“The Ultimate Rule ought to be: ‘If it sounds GOOD to you, it’s bitchin’; if it sounds BAD to YOU, it’s shitty. The more your musical experience, the easier it is to define for yourself what you like and what you don’t like.” ~ Frank Zappa
It is normal that we music lovers make honest attempts to classify music. Some classify by music genre and sub-genre. Others divide it between commercial, academic, folkloric or popular. And maybe you’ve heard that there are those who separate it into two basic groups: good and bad. The good and bad way may come a little close, but it’s still not my way of classifying music. The thing is, I dislike the idea that me or anybody else may claim to be the reigning judge with absolute authority to decide which music is good and which is bad.
I prefer that the determining factor be: my own taste. To each his or her own taste. Let each person decide for themselves the music they like or dislike.
And what is the music I like, like? I don’t know what your’s is like, but mine is honest, expressive, passionate, original, innovative, risky, profound and intense. It is the one that makes me move my body. I say it this way because the movements I make I wouldn’t necessarily call dancing (hahaha). it is the one that gives me goosebumps and makes me laugh, cry or sigh.
I like hypnotic music, the one that has what Spanish people refer to as duende. It’s the one that traps me, forces me to quit whatever I’m doing and give it all my attention. I like the one that transports me to another place, time or feeling. I like the one that makes me want to participate, even if it’s just by hitting my glass with a fork. I love the one that surprises me and activates my imagination. I’m seduced by the one that’s hard to classify and challenges all stereotypes. I’m conquered by the one that’s humble and positive, inspires me to be a better person and is part of the solution (not the problem).
The one I don’t like is cold, empty, predictable, superficial, generic and full of clichés. I don’t appreciate it when someone tries to impress me and wants to demonstrate how much they know and how fast they play. I’m not a big fan of mazacotes, mano a mano, pirouettes or contests. I truly don’t like music that sounds like math, blah, blah, blah or filling. I don’t like it when I have to analyse it to understand it or when it is so hollow that it give me a brain short-circuit.
The exciting thing about classifying music according to our taste is that it is practically impossible to find two that are exactly the same. Our taste is part of our identity, like some kind of musical fingerprint of DNA. It is another way of expressing who we are, where we are and where we are going. It shows where we are because our taste continually expands and contracts. It shows where we are going because it is the compass that directs our steps and traces our path.
Tastes change because we change. We have new experiences and discover new musics. Meanwhile, we stop liking some of the musics we used to like. It’s sort of like when you run into and ex and think to yourself: how could I have been attracted to this person?
Not everyone that ever wanted to be a rock star still rocks. Some keep their inner rocker hidden in the closet (hehehe). But there are also have the die-hard beboppers, hip-hopers and rockers. It’s great that we have them around. As far as me goes, I know the music I listened to during my childhood will always have a special place in my heart.
There are music tastes that turn into a kind of religion or exclusive club whose members reject anyone that doesn’t idolize the same musics and artists as they do. They usually go around in groups judging, criticising and making fun of the people who are no like them. Yes! Music elitists exist. They are the ones that think that their own music and the music they enjoy is the good one and the others are the bad ones. They also think that if someone doesn’t like their music it’s because they’re inferior beings with bad taste who know nothing about nothing about nothing.
Maybe you have also had a close encounter with a music elitist somewhere. It’s been a long time since I belonged to any religion or club. Something tells me that I never again will. I don’t fall in love with genres anymore. I fall in love with artists. Sometimes the honeymoon will last very little and other times it ends up becoming one of those rare ’til death do us part types of marriage.
I fall in love with artists that make their way through life evident and express themselves with a unique and original accent. I fall in love with the authentic ones. I fall head over heals for the ones that are capable of surprising me by moving music forward into worlds that are still unknown to me. I’m captivated by the ones that are true brave leaders and pioneers, the ones that take risks, remain faithful to their identity no matter what and carry inside them that burning desire for freedom.
To conclude, my way of classifying music is this:
- The music I dislike (the one that makes want to change the station, listen to the commercials o choose silence rather than keep listening to it)
- The music I don’t like
- The music I respect, but don’t like
- The music I like
- The music I respect and like
- The music I absolutely love (the one that traps me and forces me to quit whatever I’m doing and give it all my attention)
And yet, I could never classify my music using this system. If my music is liked or not is not up to me. Other people have to decide that for themselves. If I had to classify my music I would simply call it a musical self-portrait or autobiography.
How do you classify music? What’s the music you like, like? And the one you don’t like?