Music Snobs Are The Worst Kind of Snobs

by | Jul 30, 2018 | History, Media

Quote

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it..”

Aristotle

Summary

Many people love to feign superiority through their music taste.

They fail to understand things can be enjoyed regardless of their intellectual or artistic merit.

These people also rarely share the same snobbery for other forms of consumption.

The Grievance

Everyone has encountered some sort of cultural snob at one point in their life—a co-worker who puts you down for your taste in movies, a date that calls you out for not knowing obscure art, a friend who can’t believe you waste your time with mainstream fiction novels, so on and so forth.

Out of all the snobs, I believe the worst kind are music snobs.

I expect it out of older generations, who struggle to connect with the sounds of today—although there’s no doubt their parents expressed the same distaste in the music of the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

It still is a chore to hear middle aged men and women wax on about the merits of old school rock ‘n’ roll compared with “present day garbage”, but it isn’t as bad as hearing criticism from my younger peers.

I have seen this phenomenon all over social media—Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit etc. Young people complaining that “REAL MUSIC” doesn’t get enough attention/commercial success, and anyone who listens to the flavor of the day is incapable of appreciating “REAL MUSIC.”

Here are some examples:

Most of this is directed towards modern hip-hop/rap, as well as general pop music, and at times the electronic genre as well. Surprisingly, some of it comes from artists that were formerly popular.

Some people eschew today’s popular music entirely, instead choosing to listen to and loudly advertise that they prefer the music of old.

Other people choose to listen to more underground artists of the current generation, and verbally assault others for their taste in well-known artists. They admonish the rest of us for not listening to their favorite woke album, and wasting time our time with mindless trap music.

Why do they do this? It seems to me that it stems from a place of insecurity. They attempt to cover this up by trying to feel superior, and virtue signal.

I also commonly hear these conversations in real life, with quotes such as:</span

“Music nowadays is worse.”

“How can you listen to that trash?”

“Nobody cares about the lyrics anymore.”

“It’s just party music.”

“You have to be high/drunk to like that.”

“Music used to mean something.”

It has prompted me to collect my thoughts and make this post to try to understand why these people have these views, and how I can offer a valid counterpoint to them.

If you’re guilty of being a music snob, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’re like me, and have been on the receiving end of snobbery, keep reading along to have some talking points for your next interaction.

The Counter

If these people claim that intellectual music doesn’t receive critical acclaim or commercial popularity, then they’re clearly not keeping abreast with the music scene.

Kendrick Lamar’s success and adoration is a clear example of someone who has not sacrificed his conscious principles, and still thrived by all traditional metrics.

J Cole is a similar rapper, who regularly sells out shows and appeals to a broader audience—with changing his sound or lyrical content.

Rap duo Run the Jewels falls along the same lines, exploding in popularity while pushing forth a thoughtful message.

If these few examples don’t satisfy a snob, then perhaps their issue is that they do not like to be associated with anything mainstream.

That aside, let’s accept the premise that there is worse music nowadays than their was before. This is simply due to two factors—there are low barriers to entry to the music industry than any other entertainment industry, and it is easier to spread and listen to music than it used to be.

A movie is a costly venture, requires months of planning an execution, and usually at least a few other involved participants. The same holds for a play.

How many people talk about all the shitty photographs that are out there? The terrible art? The mediocre vlogs and short films on YouTube? Have you checked out all the e-books on Amazon that have 1 star reviews?

Back in the day, recording a song meant that you actually had to put in the effort to buy an instrument, join a group, record in a studio, and perform at venues. Your music had to be validated by someone along the way, whether it be a record label, fans, or friends, before it would actually be heard by a sizable amount of people. The radio, which was and is not a democratized platform, was the gateway to achieving popularity.

Nowadays, I can download a comprehensive DAW (digital audio workspace) on my laptop, create an instrumental without any live instruments and without being musically trained, record vocals through my phone, and release a track on SoundCloud within a day. I can do all this with minimal time and resources, without there being some sort of gatekeepers stopping me from doing so, and my song could be spread over the internet in a matter of clicks.

I’d bet that if we went back in time and gave people of past generations our current technology and platforms, we’d hear all the terrible music they had been wanting to share.

Have you also considered the fact that someone’s enjoyment of something you do not like, does not inhibit your enjoyment of things you like? You’re perfectly free to listen to and love the genres, songs, albums, and artists that you find pleasurable, and everyone else is as well. My choosing to enjoy “bad music” (in your eyes) in no way has any affect on you. If it for some reason does, that says to me that you need your music to be validated by the mainstream to fully enjoy it, which is an unhealthy mindset to have.

