First let me say that this is not a criticism of music writers or music writing as a genre. Far from it. To all of you music writers, I say, Rock on. Tons of people read your stuff, and will talk to you about it till the cows come home. But I won’t be one of them.

Not because I’m some sort of snob, or only read “literature.” (Please: I read celebrity gossip every day. Blind items revealed? Squee!) No. It’s because I don’t know shit about music. Like sports, most music is simply beyond my knowledge, so when you write about the best this or the worst that, or the top ten whatever, I’ll enjoy the writing, metaphors, and anecdotes, but I’ll have no idea who or what you’re talking about.

Case in point: a conversation I had with potential roommates many moons ago in Boston:

    Roommate Seeker: We don’t want someone who will be blasting Molly Hatchet into the wee hours.

    Me: I won’t do that.  I don’t even know who she is!

These are the top 10 most played songs on my iPod:

  • Hombre, MIA
  • My Love, Justin Timberlake
  • SexyBack, Justin Timberlake
  • All Nite (Don’t Stop), Janet Jackson
  • No Hay Igual, Nelly Furtado
  • Lose Control, Missy Elliot
  • Hollerback Girl, Gwen Stefani
  • Clocks, Coldplay
  • I’m a Slave 4 You, Britney Spears
  • Yummy, Gwen Stefani

In addition to being several years old, my most played playlist runs the gamut from dance music, to dance music, to whatever Coldplay is. I could make the excuse that I switched computers and haven’t had a chance to update my library, that I usually use my iPod for working out, that, I swear to God, I also have the Black Keys, Elbow, Corinne Bailey Rae, and tons more Amel Larrieux, but what it comes down to is: 1) does it have a good beat and 2) can I dance to it?

Like picnics, flip flops, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, music is something I know I should be into, but I’m just not. When I say “into” I mean really love. Can’t live without. I like music, and am appreciative to my iPod for drowning out inane/crazy conversations on the train and bus, but I’m not into it. I don’t worship bands. I don’t go out of my way to see anyone perform.

I could say I like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but really it’s just that one song. Ditto the White Stripes. I couldn’t tell you if Meg White is a good drummer or not, and I don’t care. I can’t tell you anything about the chick from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, except that she’s part Korean. Like a blind baby bird, I consume what MTV and the airwaves feed me.

I’m lazy.

I played piano for eleven years. This doesn’t mean I know about music. I can read notes; I can tell major from minor.

My boyfriend has four guitars, a bass, and a bass six. Oh excuse me, I mean a bass VI. He has two ukeleles and several harmonicas. He’s the one who bought us the keyboard. He went to music school after losing his job in the financial meltdown. He loves music. He remembers lyrics and tunes decades later. For instance:

    Well I guess it would be nice

    If I could touch your body

    I know not everybody

    Has got a body like you

Not exactly some-lyricist-who-writes-interesting-lyrics, but I sure as hell can’t remember lyrics like that, at least not for a song I haven’t listened to since I was 14 and wore my belt on the outside of my shirt.

He says, “Listen to this, I’m getting so much better,” and plays some notes. I nod and smile, and say, “Yes, you’re so much better,” but really, I can’t tell the difference.

“Listen to this amp,” he says. “Listen to that one. Which sounds better?”

I have no idea.

“These guys are bad ass!” he says of some band I’ve, yet again, never heard of, and I say, “Yes, they sure are,” but I can’t tell the difference.

We go to Amoeba Records – The World’s Largest Independent Record Store! – and he walks away with five to seven to ten CDs every time, and I’ve never bought a single one. I wander the aisles, looking for artists I know. Look, the Eurythmics! Ace of Base! Kelly Clarkson!

“Maybe there’s something in classical you’ll like,” the boyfriend says, since I am after all, “classically trained” (ha!) and I shrug and smile, and wander down those less crowded aisles, and while I recognize the composers, I can’t remember the names of their songs. I don’t cream my jeans because so-and-so is the solo flautist for some performance though apparently she’s a famous enough flautist to warrant a glowy glamour shot for the CD cover. I don’t get all emotional over a particular performance, like a guy I once dated who played me Glen Gould’s “Goldberg Variations,” and kept murmuring, “Listen to that, isn’t that amazing? Well isn’t it?” and I’d feel at once inferior and annoyed because although I could tell, yes, that’s pretty, and maybe, that’s some phrasing! I didn’t feel moved enough to say, “Yes! That is amazing!” because worse than feeling like I should be into music is being told that I should be into music, which is the same as being told how to feel about anything, like when the same guy thought I should be upset when he “confessed” that his ex-girlfriend was half-Chinese, and I’m Chinese, so surely I should think he’s only dating me because I remind him of his ex, which I didn’t till he mentioned it.


As far as I can tell, music writing seems to be about not just music but the experience of it. My life changed the night I was at this bar and heard this band! When I read a sentence like that, my brain goes to sleep, because not only is reading about music boring, seeing it live is boring too.

Live music is boring.

There! I said it! I am officially uncool!

Unless I have my keister parked in a comfy seat, the show starts on time, and lasts no more than an hour (two’s okay with an intermission), I’ll be annoyed and bored. There’s nothing worse than standing around forever in some bar, waiting for a show that starts late, and then it’s really really loud, and it’s some band I never heard of, and you can’t talk because it’s so fucking loud. And I can’t even drink that much because I’m allergic to alcohol, which means I get really red, really hot, and have to pee all the time, and God knows, I don’t want to stand in line with a bunch of barely dressed girls who’re young enough to be my daughters (kill me now), and then pee in some pitch black bathroom that may or may not have something disgusting on the seat.

Someday if my boyfriend is ever in a band, I won’t be one of those cool groupie girlfriends, hanging on the edges, black lipstick, black nails, grooving coolly to the jams (is that even a thing?). So cool I’ll know about all the bands he knows, I’ll know the rehearsal schedule and their set (I’m pretty sure that’s a thing). So hip I’ll be able to argue who’s better, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. No, I won’t be doing any of that because I’ll be too busy yawning my brains out, not because the conversation is boring but because it’ll probably be late at night, way later than I’m used to staying up. And I won’t even hear the conversation because I’ll be wearing ear plugs. I’ll be in my Gap T-shirt, Gap jeans, no makeup, picking the sleepy crud out of my eyes and wishing I was home in bed reading Gone with the Wind.

Don’t judge me.

It’s not that I hate music. It’s not that I don’t have an emotional connection. I do. Certain songs still prompt a visceral reaction in me: “The Tide is High,” putting on lipgloss with my third grade best friend Jennifer Harris; “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” riding home from school with my beautiful ninth grade friends, feeling very non-beautiful; “Wonderwall,” driving with my ex to aquarium stores all over wintry New England; “Shine,” walking alone up and down Park Avenue those first several months after my divorce.

With every song, give me a story. Better yet, give me dancing. Give me, yes, here it comes, a musical.

