Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Musical Etiquette: Dealing With The Musically Challenged

Dear Musical Etiquette:

I love my sister. I just wanted to put that out there. I swear I cannot understand her shit musical habits! She listens to the worst crap I have ever heard; pop radio trash, shitty nu-metal and a smattering of nostalgia fueled boners from the 80's. Every time I try to introduce her to new music she acts like its an attack on her! What can I do?

Help me please!

I am so sorry to hear of your troubles dear reader. If it were anyone else I would tell you to simply walk away, but as it is your sister you have little choice. We are not required to like our family, but we have no choice but to be related to them. Fear not, my loyal reader, I can assist you in these difficult times and have you coming out smelling like blooming roses and being a better human being all at the same time.

To the broad minded music listener there is little worse than someone whose tastes are not only narrow, but of little lasting cultural merit. Where are all the large stone statues of Lipps Inc? Where is the Bruce Willis fan club now? Even if the person in question has decent, but narrow, tastes it can be extremely frustrating. Every attempt to broaden their horizons can be seen as a cruel act, but you must first get into their mind.

But I Like This Music!

To those of a narrow taste in music, there is a profound emotional attachment to the music they listen to and any attempt to broaden the field feels like an attempt to take away their security blanket. We all have music that is as comfortable as an old robe and makes us feel good, secure, and comforted. For my own part, I need a healthy dose of Iron and Wine every week to feel normal. For you, it may be a particular song, an artist, an album or even just a genre that you come back to. It's the musical home that we come back to after 6 hours of digging through Weird Ass Jazz. Recognize this common bond with your musically challenged sibling. The first step to broadening her horizons is showing how similar you are. Show your sympathy and let her know you're not going to try and take away her limited edition Seether CD. In the fullness of time, she will put it to rest.

This Is Advice.

I know what you want to do. You want to drag all of her friends into the living room, your parents and a psychologist and discuss her "problem". Your dad will try and talk her into listening to some classic rock albums, you will put on a Daft Punk CD saying "See, there is better dance music out there!" and her friends will offer to drive her to the record store for her very first piece of Arrogant Vinyl. This is not how it will happen. In all likelihood she will sit sullenly and either break out into extreme violence or resent you and your high handed approach until you die. Who wants that?

Advise her. Do not present her with a challenge, do not confront her in the least. If your sister likes Shitball Nu-Metal offer her some Hardcore. Then a little Punk. Not too much. Don't take her way back right in the beginning. Not many people who listen to over compressed modern recordings can handle what second wavers like The Wipers did to audio equipment. In pop music you will have an easier time. Try moving backwards through pop music until you hit a point she really resonates with. Branch out from there. This is a long process and it's going to take some effort on both of your parts to make it through without hating one another.

In fact sometimes that's not right to do.

Slow and steady is the key here. You can't throw a casual listener or someone with limited scope into Miles Davis. It's just wrong. The same is true for Mike Patton, Buckethead or John Zorn and a vast array of other frankly advanced musical ideas. This is akin to taking the training wheels off of a kids bike and shoving them onto Interstate 5 in the middle of LA rush hour while sentient bowling balls with tits are trying to bore into their flesh. Bad and wrong, bad and wrong.

So What Should I Put In Her Ears?

I can list a great deal of specific artists that can lead her out of the darkness and into the light of the vast cornucopia of music in the world. Frankly, this would be a disservice to you my fine friend. This is a chance for you to grow closer to your sister so engage her and learn something new yourself. A good teacher is a good student. So spend some time exploring music yourself and take your sister with you. That's the real key to exploring music, never think that you know it all.

If you don't know enough about the genres she's interested in, ask for advice from a friend who does, hit the intertubes and find out what you need to know or just put Pandora on for nine or ten hours and find out more than you ever wanted to know about the influences of Bon Jovi. Make this fun for both of you, show her that finding new music is awesome and if she can catch your enthusiasm then you have succeeded in your goal. I've found that the vast majority of people with narrow tastes have them only because they've never been exposed to other cultures. Praise the Tiny Gods of The Internet that it has become so much easier for people to experience different cultures.

Winning and Losing.

Please realize that this may not turn out the way you wanted it to. If your sister discovers that she is a huge Bee Gees fan and you can't stand it, you have to accept the outcome. The point is not to make you happy but only to broaden her tastes. They may broaden in ways you never anticipated and in the end may overwhelm your own curiosity towards music. Be happy for her.

In much the same light please realize that some people are just miserable cunts. They'll never stop listening to the music they found in high school and no amount of exposure will alter their perspective in the slightest bit. They'll even argue about how much better music was in "Such and Such a Decade" until they're blue in the face. There are assholes in the world and as indelicate as it may be to say so, your sister may number among them. Prepare for the worst.

Other people are so awesome in other ways they've never had the time to develop a broad musical taste and for some of them music just isn't that important in their lives. There are also people who have fairly broad tastes but simply no real passion for it or the drive to get out and discover. There is no winning or losing here. Discover where music fits into your sisters life and focus on growing that into whatever it was meant to be.

Remember that if everyone was as into music as I am, no one would have food to eat.

Until next time you beautiful bastards,

Confused by a situation? Send me your questions!


Goldie Davich said...

where did the 'bitch please' button go?

St. Frankie said...

Yeah wait, where's the part where you admit that it's not your responsibility to "correct" anyone's musical taste ever?

Amber Dawn said...


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