Tuesday
May112010

What Kind of Music Do You Like?

"What kind of music do you like?"

This always ends up being one of the saddest questions I ever hear. It's not the question itself that is the problem -- it's a perfectly reasonable thing to ask, and it seems like it should be easy to answer. The problem is that people seem to be geared toward not answering accurately, and I'm not really sure where we went wrong as a society that we can't just straight-up give an answer.

People hedge and stall. They say blatantly vapid things like, "I like everything", or even more tellingly, "I like everything except country/hip-hop/electronica". They act puzzled, say "I don't know", or otherwise seem like they almost don't know what you've asked them -- like you asked them what their favorite silent movie actor was or some shit -- and can't begin to fathom an answer.

I think this begins with how truly subjective musical taste is. It is, by my estimation, the most subjective art form. I mean, examine other art, here. Films and TV? We can all pretty much agree on whether someone is a good or bad performer, or if a film or show is done well or poorly, and while our opinions differ, it's rare that they differ wildly outside of hyperbole. Culinary art? While tastes vary, we can all recognize a good meal when we eat it. Dance? Whether it thrills you or leaves you cold, the recognition of beauty is pretty common. We can tell good artwork from bad artwork unless it straight up relies on some esoteric knowledge of art; a good photo is easily distinguished from a bad photo; good craftsmanship is easy to separate from poor craftsmanship.

Now examine music. You can love a band -- quite literally love and worship them, if you choose, and think of them as the pinnacle of performance and talent -- and have someone pick them apart in front of you as talentless hacks, and while you may disagree, it's really hard to form an objective argument about why someone is wrong. Musical tastes vary wildly, and most "popular" music is openly loathed by the critics whose job it is to inform the public of the virtues of music. There are so many variables -- rhythm, melody, harmony, vocals, lyrics, composition, style, choice of instruments, et alia -- that a minor change to a tune can render it unlistenable to those who are otherwise its biggest fans.

And so when we ask people "What kind of music do you like?", it's like we're asking them to tell us what their favorite color is, then somehow explain why in a meaningful fashion. People don't know what to say, so they say very little.

I've taken the question out of my social vernacular and replaced it with, "What are your current top 5 bands?", and I suggest you do the same.

This question cuts out a lot of middlemen. First, it's not asking anyone to define their taste in music in terms of genres, artificial or established; there is very little choice of WHAT, and instead a choice of WHO. Second, it isn't an all-time choice, which prompts people to think really hard about their answer lest they forget someone important -- it's just who they like RIGHT NOW, which should be easy to do if they're at all into music. And third, it sets a soft limit of 5, so people have an idea of about how many bands they can choose, giving them the option to either pick a variety of artists and styles to give depth to their taste OR stack the deck in a particular direction to declare a distinct preference for a certain style of music. Also, since it's just a question and not a mandate, people can go over if they really want to do so. Nobody reasonable is going to hold them to 5 if they want to name 6, or 10, or 20. After all, wasn't the point of the question to talk about what kind of music you like? What better way to explore that than to broaden the search past a short list of bands?

 

I will say, though, that anyone who puts the Dave Matthews Band in their Top 5 has terrible taste in music. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with liking Dave Matthews, but I am saying that making him one of your favorite artists means that you like fairly bland, non-threatening, unchallenging music, and it means we probably have nothing in common musically.

Any questions? 

 

Friday
Mar122010

State of the Art (of Nerdcore)

Nerdcore needs some organization.

I guess I should explain that, mainly because a four-word statement of that variety doesn't make for much of a blog entry. What I mean by that is that Nerdcore has some problems in the "recognition" area, and I think it's because of inadequate representation. Anyone who's here knows about Nerdcore, because we are a Nerdcore band and you are probably Nerdcore fans (and yes, I am just gonna keep capitalizing it -- do you have a problem with that?). But how many popular and famous Nerdcore acts can you name?

If you're being completely honest with yourself, the answer is probably "none". MC Chris (who is Nerdcore for the purposes of this conversation, and whose name I will capitalize, too) is pseudo-famous because of his association with Adult Swim. MC Frontalot is at the top of the heap in Nerdcore, but your average citizen has never heard of him. People like YTCracker and Beefy have appeared on nerdy cable networks (yeah, G4!), but that's like saying Cheng Kazuhiko is famous because he's a chef who won an Iron Chef competition in Japan. People who are really into Iron Chef or really into Japanese food may or may not recognize his name, but this does not a famous and popular celebrity make.

Now that I'm done talking about how not-famous we all are, I'm going to go ahead and flip things around and point out that a number of nerdcore MCs are Internet famous. Online, we know who MC Frontalot, MC Chris, Beefy, YTCracker, and all of them are. We hear the music, see the fan-made videos, go to the forums, et cetera. We know the popular names and some of the less popular names. Most of us know the guys above, a lot of us remember Optimus Rhyme and have heard of Supercommuter, many of us know who the Former Fat Boys and Doctor Popular are, some of us know Ultraklystron and Southside, and a few of you have even heard of Death*Star. The problem is that in such a DIY industry, it's really hard to get a grasp on who everyone is, and the community should be more tightly-knit than that.

Let's be real on this one; we're a bunch of nerds who rap and make beats, and it behooves us to get each other's backs if we intend to get listeners. We don't all have to be best friends (but wouldn't it be cool if we were?) or constantly guest on each other's albums (but we could) to do this, but it'd be nice if we were giving each other shouts out; more than that, it'd be nice if we were hands-on about centralizing the genre somehow. I mean, for fuck's sake, why isn't there a Nerdcore Wiki out there already? Wikipedia tosses most entries about us out on their asses because we're not "noteworthy", but it's not like we can't make one ourselves. That's a pretty good start for noteworthiness.

If someone did this already, btw, then it's my own damn fault for not finding it, but I did look. I just looked at work, where half of the Internet knocks on the door but the firewall won't answer.

There's a lot more I could say on the subject (and I really mean that; I'm cutting four already-written paragraphs from this, because it's just too damn long), but I'll say it another time. For now, I'll just end with the note that I want Nerdcore to gain credibility, and I just think it's time we rallied around some kind of flag. And by "rally" I mean really rally -- get each other's back, promote other artists, do more shows together, start working on community-based projects together RALLY.

I'll even go first, if it makes the rest of you feel better. Seriously.

-- Go check out Southside at www.southsideliquors.com. They are an awesome Nerdcore group that deserves more exposure than they're getting, and I really can't say enough good things about them.

-- If you're a Nerdcore artist and you want to collaborate with Death*Star, feel free to hit me up. I'm open to it.

-- If you're a Seattle-area Nerdcore artist and you want to play a show with us, let us know where we can listen to you. We generally play with anyone who wants to play.

-- I think I'm gonna look into starting that Nerdcore Wiki myself, unless anyone else wants to do it for me. I'll be a major contributor, either way.

And that's where I'm gonna start, folks. Right there.

Don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk,

3P