    I have a love, and it’s all that I need,

    Right or wrong, and he needs me, too.

    I love him, we’re one;

    There’s nothing to be done,

    Not a thing I can do

    But hold him, hold him forever –

Huh? What was I saying? Ah yes. Musicals.



West Side Story!


Les Mis!


The Color Purple!


I’ll take a musical over a rock concert any day. I get tingles. I bawl my eyes out. I’ve seen Chicago five times (once with Bebe Neuwirth, Ann Reinking, and James Naughton!), and I’d see it again.

Those of you who don’t know anything about musicals have no idea what I’m talking. Bebe Neuwirth? Wasn’t she from Cheers? Who’s Ann Reinking? James Naughton? Who cares if I saw them in Chicago, live on stage?

Because they’re the original cast, mofos! Ann Reinking coreographed that shit. That’s like seeing some band that used to have these members but now have those members play again with the original “these members.”

Whatever band that might be.

Give me a movie soundtrack to a movie I’ve seen. Movie soundtracks make my music library seem cool.  Pulp Fiction. City of Angels. The Wackness. The Secret of Roan Inish. Jerry Maguire. Into the Wild. The Piano. Juno.

    If I was a flower growing wild and free

    All I’d want is you to be my sweet honey bee.

    And if I was a tree growing tall and green

    All I’d want is you to shade me and be my leaves!

Cue harmonica.

So while you cool kids are listening to live music, or reading about it, or debating it, I’ll be over here watching The Sound of Music for the billionth time, sitting on the edge of my seat as dancers “dance for their lives” on So You Think You Can Dance, and telling my boyfriend I can tell the difference between his bass and his bass six. I mean, VI.

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A long-time New Yorker, ANGELA TUNG is a writer in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in CNN Living, The Frisky, Dark Sky Magazine, Matador Life, The New York Press and elsewhere. Her Young Adult novel, Song of the Stranger, was published by Roxbury Park Books.

Her latest book, Black Fish: Memoir of a Bad Luck Girl, chronicles the failed marriage between a Chinese woman and Korean man, both American-born but still bound by old world traditions. Black Fish was short-listed for Graywolf Press' 2010 Nonfiction Prize.

In addition, she's a writer/editor at Wordnik.com, an online word source, and has an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. Visit her at angelatung.com.

144 responses to “I Hate Reading About Music”

  1. Joe Daly says:

    Bravo, Angela. Well said- lots of feeling and sincerity, which is what I relate to in people, literature, music, etc.

    I was talking to another music guy recently and we agreed that when you choose to write about music, you have to assume that in doing so, you are turning off many potential readers who might either feel strongly about music, but disagree with you, or who might be, like you, ambivalent towards music. But for me, writing about music inspires what I believe to be my higher creative attributes. As writers/artists, I think that’s our mission- do what inspires you most, focus on your creative impulses, and enjoy the process, whether it’s writing about zombies, literature, relationships, or music.

    A very thoughtful and illuminating read.

    • angela says:

      joe, i totally agree. people should write about whatever inspires them, what they’re interested in, otherwise it’s just propaganda.

      i’m sure not everyone is interested in my writing about relationships and stuff either. then of course i’d tell those people to just not my read stuff and move on, which is probably what i should tell myself. 🙂

  2. Gloria says:

    Like picnics, flip flops, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, music is something I know I should be into, but I’m just not. – Damn, that’s funny. I know exactly what you mean. I’m way into music. It’s pretty ridiculous. You get me talking about some music thing I love and I get all red in the face and smile too much, like I’m on acid, and talk a mile a minute and about two decibels too loud. But, yet – I just can’t get into certain types of music – specifically punk. I know I’m supposed to. I do! But…no. It’s unpleasant. If I want to be screamed at, I’ll call my crazy aunt Cathy the meth addict. (Oddly, I can listen to Jello Biafra and Henry Rollins talk all day [and in an alternate universe, I’m fairly certain I’m married to Henry Rollins in an alternate universe]. I love it. I just can’t stand their respective bands – The Dead Kennedys and Black Flag.)

    I have never seen that White Stripes video – and I love them so much. So thank you.

    I think it’s okay that you’re not into music. I mean, my mouth dropped when you said live music sucks. But, nonetheless, I was grooving coolly to this Jam, Angela. Grooving coolly, indeed.

    • Gloria says:

      Did I mention in an alternate universe? Jesus…

    • angela says:

      “If I want to be screamed at, I’ll call my crazy aunt Cathy the meth addict.” that is pretty damned funny too.

      i think in college and shortly afterward, i tried getting into “cool” music. sonic youth and whatnot. and i HATED it. despised it.

      you know, i guess there is *some* music that i really get into, but not in a talking about, normal way. when i was 12 or so, i really loved olivia newton-john. i mean, i basically wanted to be her, and would lip sync her songs in my room all the live long day. i’d put on leg warmers and pretend to be putting on a concert from her Physical tour.

      now there’s something i haven’t thought of in some time.

  3. Greg Olear says:

    “Clocks” is a great song. There, I’m uncool too.

    And in my experience, many if not most live (rock) musical acts leave me cold. Headliners start too late, and the opening bands are too loud, and there’s nowhere to sit, and etc. Usually they’re just blah. Sometimes, I like an artist because the album is great, so I go see them live, and they are so putrescently lousy that I wind up not liking them anymore (this means you, Magnetic Fields).

    I think this is because there’s a whole rock ethos in which things like Engaging With the Audience and Trying to Put on An Entertaining Show are verboten. Rock stars are supposed to project cool, and if you give a shit about the audience, I mean, what’s cool about that?

    Musical theater isn’t like that, and neither is country music. Dwight Yoakam remains one of the greatest live acts I’ve ever seen, because he actually tries to put on a good show and entertain. Plus, with country music, you don’t have to know any of the songs…by the third chorus, you’re able to sing along.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the piece…there has been a lot of music discussed here lately, that’s for sure.

    • Argh… bloody Clocks… I hate that song. I don’t think it’s because it’s a bad song either, it’s just because it was used on every tv show for about two and a half years after it was released. I can’t really blame Chris Martin for that. Although I do hate him for being so incredibly uncool and shit at being a ‘rock star.’ Rock stars don’t care about the environment Chris, and the sleep with actresses— they don’t marry them and have a boring normal family with them and invite Billy Joel over for tea and cakes….

      • Greg Olear says:

        I like the song a lot, and so do the kids. I’m not crazy about the entirety of the Coldplay oeuvre, although Chris Martin is really funny on Extras.

        • I don’t remember Chris Martin in Extras, but that kind of says it all about Chris Martin in my opinion. David Bowie I remember. David Bowie is a proper rock star.

