Not too many years ago, I was what you might call a pretentious music snob. I bought imported vinyl from new bands, and out-of-print pressings from those long disbanded (Modern Lovers b-sides, anyone?) Not only did I DJ at my college radio, I had the top listenership. And I was on the board of directors.
I took great pride in knowing more about music than any of my friends. I became an obsessive consumer and curator of taste. I could instantly pick out new bands worth listening to from the ones that were mediocre or just weren’t going to be around in a year. But one day, I realized something: I wasn’t having fun. Everything I knew told me I shouldn’t enjoy the music that made me feel the best, and I didn’t want to relate to the people who knew the random obscure crap that I couldn’t believe I was saying.
But here’s the thing.
Acquired tastes are bullshit. It doesn’t fucking matter. No one cares. People care if you have mutual shared interests, not if you know more or less than them. My musical pretensions, like all pretensions, were relatively easy to come by and represented no deep understanding of appreciation of the subject matter at hand. Like most pretensions, they were the result of an elementary-level ability to gather, sort, and regurgitate information. Any idiot can set up a Google Reader feed of their favorite blogs, scan it, and barf out the darlings of the moment, along with the ‘relevant’ or ‘important’ bands of a particular era which one was not alive for (because they’re all over on the same mixtapes anyway.)
What’s much harder is to like something and to do it unapologetically – to say, to the sneers and derision of anyone who was ever a college radio DJ “Hey, shut up, I like The Strokes.” It’s hard to be judged. But if you’re like me, you’re old enough to enjoy things for their own sake. People who would deride your tastes as unrefined are dickheads and are missing the point entirely. The point is: life is shorter than you think, so lighten the fuck up and have some fun. To refine your tastes for the sake of having refined tastes will make you a pretentious (and lonely!) asshat. Nobody likes a critic; even when they’re correct, and especially when they’re trying to make friends. If you think your taste in music makes you cool, I can guarantee you were never cool to begin with. Just finish your beer and join the rest of us on the dance floor.
Emily Pinkerton thinks “Is this It?” was a great album that perfectly captures that brief moment NYC had in the early oughts pre-9/11. Deal with it.