“Leave me alone” – Coldplay

I don’t hate Coldplay. I don’t love them. However if I did hate them, with a, let’s say, white hot and overpowering vehemence, I would be duty bound by to concede and surrender to anyone who thought otherwise. Because when it comes to music; there are no right or wrong answers. I propose that one’s love for Beethoven and Bach is equal to another’s love for Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber.

Already there may be some that think this is a ludicrous and indefensible position, so let me clarify: I am not arguing that they are of equal artistic merit. One certainly can’t claim that Jimi Hendrix is of equal talent to, I don’t know, that guy from Weezer, or that modern society has been as equally affected by the eloquent lyricism of Bob Dylan than it has by the (objectively) boorish, inane drivel of Anal Cunt. But if all we cared about was technical excellence rather than listening to music, it risks it becoming a snobbish, anti-septic, masturbatory exercise in chord-worship, rhythmic train-spotting for the initiated only. What we want more than anything is to be moved. And what moves me might be different to what moves you.

I shall risk the opprobrium that such an admission may invite, but I undoubtedly love Blink-182. I’ve certainly endured my share of mockery for this, and when I was younger I’d usually keep this information to myself out of fear of recrimination. I knew the jibes: “all the songs are the same”, “how can you like bubblegum punk and still sleep at night?”, “ah come on, if he’s happy with only three chords then let the baby have his bottle,” etc, etc But that was entirely the point! Sure it was crude and often asinine, but for the most part it taught an awkward and unpopular teenager that it was ok to be awkward and unpopular, and to ignore the self-righteous waffle verbally excreted by those who sought to belittle me for something as harmless as a particular musical taste. It was empowering, and perhaps most importantly it sounded achievable. I picked up a guitar and learned those easy riffs, and then off I went. Were it not for them I wouldn’t have gone on to enjoy some of the most wonderful experiences of my life to date. Hendrix, Clapton, Dylan, Bach, Joplin, et al were nowhere. They weren’t the ones talking to me.

I am aware of their limitations, of course. There is such a thing as technically accomplished music and technically unadventurous music. But there is no such thing as good or bad music. And if anyone tells you that you are wrong, then I implore you to tell them to kindly go and questions those thoughts. Because there is no scientifically accepted slide-
rule template based on a complex set of algorithms[1] one can use to mathematically assign value to an artist.

Either it tickles your pickle, or it does not, tickle your pickle. Some of my most caring, generous and liberal-minded friends, people who are tolerant and compassionate and
endlessly lovely, don’t think twice about mercilessly lambasting someone’s musical tastes in a manner that betrays naivety at best and arrogance at worst. These same people would rightly be scandalised if they saw someone attacked for their reading habits or fashion choices. Music, it seems, is often, regrettably exempt from these standards.

I am not suggesting that the idea of what makes good music in your opinion is irrelevant, or that you’re wrong for offering it. We can constructively discuss what your personal preferences are, what speaks to you, what moves you. I, personally, love deconstructing lyrics, and I get annoyed by laziness in songwriting, in particular half-baked pseudo-philosophical rhyming exercises (Linkin Park, I’m looking in your direction) but – crucially – this is a personal preference. It does not make me right; for instance; Blink do it too!

If it speaks to you, congratulations! I’m genuinely thrilled for you! If it doesn’t encourage you to go out and hurt someone then sir/madam, you win! But I wouldn’t dare tell you that your favourite band are disastrous. You can’t choose what makes you want to move your body. There’s a song by Kid Rock called ‘Bawitdaba’, the lyrics of which I find deplorable. But dammit, it makes me want to bounce up and down and throw my body around in an unseemly and terrifying manner. It just does. I can not be blamed. I am as powerless to decide my musical tastes as I am my height, or my country of birth. For all of us, it was ever thus.

So leave Coldplay alone.


[1] algo-rhythms? …anyone?

– Max Selby

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