          It is, in all fairness, a good song. Not my sort of thing. And it’s not so much Martin I hate as the fawning press who think he’s the shit because he drives a Prius and makes his own clothes…

      • angela says:

        did he really do that? i sort of hate Gwyneth Paltrow but am fascinated by her at the same time. her stupid Goop site makes me sick and yet i glanced at it to see how she got so skinny for Iron Man.

        • yeah. Apparently ‘The Martins’ are neighbours and friends with TNB’s piano man of choice. I read about it in an article at the AVclub.com which was mostly mocking Goop…

    • angela says:

      “Rock stars are supposed to project cool, and if you give a shit about the audience, I mean, what’s cool about that?”

      you know, i never thought about it that way, and you are totally right. last year, my BF and i went to Nashville, and listening to the live music there was actually totally fun. we went from bar to bar, and listened to all these fun bands playing everything from rockabilly to bluegrass to whatever. the grand ole opry was quite fun too, upon retrospect, and the hot dogs were yummy.

      Clocks *is* a great song! and good to run to.

      • Greg Olear says:

        It’s a theory I developed after seeing Yoakam, and being disappointed by yet another rock band.

        I think that when, say, Jim Morrison was acid-tripping and drunk and told the audience in Miami that they were all slaves…OK, at the time, that was iconoclastic. But it’s been done. So has breaking your guitar onstage. After awhile, I don’t know, you just sort of outgrow that stuff, don’t you?

        Even the guy who opened for Yoakam was great. Can’t remember his name, had never heard of him, but he was charming and entertaining, and his songs were fun. Also, the country musicians are usually better than their rock counterparts.

    • Gloria says:

      “…there’s a whole rock ethos in which things like Engaging With the Audience and Trying to Put on An Entertaining Show are verboten.” Yes. I had the experience when I went to see Death Cab for Cutie. I was super offended that they came on, played some songs for not much more than an hour, and then left the stage. No encore. They didn’t speak to us at all. No, “Hey, how’re you?” It left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m pleased to announce that when I saw Modest Mouse, they were engaging and awesome. And, after twenty years of love, when I finally got to see Tori Amos, I wasn’t disappointed at all.

      • Greg Olear says:

        That bums me out to hear — I really like Death Cab. Although I guess it’s not surprising.

        Stephin Merritt, the main dude in Magnetic Fields, took a cell phone call while people were applauding him after his last song. Let me say that again: he took a fucking cellphone call! And he wasn’t even good enough live to deserve the applause, frankly. Major, major disappointment. Beth Orton was also abysmal.

        You know who was great? Elton John. Say what you will, but that guy knows how to entertain an audience.

        • Gloria says:

          You know what bummed me out about the whole thing? I could have saved that $40. Do you hear that, Ben Gibbard? You wasted my money! I would have had more fun standing a cardboard cutout of you in my living room and playing “Plans”!

          I’ll just bet Elton John was great. He’s a showman, for sure.

          (Pssst…Greg…don’t tell Angela, but we’re having a conversation about music on a post about how much Angela hates conversations about music. 🙂 )

        • Greg Olear says:

          Yes, it had occurred to me that we’re hijacking her comment board to discuss bands. But I figure she won’t mind.

          EJ was in high school. Friend of mine had a ticket at the last minute, so I didn’t even know I was going until a few hours before. He played Madison Square Garden, which is a tricky venue to pull off. Man, he was great.

        • love a bit of Elton John… the earlier stuff… tumbleweed… madman… honkytonk chateau…

          two of my favourite bits of film are soundtracked by EJ. The bus scene in Almost Famous and the opening credits of Dog Day Afternoon…

          it always amuses me that Madison Square Garden is round…

        • Dana says:

          I think you caught DCfC on an off night Gloria. I’ve seen them a few times and they were very engaging. I’m very sensitive to that for myriad reasons, but mostly because as a Pearl Jam fan (and in fan club seats) the band is constantly interacting with the audience. Great. Band. Live. Period. 🙂

          Elvis Costello – LOVE him live!

          Aerosmith used to put on a great and engaging show as did Rod Stewart. He was a blast to see – loads of energy!!! That was back in the 80’s though…

          I’ve seen Dwight Yoakum a couple times. (I just realized that the last time was about a week after September 11, 2001.) The first time I was SOOO pissed because we’d seen one of his live concerts on television and it looked great. And then he came out and gave us note for note the exact same show. WTF? He even had on the same CLOTHING. Sheesh.
          The September 2001 show was pretty special though.

        • Matt says:

          Yeah, I’d agree with Dana–DCfC have a pretty good stage presense. I’ve seen them in two venues (a nightclub, and an open air arena–and let me tell you, they are simply not an arena band), and in both cases they were very chatty, and played at least one encore.

    • dwoz says:

      How cool would it be if the hardest, grindest-core band you can think of, came out on stage and vamped with the audience like Richard Simmons between each song?

      • angela says:

        omg, in that case, i’d go to every rock concert there was.

        • Erika Rae says:

          I recently discovered a hidden stash of Richard Simmons VHS tapes in my mom’s collection. So of course I had to pop one in and grapevine to the oldies along with Richard wearing a Swarovski crystal crusted tank top and a group of large women. So. Fucking. Awesome. I think Richard would be the perfect compliment to a Marilyn Manson show. Just thinking out loud here.

          Don’t judge me.

        • Gloria says:

          @Erika – Richard Simmons pretty much rounds out any event that could occur on planet earth. That dude is the human embodiment of spunky.

        • angela says:

          erika, that *is* awesome. now i want a Swarovski encrusted tank top.

          have you ever seen Richard Simmons on So Whose Line Is It Anyway? HI-larious.

  4. Comical. I loved this.

    My wife is sort of like this too. And my sister. And my mom. They couldn’t tell you the name of a band or song (or correctly repeat one verse of lyrics. Note: Except for my sister when it comes to Bruce Springsteen) to save their lives.

    My wife and I went to a Flaming Lips concert a couple months ago. I love the Flaming Lips. Have since like 1991 when I first heart them. She didn’t know who they were. I was like, “You’ll like them. I’m buying you a ticket. I know you at least remember the song ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ from back in the day.”

    She said, “No.”

    So I said, “You know…” and started singing —

    I know a girl who thinks of ghosts
    She’ll make you breakfast
    She’ll make you toast

    My wife interrupted, “No. I don’t know that.”

    “Hold on,” I said.

    She don’t use butter
    She don’t use cheese
    She don’t use jelly or any of these
    She uses Vaseline.

    “What’s that supposed to mean?” my wife replied.

    “I don’t know,” I said. “It’s a good song though.”

    • angela says:

      haha, i didn’t know that song either to you “sang” that last verse!

      my BF and i have had many a conversation like this.

      • I almost wonder if it’s a guy/girl thing. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule. I know plenty of girls that are obsessed with rock music, but more so, it’s my guy friends . . . and myself. Maybe it’s because music is, for the most part, dominated by male musicians and bands.

