My Definition, My Definition is This

Posted: October 29, 2010 in 80s Music, 90s Music, Country, Hip-Hop, Music Culture, Rap, Rock
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Music appeals to so many people in so many ways all over the world. We all have our reasons for listening to the music we do. Be it to be popular, to be part of something, to be able to dress a certain way (that’s you emo kids), to be closer to someone, to be farther away from someone, to be different, to stand out, to blend in.  But with so many genres out there how do we develop a taste in music? Why do we like the music we like? And does the music we like define who we are?                                                                                                                                                                                     My earliest memories of music come from when my brother used to bring home cassette tapes of whatever one hit wonder was on heavy rotation on the radio (ie Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer). Every once in a while though, thanks to the recommendations from my older cousins, he would bring home some good old classic 80s music (a la U2, Duran Druan, INXS). And so began my love affair with U2. As I got older and reached middle school, music started to become more prominent in developing one’s personality. Naturally, I was influenced by those around me. Although I consistently listened to U2 (and still do), beyond them, I found myself listening to whatever music was considered “cool” at the time. In my school it was early-mid 90s rock/grunge/alternative. Head banging made an appearance at every birthday party, as did flannel shirts, band t-shirts and mosh pits. My high school years were essentially the same music-wise and so many songs that I heard during those years would go on to become classics, at least to me.

Then came University, and all hell broke loose. Music started to become more a way of labeling people and putting them into categories; a way of separating the cool kids from the uncool kids. The people in the school I went to predominantly listened to hip-hop/r&b/rap, genres which I had very minimal exposure to. Going from a place where everyone listened to the music I did, to a place where no one did was eye-opening to say the least. I was often assaulted with the line “Oh. You listen to that kind of music”. What does that even mean? Does my taste in music in some way say something about me or how I should act or dress? Who knows. But it made me realize that a lot of the music I listen to appealed to me because of the sound, the lyrics and the way it made me feel. I know it sounds corny, but no other music at the time really had that effect on me. As such, I held on to “my” music even more; almost like a purposeful denial of what was popular and cool. I went from listening to music because it was “cool” to then listening to the same music even though it was “uncool”.

Then came my mid-late 20s where I started to expand my taste in music and listen to everything. And yes, I mean everything. I noticed that a lot of the music I was listening to was angry, or depressing. Not sure what that means exactly (maybe I’m an emo kid??), but my interpretation is music helps me express myself. I am not a very emotional person, and I rarely express how I’m feeling, not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t know how. Musicians seem to know what I’m feeling and say it way better than I ever could. And so I can relate and feel like someone understands. The Dixie Chicks have some of the most moving songs I’ve ever heard – sure it’s country, but does that matter? Does that mean I have to start showing up at hoedowns and rocking cowboy boots? I also have this unbelievable admiration for Eminem. Sure he’s a rapper (not a genre I tend to gravitate toward), but he’s an angry one and his rhymes are arguably some of the best out there. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than hearing someone else venting and getting loud, when that’s exactly all I want to do. Sometimes when I have a bad day, I throw on some Ben Harper or Damien Rice (uber depressing stuff), but they get those feelings out of me so I don’t feel that way anymore; it’s like instant therapy.

My taste in music first came from the people around me, then developed into something I wanted it to be. I still find it ridiculous (though I get that it’s human nature) how people are defined by what music they listen to, because everyone has their personal reasons. Sure every genre has its own subculture that surrounds it but just because one likes a certain type of music, it doesn’t mean they are that music. I’ve said before that having similar taste in music can bring people together, but that doesn’t mean dissimilar taste in music should pull people apart. So open yourselves up a little, try talking to an emo kid for a change. Music has not defined who I am, but has actually helped me find who I am. And in the end that’s what we’re all trying to do – so does it matter how we get there?

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