of popular music.
I think Jay gets to the heart of much of my critique, but there’s another component of it as well. One often hears that “band X is a ripoff of band Y.” Band X need not have covered any of band Y’s songs—all they have to do is “sound like” band Y. This has always struck me as something of a silly critique; if people like what Pearl Jam sounds like, and Pearl Jam isn’t making any more songs, why should we complain if Creed makes some songs that sound like something Pearl Jam might have performed? I could understand the critique if Creed went out and covered every song on Ten, or if Pearl Jam were still releasing new albums, but the critique as it stands seems rather odd.
There is one other point I should clarify from my previous post; I made a point of including “NPR listeners” among the group of similarly-afflicted snobs. I actually have no problem with NPR listeners in general, although I do have a problem with NPR listeners who make a point of telling everyone they meet that they listen to NPR. (The classic quote on NPR is, alas, missing from the memorable quotes page for NewsRadio in the Internet Movie Database.)
BigJim alerts me to evidence that the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ latest hit “Dani California” is a rip-off of Tom Petty’s “Last Dance for Mary Jane.” I thought “Dani California” sounded pretty familiar when I heard it the first time, but I just chalked it up to RHCP imitating themselves à la Nickelback.