        By the way, if you ever get the chance then go see Flaming Lips. Spectacular live experience. My wife loved it, and now routinely asked me to play their music while we’re driving.

        • Jeffrey, I might tend to agree with you. I tend to TALK about music most with my male friends. Not that women don’t listen to “good” music or talk about it, it’s just that I think it’s male-dominated and tends, then, to be more talked about by men. So, I’m with you.

          Just like American Idol. It’s specifically geared towards a female demographic and that may be – partly – why I can’t get into it.

          I had free tickets to see the Lips once and couldn’t go. Sad day. Also amazing live: Wolf Parade, Devotchka, and LCD Soundsystem. I just did the name-dropping Angela hates.

          Sorry, Angela. I am.

          • angela says:

            justin, it might very well be a gender thing, though there seem to at least a few women commenting with bands i’ve never heard of.

            like the ones you mentioned.

        • Not that women do not listen to the same music. Just that, like Jeffrey said, there might be a gender connection. It might also be that men are more likely to be pretentious and name drop their favorite bands at a higher rate than women. 😉

  5. Zara Potts says:

    I like to think that my music taste is cool, but in reality it’s probably dorky.
    Reno Romero told me he wanted to throw himself out the window rather than listen to my iPod.
    I don’t know how Simon suffered through the road trip – but he acquitted himself very well!! (must have been the Grandmaster Flash!!)

    I like this, A!! Nice work!

    • angela says:

      zara, i am sure many music-aficionados would feel that way about my iPod. one guy i dated was particularly annoying, and would act all surprised if what he deemed a cool song came on. but he knew nothing about modern R&B/soul (eg my fave Amel Larrieux) so screw him!

    • Erika Rae says:

      Simon survived the road trip by belting out karaoke to Wanted: Dead or Alive – HA!

    • Matt says:

      Oh, really?! Did Reno also have to deal with a thoroughly drunk you & Simon loudly caterwalling along to the contents of said iPod? All while he was trying to navigate Lenore’s car back to her apartment? Because I have to say, for a few minutes there, plowing the car into the side of a building at high speed sure seemed like the most merciful option.

      • Zara Potts says:

        That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. You know that those ten minutes of your life were the absolute best you’ve ever spent. Simon and I were brilliant. And for the last bloody time, we were not drunk!!!!

        • Matt says:

          Yes, because inviting a random gay stranger into someone else’s apartment is behavior frequently undertaken by the sober. ;-P

        • angela says:

          hmmm, curioser and curioser. . .

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, I was totally drunk! Why wouldn’t I be? I was in a city I’d never been before, hanging out late at night with new friends. It was awesome. Getting drunk and singing is one of life’s great pleasures.

          Although that guy did kind of just turn up and invite himself in, making me think he knew Lenore, and then was was easy enough to get rid of when his welcome had been overstayed.

          I can’t speak for Zara, though. Judging by the lack of hangover the next day, I’d say she was less drunk and more just enjoying herself.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I was not drunk. Maybe tipsy. But definitely not drunk. If I had been, I wouldn’t have been able to talk the next day.
          And I thought the random invited himself in too. He just kind of…appeared.

        • Matt says:

          You were SO totally hung over the next morning! About the only word you could manage was “coffee.”

        • Zara Potts says:

          That is just not true.
          I was a little more quiet than normal.
          If I had been hungover, I would have not left my bed.

        • Matt says:

          ‘Cept it weren’t your bed, remember?

          T’weren’t your own clothes you slept in, either.

          (Way more innocent than it looks in writing, folks!)

        • Zara Potts says:

          The hell????

        • Matt says:

          You seriously don’t remember? Wow!

        • Zara Potts says:

          I remember perfectly well. I slept in Lenore’s bed.
          I was not drunk. I was not hungover. I am not amnesiac.

  6. Yesterday, I think, I posted a comment on Joe’s piece about not really enjoying reading about music. It was a two-fingers to his piece I should add… most stuff written about music just isn’t as good or fun as listening to it.

    I’m totally with on sentences beginning with ‘my life changed when…’ because it goes for all boring subjective stories. I agree and disagree with live music being boring. It’s boring for a lot of the time. Standing in a packed field not being able to piss is awful. Seeing Neil Young rock out is pretty cool… until the half hour jam where if it was on cd or vinyl I could just skip to a good bit… I prefer music loud on stereo…

    Amoeba records is awesome… one of the best stops on my all too brief stay in SF a few years ago. Got a lot of cds that you just can’t get over here…

    I loved this, very, very funny.

    • angela says:

      “Standing in a packed field not being able to piss is awful.” omg, totally! did i mention that in addition to hating picnics, i hate watching concerts and movies outdoors? for this very reason. plus sitting on the ground is very uncomfortable. and dirty.

      yes, apparently Amoeba has lots of obscure CDs. it’s to music lovers what Sephora is to beauty product-lovers like me.

      • I have to come in and defend picnics here. I’m British, I’m legally required to. Although having said that the last picnic I had ended with me bursting an no bush to go in…

        I wasn’t even getting anything obscure in Amoeba, just a few Grateful Dead albums. They’re pretty uncool…

    • Greg Olear says:

      Re: urination.

      One of the (few) great shows I saw was Elvis Costello, when he reunited with the Attractions in I think ’94. It was at this huge outdoor horse farm in suburban Maryland, and there weren’t enough port-o-potties…and when it got dark enough, people sort of made this mob decision that it was OK for the dudes to just pee off to the side while the ladies used the portables. Liberating, it was. And he played for almost four hours.

  7. This is the best rant I’ve read in a while. Completely honest. And of course I won’t hate you even though my kids are musicians and I think they’re rock gods. On the contrary, it just means I will teach them to work harder to win over the people in the back of the room who think they are boring.

    I can’t drink beer. Beer makes me ill. So when I go to bars I’m usually having a soda. So I’m on your side there.

    Always fun to read your pieces.

    • I hate ordering soda at bars. They look at you like you’re some sort of weirdo… not to be trusted…

      It’s worse for my friend who only drinks green tea… oh, they do make a scene about it…

    • angela says:

      thanks nick! and thank for not hating me. 🙂 i definitely appreciate musicians’ skills and talents. some of my BF’s music school classmates blew my mind away. but hanging out at the music venue was a whole other story.

      i’ll usually have one or two vodka tonics (hard liquor makes me less sick than wine; beer is just gross), but then after that it’s all bubbly water.

  8. dwoz says:

    I have another group to add to your music journalists, Angela, if you don’t mind:


    …who can go on and on about how so-and-so was much better when he was in his last band, “Diffident Spit.”

    …and who would regale you with a list of a hundred utterly emo, utterly indie bands that are so totally underground that only people who are “in the know,” know.

    guys who say that “Big Sky” was awesome until they sold out.

    And you know what? Big Sky was effin’ awful.

