Often times, the things we get most excited about have nothing to do with ourselves. This seemingly unselfish tendency in an increasingly self-absorbed society may seem shocking, but popular culture has us at its feet. Other than the trivial things we seem to be fascinated by, such as the birth of a woman's second child (Kate Middleton giving birth to Princess Charlotte), or a woman's choice to change her diet to stay healthy (Beyoncé's announcement that she was going vegan), one of the things we feel is closest to us is music. We (Millennials, especially) often feel like our taste in music defines us as people, and our favorite albums, songs, and lyrics have special places in our hearts and souls. Frequently, conversations start with "What kind of music do you listen to?" And, if someone says "I don't really listen to music," I'm truly baffled. How do you not listen to music? What do you do with your time? How do you not even have any opinion about any kind of music?
Music has always been a huge part of my life, ever since I was singing along to Cinderella, High School Musical, or Pitch Perfect. It has been my saving grace all through high school - the voice of Marina and the Diamonds or another one of my favorite artists in the background while I was studying actually made AP Physics somewhat bearable. After all, even according to the great Physicist, Albert Einstein, "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.
As my love for and taste in music has changed over the years, I became familiar with the concept of music taste correlating to superiority; how one's taste and choice can make one feel superior to others. This really dawned upon me when the new Florence + the Machine album, How Big How Blue How Beautiful, came out at the beginning of June. I have been a Florence fan since 2012, and this almost 4 year-old hiatus made fans desperate for new material. This album brought out the inner Florence fan in everyone who had ever liked her sound. On social media, I would see people tweeting about how much they loved the album, discussing their favorite songs, etc. (I was one of those people). Others would say things like "If you're not listening to HBHBHB, what are you doing?" or "How do you not like Florence and the Machine?" We preach love and tolerance, yet shame those with different opinions. If someone listens to something obscure, you'll probably think that it's weird. If someone listens to Frank Sinatra or Eartha Kitt, they're too involved in the past, if they listen to electropop they're a try hard junkie, and if they listen to heavy metal they're an all-out weird mess. Even though there is no right or wrong, there seems to be a win or a loss.
I've seen and heard so many fights where someone insults the other person's music taste, and says "You only listen to mainstream pop, how repulsive is that" or "(insert artist here) can't even sing." "You listen to trash." Some would argue that these kind of insults are less damaging than attacking personal character, but why do people get so defensive about their taste and why do we have to judge people about their choices? Can't we at least leave music alone?
Is it because Einstein was actually right about this as well? As we see life in terms of music, if we like more complex and meaningful music, does it mean we like to think that we are deeper and more meaningful than others who don't? Music is a constant now. With websites like YouTube and Sound Cloud, apps like Spotify and Pandora, and the constant availability provided by our smartphones, music is everywhere. It's in the car, it's on TV, plays during commercials, etc. It's become a part of our daily lives, more so than television because we don't have to be consciously paying attention to it, and this satisfies our multitasking-prone minds. We look for a way to express our feelings, and often, music is the best pathway. This has been the case for a while, like when the counterculture indulged themselves in Bob Marley to feel liberated from the traditional views of the older generation, or even in the 1920s, when women who wanted to assert their independence danced to jazz. We feel so close to our music taste because it connects us with our emotions and opinions. And no matter how open minded we say we are, ultimately, we all feel that our own opinions are the best. As Lorde said in her song "A World Alone", "Maybe the internet raised us, or maybe people are jerks... people are talking," and they'll never fail to criticize the interests of others. But when it comes to music, there is no right or wrong. There is just the sound of the beat.