The Music Snob’s Lament
I am a music nerd. A music snob. I spend way too much time with music, finding obscure bands, picking and choosing the newest no-name group that I am going to devote a ridiculous, really stupid amount of time to, listening/ dissecting/ understanding them, poring over liner notes and looking at their Wikipedia page as if by knowing what town they came from, I will understand them better. As if there is some great mystery to unravel.
There are a lot of people I know who are like this, mostly because I run in really small, crabby circles of people who all care a lot about stuff like whether Weezer’s best album was The Blue Album or Pinkerton. (The answer is The Blue Album, and if you want to argue this with me, I am prepared to write somewhere between 30-50,000 words defending my point.)
A reoccurring trait I’ve found in a lot of my snobby music friends is that we believe, in our heart of hearts, that there is a missionary aspect to our work as music snobs. Not missionary as in the sex position (though we’re down) but missionary in that we believe it is part of our work as music snobs to go out and spread the Gospel. With great power comes great responsibility. And as music snobs, it is our duty, our CALLING, to go out and tell as many people as possible about these hidden musical treasures.
(Is it weird that we then get upset when one of our hidden treasures gets immensely popular? [I could not have jumped off the Kings of Leon bandwagon faster the first time I heard “Use Somebody” on KISS 108 in Boston.] Yes, of course it’s weird. None of this makes any sense. But the heart doesn’t make sense, you know? THE HEART DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.)
But yeah, we believe it is our responsibility as music snobs to go out and tell our non-music snob friends about bands they “should” be listening to. As if by listening to good bands they will somehow lead better lives. (Yes, we believe this. Even writing this down, and seeing how stupid it looks in print, doesn’t change the fact that I believe, in my heart of hearts, that people who listen to The Kinks will lead deeper, more valuable, better lives than those who listen to Top 40 Radio. I know this is bullshit. I know it doesn’t make any sense. But I repeat: THE HEART DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. IT BELIEVES WHAT IT BELIEVES.)
One of the biggest disappointments in my life thus far has been finding out how little this is true. In the grand scheme of things, no one really cares what I listen to. Even though I make countless playlists on Spotify, share hundreds of songs on my blog… I’m beginning to understand that very few people actually give a shit. I have about five or six friends who subscribe to my playlists, ask me for new music consistently, but I think they might be secret music snobs, too.
So I need to make peace with this, I’ve decided. An example: I’ve been badgering my friend Mac for about 12 years now about his music taste. He’s an incredibly smart guy, a talented journalist, a good friend. He also likes about six songs in the history of recorded music. One is “Run Around” by Blues Traveler. Three of them are by Taylor Swift. The kid just listens to (what I believe is) terrible music.
(Just kidding Taylor Swift fans! Her music is great! I love “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”! I plan on naming my first child Taylor, regardless of its sex! I worship at an altar of Taylor Swift nightly!)
I’ve been proselytizing to Mac for over a decade now, since I met him when we were both nervous and skinny freshmen in high school. And you know what’s happened over that decade? Nothing. He still only likes “Two Princes” by The Spin Doctors. (Which is one we actually agree on. Awesome song!)
But it’s time to quit. Even though I’ll always believe, in my heart of hearts, that Mac would be a better person IF HE WOULD JUST GIVE BELLE & SEBASTIAN A CHANCE, I need to let it die. He’s a good person. He doesn’t need my help. People will like what they like. And sorry fellow music snobs, but no matter how many playlists we make, or music videos we post… it will probably always just be us, talking to ourselves.
Again: people will like what they like. Music nerds of the world, let’s hold hands and accept this. The heart doesn’t make any sense. The heart believes what the heart believes. The heart wants what the heart wants.
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I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”
To begin, I got totally screwed over in the dental genes department. I was born with a pretty severe overbite and a mouth that was too small.