    I’ve got a buddy that can go for 25 minutes naming his seminal influences, without naming a band that you ever heard of.

    • angela says:

      oh lord, i would probably pierce my ear drums if i had to listen to DJs like that. reminds me of sports guys going on and on about a particular game or player.

  9. Irene Zion says:


    I am in total agreement with you.
    I always say I don’t know the music they are talking about, but I hope they write something else soon that doesn’t have to do with something of which I am ignorant.
    Seems like a good compromise. I comment, but I don’t comment, you know?

    • angela says:

      me too! i comment but don’t really contribute to the conversation.

      for instance, in the midst of the Greg’s and James’ conversation above about Chris Martin from Coldplay, i “contributed” with a comment about Gwyneth Paltrow. in fact, i was trying to sidetrack the convo away from music, but it didn’t work.

  10. Meg Worden says:

    Angela…this is really funny and so relate-able. I’ve spent a lifetime closeting my unsophisticated musical tastes, eschewing live performance for turning the car stereo up really loud and singing along with songs that I’ve liked forever. I’ll take guitar hero over guitar lessons any day and can easily list soundtracks as my fav “albums”: Romeo and Juliet, Till the End of the World, The Mission, Twin Peaks…and hello! Purple Rain!

    Awesome writer YOU.

    • angela says:

      omg, Purple Rain! i want to buy the album right now. i had the cassette tape to the Twin Peaks soundtrack in college. may want to get that too.

      now i’ll have some CDs to buy next time we go to Amoeba!

  11. I’m going to echo Greg’s sentiment about rockstars and coolness. Namely, that the common element of every great live show is its ability to inspire a dance floor. I don’t like Mick Jagger, but dude got girls’ hips movin’, and I’m not sure there’s anything more important.

    “And I can’t even drink that much because I’m allergic to alcohol, which means I get really red, really hot, and have to pee all the time, and God knows, I don’t want to stand in line with a bunch of barely dressed girls who’re young enough to be my daughters (kill me now), and then pee in some pitch black bathroom that may or may not have something disgusting on the seat.”

    I’m allergic to the sun. I break out in hives after prolonged exposure to its rays if I’m not uber careful. I wonder if being allergic to the sun is like not digging music. I’ll be honest, I don’t understand not being into music like you don’t understand being into it. I have a ludicrous number of songs on my hard drive, and am usually listening to something. To me, in a way, life has a soundtrack, and sometimes I get to create it. One particular TNB night will forever be inextricably linked to Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey” in my mind, and I can hear the “You’re so fine you blow my mind” in ever muscle in my body.

    All that said, I’m not averse to the sun, obviously. I wear sunscreen with ridiculous SPFs. I limit my exposure. Some people worship some sol, and I attempt to come to some compromise with its rays.

    It’s not like I can really avoid it, after all. All of which is to say I related to this on that level. I’m allergic to the sun, but it’s still going to shine and I’m still going to get a tan (and maybe a slight burn). I’m glad I’m not so stricken by music, though, because I wonder if it’s even harder to avoid.

    • angela says:

      will, i love the idea of life having a soundtrack, and am more inclined to be into music that way – music with a story, like a musical or a movie soundtrack.

      i used to have the same reaction to the sun! off and on for my whole life, i’ve had hives. i don’t have them now, but when i do, heat, cold, and friction cause me to break out. when i was 8, i had a major breakout, and had to stay out of the sun for months, really depressing during play time at school.

  12. J.M. Blaine says:

    Who would blast Molly Hatchet
    in 2010?
    Except ironically?
    That statement fascinates me.
    I cannot quit thinking about it.

  13. We all have our obsessions. We’re all slightly put out by those who don’t share them. It’s easier if you’re into something as easily dismissive as role playing games or being a Furry, but the implication is the same. The level of interest in any given thing does not confer value unto that thing. Except for those who make a lifetime of conferring value unto it. Somehow, for most people, music is different. More dire. I know for myself, it’s an essential component of daily existence. Maybe even hourly. But do I think it needs to be part of yours? No. I am indeed mystified by why it isn’t, but that’s more a sociological dissertation than a clever sentence. I feel sorry for you, Angela, that you are not as obsessed as I am. When you talk about being at Amoeba (my second home) and not knowing what to buy, it makes me twitchy. On the other hand, I am well aware that people feel sorry for me and my inability to accept Mormonism as my guiding principle. Ultimately, it just doesn’t matter. Find joy where you find it. Reject the inclination toward “coolness” in every form. Revel in the music that speaks to you, and refuse to justify it to anyone. Now please go re-read my last post. Amen.

    • Art Edwards says:

      I think it was Kiss that screwed us all up. That’s really where it started.

    • Dana says:

      You said Furry. hahah!

    • angela says:

      haha, sean! i did enjoy your last piece by the way.

      i do have my other obsessions, which are much more pathetic. anything Joss Whedon for instance, Harry Potter, and skin care products.

      my BF and i discussed once which of us was crazier – him for buying a $1200 guitar off the internet, or me for paying $170 for 2 oz. of “beauty fluid.” we concluded that i am indeed crazier because while his guitar will last for years and years, and he will get definite joy out of it, mine will last four or five months, and who knows if it actually does anything.

      • Gloria says:

        Joss Whedon is a genius. Not dorky at all. 😉

        I had the same talk with myself that your boyfriend had with you when I bought this stuff off the internet that was supposed to reduce under-eye bags and wrinkles. It was really expensive. And it itched like crazy and didn’t do anything at all. I returned it and then spent six months trying to get them to refund my money. I’m pretty sure the beauty industry is a racket. 🙁

        • Gloria says:

          Huh. I guess your gravatar goes away if you misspell your email address. Who knew?

        • angela says:

          itchy eye cream! that’s terrible.

          the beauty industry is totally a racket. apparently the only thing that works is SPF during the day, a gentle cleanser, and good moisturizer at night. and yet i still keep buying the other crap.

  14. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Hey, I like at least half your playlist, so as far as I’m concerned you’re cool. Sure SexyBack is a guilty pleasure, and I prefer Nelly Furtado from the days she was ripping off Esthero rather than getting spoonfed by Timbaland, and Gwen Stefani is so much better backed by No Doubt, but (and yes, I realize you tuned all that out, which was quite intentional) it’s a fun list, and that’s all that matters.

    My musical taste is certainly not classic TNB (not even close) but I do like the passion folks around here have for *their* music. I can relate to the passion even if I can’t relate to the bands. For me, it’s Erykah Badu, The Roots and any passable performance of Beethoven at the pinnacle, with a ginormous pyramid stacked under them. Corinne Bailey Rae and Amel Larrieux are both not too terribly removed from the peak.

    Ace in the hole: and I’ve watched The Sound of Music a billion times, too. Great song that “Favorite Things”. And not a single one of the listed items has anything to do with music 🙂

    • Erika Rae says:

      Personally, I love yodeling through the Goatherd song. (Hey – I have never EVER claimed to have a corner on “cool”.)

