Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Not-So Scientific Science of Favorites

(This is an extended version of the comment I left on Bitch B-Sides Blog.)

Sarah Jaffe's post on Bruce Springsteen's feminist appeal made me want go back and listen to Springsteen's entire catalog with a more critical ear, and it got me thinking about our collective love affair with music.

A few years ago in response to a post on NPR's All Songs Considered Blog titled Why We Love the Music We Love, I wrote:

"Every time I'm called upon to write a review, I find it much easier to come up with myriad reasons why I don't like something. When I do, and without resorting to something as cliche as 'It moves me,' the best I can do something like, 'It conveys some sort of vulnerability on the part of the singer or songwriter.' Which, I guess, doesn't veer too far off from saying, 'It moves me.'"

Nearly all the comments on the NPR site were of the "It moves me" variety. Now, there's nothing wrong with being moved by music. In fact, one of the fundamental signs of "good artistry" is being able to tap into those emotions, being able to evoke something in the listener. The larger social and cultural implications are rarely mentioned.

Going back to the original post, I am not a Springsteen fan. I respect him as a songwriter, but I'm largely indifferent to his music. In other words, it doesn't "move" me. I have no idea why this is other than I came of age during the Reagan 80s, when Bruce Springsteen meant fist-pumping arena rock, something I explicitly avoided. It's incredibly hard to disassociate the songwriter from the image, even though I unfairly lumped him in with the excesses of that era. And he's part of what I call the "record geek" trifecta: Dylan, Neil (as in Young), and The Boss. The archetypal aging, white male music fan who, when asked about the state of popular music today, spews forth a litany of "It's just not the same! These kids don't know what good music is!"

These are perfectly valid reasons not to like something, although they have little to do with the man's music. It was only when I listened to Nebraska on a long car ride though a thunderstorm, did I finally "get it."

No comments:

Post a Comment