    • angela says:

      uche, i knew everything you were talking about! i guess my being into discussing music does depend on the type of music being discussed. i would debate you on whether Gwen Stefani is better with or without No Doubt (i would say she is just different without, though i really wish No Doubt would get back together, i miss Tony Kanal’s genius – oh shit, did i just “discuss” music?).

      • You did. Blashphemous! 😉

        I am one of those fools who will talk about music and say, “Have you listened to x?” Can we still be friends?

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        Angela, see? You and me? Bredren and sistren. Yeah, I’ll admit part of it was the shock of Gwen without No Doubt. I never liked Gwen’s voice. It always sounded to me like a cat had stepped on someone’s tail, but without having a musical register she seemed to be able to transmit emotion and just give off a fun vibe. I think that’s a rare quality, and off-head the only other example I can think of is Mary J Blige. Absolutely shit singer who has that je ne sais quoi that just works for some reason. Well for me it was a lot easier to hide Gwen’s vocal flaws in No Doubt, which is a band that matured from crap to virtuoso in a ridiculously short time, and as you say mostly through Kanal’s genius. As an old ska head I got a chance to hear some pre-deal No Doubt sessions. God they were rank, though to be fair, a lot of others in the ska scene saw their potential through all that. And then Tragic Kingdom came along and I was like “and who the fuck are these body-snatchers?” Of course, as soon as they picked up a bit of polish they ditched ska-core like a bad date, but I couldn’t hate them because again they never ditched the fun factor.

        Anyway to me, as soon as Gwen went solo and paired with all the super-producers, it became impossible for me to ignore that shrill-scratchy-threadbare voice, so I wished she’d go back to her old band. But I admit she never ditched the fun factor.

        BTW, I loved the Groove Theory album but the incredible production almost made me not notice Amel Larrieux’s gorgeous voice. Then one day watching VH1 Soul, I saw “Get Up”, and thought “isn’t that the chick from GT? Nah! No fucking way!” as I watched the video about 5 times in a row. God I love that song. Anytime I’m in the pits I can always rely on the old “I see you’re down, when you’re goin’ get up…”

        • angela says:

          i’d have to agree about Gwen’s voice. it can be grating, especially back in the day when she did that tremulo thing all the time, which seems to do less now. like you said, i think i like her style more, and associate her L.A.M.B. album with my first trip to Tokyo.

          still, i can’t listen to a bunch of her songs in a row, unlike my girl Amel, who I can listen to all the live long day, and Corinne Bailey Rae and the like.

          you know i’ve never listened to the Groove Theory album. i may have to pick that up. i love all of Amel’s solo albums, but especially Bravebird, maybe because it was the first one of hers i got (recommended by a dear friend who lives for music), and it was right before i went to Paris, so the music is wrapped up in my warmth for this friend and lovely gay Paree.

  15. Erika Rae says:

    When I first read “In addition to being several years old”, I thought you were going to be referring to yourself. And then, when I realized you were not, I was sort of bummed out because I thought, what an awesome way to refer to one’s self. And so, even though it was unintentional, I am going to steal that from you.

    How old am I?

    Oh, several years old.


    (And I just skipped forward through my collectors edition Sound of Music DVD set yesterday and listened to all of my favorite songs. Oh yes I did.)

  16. Marni Grossman says:

    I really love music. Joni Mitchell and Elliott Smith and the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan and Camera Obscura and on and on.

    That said, I feel your pain. I often find myself lost when reading music posts. Usually, I latch onto the one artist and/or song I know and comment appropriately.

    Moreover, music people- like “film” people (not movie people, “film” people- can be incredibly pretentious. To the point where it takes the fun out of the thing.

    Also: “Maps” is a really good song.

    • Gloria says:

      I have Elliot Smith’s entire discography. A friend of mine gave me an external hard drive loaded with music about a year ago. It contains 93 gigs of music. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever heard by ES, but I’ve yet to sit down and really give it a listen. I should probably do that.

    • angela says:

      marni, i’m with you there on film people. i wrote film reviews in college, and had to stop because constantly analyzing movies was sucking the fun out of watching them.

      i love “Maps”! and i love how she cries in the video.

    • Marni, I am with you. I love good music and will defend my idea of what makes “good” music to anyone, but I do not like reading about it, either. Reviews especially. And, concert reports. Ugh.

  17. Don Mitchell says:

    Angela, I’m with you on all this, and I admit my favorites are a decade or more older than just about everything you mention (or anybody else does).

    But I do always read the music postings anyway, because I think they’re interesting — it’s like entering a space and trying to get my bearings where I have no fucking clue what’s going on. It’s a new culture to me — feels like beginning fieldwork. I don’t hop on iTunes and download examples, though. I just read for patterns, for points that Sean and Joe and others make that seem pretty interesting — things about how they (and you) navigate in this world, assess, compare, appreciate, etc. It’s fascinating to read — that’s all I can say.

    I do think an obvious thing, which is that people tend ultimately to stick with or go back to music they liked when they were young, unless the person’s a music critic or DJ or has some job where keeping up is what you have to do. And I think that you don’t see that until you get older and there’s some serious chronological space out there behind you.

    I was thinking about something yesterday — as I thought about maybe writing a short posting about the Monotones — which is that when people approximately my age were young, there wasn’t much music out there in the record stores or on the air, compared to now. And I think this might have been the case into the mid-sixties, but then there was a major increase in what was out there, and now — amazing.

    This phenomenon’s only interesting to me because it can explain why people my age or a little younger seem to have the same set of remembered bands or singers from the old days. It’s because there were far fewer to share than, say, the 30-somethings have. So naturally our memories, our old favorites, are going to be much more alike. Maybe there’s something to this. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s a useful database showing releases by category by year.

    Finally, another thing you said: “Certain songs still prompt a visceral reaction in me . . . .” I wonder how many TNBers use certain songs to get focused on something they’re writing about? My guess is that it’s common. I’ve been writing about the late sixties and when I need to get my head there I need Beatles or Stones or the Airplane, and it’s not because I like them (though I do) but because it takes me back into that ethos, and makes it easier to write about it. So your “visceral reaction” is what gets me writing (accurately, I hope) about what it was like then.

    • angela says:

      don, i do enjoy the anecdotes and metaphors in the music posts, but when it all starts getting into the nitty gritty about bands i’ve never heard of, my eyes sort of glaze over.

      i think you’re right that in the past there was just less music out there, or at least less was as accessible as it is now. as with all media, we’re sort of inundated with choices. maybe that’s why i stick with just a handful of the same bands and musicians. i find the vast array of choices overwhelming.

      i used to listen to certain soundtracks to get me motived with my writing. Pulp Fiction to kick things off, then The Piano or Emma or Little Women to keep me going.

      i love that connection between music, writing, and film. just now i thought of Blue, and how inspiring that was, visually and musically. the images of Juliette Binoche’s character being overwhelmed by music, and not being able to stop hearing it – reminds me of writers and stories and words, not being able to stop hearing and telling stories.

      • Don Mitchell says:

        Blue’s quite a film, isn’t it? It’s my favorite of the trilogy, although there’s a lot to like about White.

  18. Simon Smithson says:


    Well-played, Angela!

    My Amoeba beanie is sitting on the shelf behind me. I love that thing.

    It’s really interesting how the music topics have ballooned out at TNB. I’m really enjoying it; I think people’s music tastes give us a little more of a window into them. Which is always good.

    Sean nailed it in his comment. It’s all objective.

    And there are so many musicians and wannabe music critics who I would love to see be confronted with the realisation they’re not as cool as they think they are (none at TNB, thankfully).

    The best live performer I have ever seen in my life is Robbie Williams. He had 20,000 people eating out of his hand. He spoke to the crowd, he engaged, he got them to do all set off their camera flashes at the same time… he’s just so cool.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Wait, what?

      Subjective. It isn’t all objective.


      • ha. You had me there for a second, Simon. I was like “hmmm….I better go reread what I wrote, but I’m almost certain I wasn’t pointing out the excess of musical objectivity in the world….”

    • angela says:

      thanks, simon!

      i would have loved to have seen Madonna in concert back before she went batshit crazy. her performances always seemed more like musical theater.

      an Amoeba beanie sounds cool. i may have to get one.

  19. Art Edwards says:

    “My boyfriend has four guitars, a bass, and a bass six. Oh excuse me, I mean a bass VI.” Whee!

    J. Mascus of Dinosaur Jr. once said all rock shows should last about ten minutes.

    Angela, thank you for your much needed perspective around here. I relate more to your opinion than I should.


    • angela says:

      ten minutes i could stand.

      thanks art – i was a bit nervous, to tell you the truth, about posting this. but everyone’s had a great sense of humor about it.

  20. Kimberly says:

    Loved this! 🙂

  21. Dana says:

    We may be polar opposites on this whole music thing Angela, but you’re still a total delight. And I’m so glad that you admit to having visceral reactions to music and that you have an ipod that actually holds a playlist. A friend of mine mentioned once that when growing up her family cars never had radios. Her father hated music. Hated music. Can you imagine?

    Does not compute.

    Also, I love stupid musicals. Oklahoma, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Sound of Music and now Glee…

    Joe mentioned in a comment the other day that we should really get Greg Olear to a Poltz show, and I’m in total agreement — and now I really want Angela to see him too.

    • angela says:

      dana, i can’t understand hating music either. my parents have always loved it, singing cheesy Chinese love songs, watching every variety show that was on (Sonny & Cher, Donny & Marie, the Barbara Mandrell Show).

      yes, love Glee! i actually cried during their performance in the season finale.

      Poltz – who dat?

      • Dana says:

        Besides being a lunatic, he’s a thoroughly engaging performer and a dear man. I think he’d make you love live music. He has tons of his own material but is not averse to throwing in an unlikely cover, and it’s his sincerity in delivery,.. not irony, that makes it work.

        Ooh – I know what to show you…

        This is part 1 of 3 part story – if you have 17 minutes, watch all of them.


        Also, it just so happens that he’s on the west coast right now and he’s playing a house concert on August 7th in Marin County.

        And in case Gloria or Sean are interested, he’s got dates in Portland and Seattle too.

    • Matt says:

      Poltz rules! Can’t wait until he plays another hometown show!

  22. angela says:

    gloria, yes, the irony wasn’t lost on me that you all are discussing bands and music on this particular post. 🙂 at least i’ve heard of the bands/people you’re talking about.

    btw, i have no idea which comment i’m commenting on.

  23. Diane says:

    Oh, I’m so glad you wrote this! I’m a little different, in that I had a phase of LOVING music as a teen, but now I have no interest in top tens or new releases. I feel like if it’s really good I’ll hear it eventually, and in the meantime, I’d rather be watching TV. I occasionally fire up my iPod and I enjoy it when I do, but music just isn’t essential to my well-being and I could certainly never work with it on. Turning 30 was for me a big relief, in that I could just admit to not caring.
    Still, when other people go wild about some obscure gig, or my favourite magazine does a dedicated music issue, my heart sinks…

    • angela says:

      we are two of a kind, diane. i’ve never liked “cool” music or listening to live music, and it’s only now that i’m older that i’ve embraced those qualities about myself.

  24. Never writing about music again. Thanks, Angela. Ha, kidding.

    Thanks for this. It’s nice to have someone point out the pretty ridiculous nature of us audiophiles. Great work here, and funny, too.

  25. Matt says:

    I’m one of those people who loves music, though I’m far less clannish/snobbish about it than I was in my younger days. I can’t seem to walk into a record shop without finding something to buy, and the odds are very good that the stereo will be on if I’m home…especially if I’m writing. By my count, I’ve seen pretty close to 1000 live concerts.

    I don’t go to many concerts anymore, in part because the nosedive the economy’s taken makes me hesitant to just drop $40 on any one thing, and because, after working in the music industry for a few years and dealing with the large crowds from a production/logistics angle, I’ve really been put off by the whole experience. For every good crowd there are five rough ones.

    Music writing/journalism, though….that, I’ve always been on the fence about. The good stuff (Lester Bangs, for instance) is very, very good, but so much of it seems like 1000-word ads for whichever band or artist it happens to be about. Really, how many articles can be written about the performance-pop art identity Lady Gaga has created for herself? If the current state of Rolling Stone is any indication, about one a month. And ultimately, I’d rather listen to music than read about someone else listening to music.

    • angela says:

      matt, i tend to enjoy the “Behind the Music” type stories – the gossip, the boozing, the redemption.

      which brings to mind Anvil! the documentary. i didn’t know anything about the band, and honestly hate that type of music, but it was a really interesting movie.

  26. Judy Prince says:

    I posted this a couple days ago, but nada happened. Let’s see if nada happens this time, too:

    angela, you are me. Thanks for letting me in on my own unknown secret. Now I can put Pachelbel’s Canon on the wotsit and listen to it over and over and over, gorging on its amazing meld of medieval cathedral monks’ chant and the interposition of female and male-sounding instruments, and the world is encompassed in its sound; all effort is calmed; all feelings new and washed; ideas loosed to depths unimagined.

    But I, too, usually don’t like *reading* about OTHER people’s reactions to music or performers about which/whom I’m unfamiliar.

    And, generally, I don’t remember lyricsor song titles.

    Playing instruments, yeah. Love playing the piano—-mostly the black keys bcuz you can’t make a mistake doing that. Sometimes the white keys. Arpeggios totally turn me on. So does the Irish harp. Classical guitar. And bass.

    Thank you, angela, for freeing my inner musician.

    • angela says:

      judy, i love Pachelbel’s Canon. i will never get sick of hearing it, not even at weddings.

      this year i started playing more jazz and boogie woogie on the piano. rhythm is so obviously important, but i didn’t get that for a long time. i just followed the notes like i did with classical. then i actually listened to recordings of Maple Leaf Rag and Rosetta, and was like, ohhhhh! and suddenly my playing sounded like songs and not just a bunch of notes.

      my inner musician is coming out too! 🙂

  27. I was so excited to read this, Angela! I think I first admitted my basic idiocy about music in 2006, when some male blogger shot me an interview question (my first novel had just out and I was doing all the usual blog interviews) that had to do with bands, and I, like, did not even understand the question itself. Since then, being out of touch musically has become something of a geeky refrain for me, like the fact that I am a tech dunce. Oddly, it seems as though being a writer these days is supposed to convey a certain level of vicarious sophistication about both music and technology! But alas, in my case, neither is true. Which of course does not mean I don’t “like” music–just that I am rarely ever up on the coolest or newest thing, and that I see very few live bands.
    For example, I notice that they barely let you on Facebook anymore unless you frequently post about the band The Hold Steady. Except that I am pretty sure I have never heard a song by that band, and have no idea who its members are. I gather that this is a band that is not even “obscure” cool, given how much I read about them online–they definitely seem to be widely known. Just not by me.
    In the time I took to type that, I probably could have gone online and listened to one of their songs. But the thing about people who are not that into music is: we don’t bother to do shit like that, because we just don’t really care.
    Oh, well.
    Rock on.

    • Angela Tung says:

      gina, i’m so glad i’m not alone in this.

      the “hip” band i keep hearing about lately is Soul Coughing. who’s Soul Coughing and why should i know about them? like you said, there separates the music lovers from the music ambivalents. a music lover would have looked up Soul Coughing immediately. i will probably languish in ignorance indefinitely, or at least till a Soul Coughing song starts playing in some cafe and I ask, “Who’s that?” and some hipster barrista looks disdainfully at me and sneers: “Soul Coughing.”

  28. Richard Cox says:

    Angela, I loved this post! I especially love your honesty about it. It seems you like to listen to music, casually or in the background, but you don’t feel compelled to analyze why or seek out esoteric or unknown bands. So? Why should that matter to someone else, right?

    One thing I hate about most rock writing is it seems it isn’t possible for you to be taken seriously if you can’t name a bunch of bands no one has ever heard of. When I was a kid there was almost no way of finding bands like this, because they weren’t played on the radio (obviously) and we didn’t have a cool independent record store. We had Hastings. I loved music but all I knew was top 40. So that’s what I loved. Then, when I went to college, I learned my music taste was terrible. Apparently I was a provincial idiot because I liked what was played on the radio. And anytime someone mentioned their favorite band was some outfit I’d never heard of, I automatically assumed they were a snob.

    But when the Internet made it easy to find music, especially with sites like last.fm and gnod and iTunes, I discovered lots of awesome artists I would have never found otherwise. Completely on my own. I have no idea if these bands are cool or not, but almost none of what I listen to now is played on the radio. I don’t feel like a snob so much as freed from listening to what a record label wants to shove down my throat. Which I suppose is the point of a lot of independent music. I couldn’t see that before because I felt like music appreciation was more about being an elitist than an actual fan of good music. Which proves Sean’s point about it all being subjective.

    Although I do have a “grandfather” clause for music appreciation. Anything I enjoyed before I stopped listening to popular artists is still okay to enjoy. Which is how I get away with listening to loads of terrible 80s music when the mood strikes me. 🙂

    • angela says:

      i was a top 40 gal too back in high school. i just always listened to the radio and watched MTV (back when they actually played videos). i didn’t realize my taste was “top 40” till this kid in my 10th grade english class told me so (he on the other hand was Jimmy Buffet fan, of course whom at the time I had never heard of).

      i remember a friend made me a mix tape that included Sinead O’Connor, who while pretty mainstream, was my introduction into more alternative music. after that i was all about the folksy women singers – Shawn Colvin, Fiona Apple, the Indigo Girls. post-college i got more back into R&B/soul/blues, but always female singers. all of this of course on top of JT and Britney.

  29. I let my daughters’ fiddle around with my playlist all the time. The older is waaay into Indie and the younger more Top 40 and Broadway musicals. While music has always been a part of my life– I never dissected it or analyzed it… and without the helpful iTunes playlist.. I’d never know what I was listening to at any given time. I’m in awe of people who not only recognize a song, but can tell you who recorded it first and when it was performed.
    I love that you listen to Justin and Britney….. me too, Angela. Me too.

    • angela says:

      thanks robin! you must have a very eclectic playlist as a result. i steal from my boyfriend’s much more interesting iPod all the time so i can pretend to be cool.

  30. Cheryl Newcomb says:

    Angela, this is a great post – honest and humorous and I so relate! It’s too tiring for me to try and keep up with the latest bands and who is “cool”. And when I do hear something I like, I don’t really have much to say about beyond “I like this.”

    I have been riding on the coattails of my husband’s musical taste for ten years, and he has about 7,000 songs on his iPod. That is overwhelming to me. First off, I have a horrible memory for band names, so unless I have heard something enough to have it seared into my brain, I have no idea who I am listening to most of the time. Secondly, I tend to like songs, not bands. I seldom like an entire album of anyone’s music. But mostly, I am lazy. It takes too much effort to try and keep up. In my old age, I have come to terms with liking what I like because I like it, so there.

    I have Slacker radio on my crackberry, and the station I listen to most is 80’s alternative because that was the soundtrack of my youth. I know that not only will I recognize most of the songs played, but I can sing along at the top of my lungs in the car. That’s really all it takes to make me happy.

    Kudos to you for letting the uncool cat out of the nerd bag for all of us nodding and smiling blankly while reading about music 🙂

    • angela says:

      cheryl, we’re totally on the same page. it’s mostly only certain songs i like. i’ve made the mistake in the past of buying the whole album, and being totally bored by the rest of the songs.

      i’m glad i’m not the only one to be clueless about music!

  31. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    My partner still has some old Rolling Stone record guides, in paperback, which he’ll break out now and then. A true music lover–with a master’s in music composition–he has a far different relationship to the experience than most people. Now and then, he’ll go through a phase of trying out a band he hadn’t listened to before or return to one he loved. He’ll read the Rolling Stone reviews—aghast. Most of what he loves, the reviewers hated upon the original releases.

    I don’t like reading about music either, but I LOVE the experience of connection with a band or artist. Oh, the rapture when I “got” Rush….the richness of early Genesis…the range and creativity of Kate Bush…

    We love what we love, Angela. Enjoy whatever makes your foot tap.

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