I personally enjoy various conscious songs as much their non-conscious counterparts (my first ever concert was a Talib Kweli concert), but I am frequently in environments where that sort of music would be out of place. When I’m in the gym, I prefer listening to songs with trap instrumentals, braggadocious lyrics, and aggressive vibes. When I’m out at a party, I want to listen to music that has a danceable rhythm, quotable lyrics, and an energetic vibe. There are a few intellectual songs that can toe the line and do it well, but it is rare.

Part of the reason why people love intellectual lyrics is the ability to hear ideas and experiences articulated—that you would not otherwise hear. It is called conscious music for a reason, as it makes you deliberately consider the topics at hand. It introduces you to worlds and life paths that you are far removed from, or helps you re-live experiences you yourself have gone through. It examines topical issues critically, and aims to force debate and discussion.

All those characteristics are found in non-conscious music as well. The intentions of the artists may be different (though not always), yet they also offer a glimpse into a lifestyle that you would otherwise never have any idea about. I will never be a young black male who struggles to make ends meet, and has to find any means necessary to get ahead in an violent environment, but trap music provides a window to that life experience with catchy lyrics and beats that still end up forcing thoughtful discussions.

After all, music is simply a reflection of society. The common themes of music: love, violence, working for success, drugs, partying, etc., are all the most common themes found in day to day life. We turn to these reflective soundscapes to find hope, to find clarity, to escape, and to revel in the fact that there are others out there like us, with the same desires, failures, fears, and dreams.

That there is music that can be considered a “bad influence,” or “meaningless” only means these are the things our society is interested in. It doesn’t mean these are what our society values the most, or that our public conversation is only limited to these topics. It simply means that these topics are what we feel most passionately about, and they provoke some sort of reaction in us that leads us to want more and more content discussing them.

And ultimately, if you think that music (like fashion or humanity) is never finished—that is, it is constantly evolving with no end—then all music, regardless of artistic or intellectual merit, contributes to this evolution. The newest sounds have always been hated on by the existing power structures, have been tested and criticized and spit on, until they were refined and incorporated into the fabric of the art.

One of my personal favorite modern rappers is Young Thug, the subject of much of the ridicule I have been discussing (and homophobia as well), but several prominent musicians have come out and commended him for his talent. If you’ve written him off, try to listen to his music again—this time thinking of his voice as only an instrument, and not the conventional delivery machine of lyrics.

Whether or not you personally like it, there are elements of non-conscious music that have seeped permanently into their respective genres (and even crossed over) and have progressed music as a whole. The beauty is that it is a creative, collaborative process that follows the tenants of survival of the fittest—the free market decides what survives to be heard another day, and the rest wastes away. The boundaries have to be pushed, the traditional sounds and lyrics have to be flipped on their head, and we have to become comfortable with the uncomfortable for music to grow and stay current with our own societal progression.

If you still have your snobbish attitude after all this, well then let me point out some hypocrisy.

The Hypocrisy

What I’m about to discuss is not observed universally in millennial music snobs, but applies to a sizable portion of the ones I’ve personally encountered.

Most of these characters lack in enthusiasm for other forms of intellectual consumption. They wax on about their super music taste, and the knowledge they are gaining from listening to said music, but if you try to steer the conversation to other forms of media, they get quiet.

When is the last time these people read a piece of literature? Watch an acclaimed documentary? Read award winning poetry? Visited the museum? Read long-long form articles? I’m only providing these examples to show you how ridiculous their arguments sound across other mediums.

Plain and simple, these people are insecure and are looking for the easiest way to feel superior. Songs and albums are short and require less effort and time than reading a book, or watching a documentary, so they naturally gravitate towards this medium. Some of these people also aren’t the most sociable, and therefore are rarely at parties where they can better appreciate the “mindless drivel” that they criticize.

To drive the ludicrousness of their arguments further, let us imagine an arbitrary system of units to measure how much media you consume on a daily basis, and its value as how intellectually provoking it is.

Generic Millenial Music Snob

Music    8 units

Reading (Books, Articles, Etc.)    3 units

Conversation (Online or In-Person)    2 units

Total    13 units

 

 

Generic College Student Who Listens to Popular Trap Music (a.k.a. myself)

Music    3 units

Reading    8 units

Conversation    4 units

Writing    2 units

Other Media (Art, Movie/Documentaries, Etc.)    2 units

Total    19 units

What’s the moral of the story here? People have different ways of challenging themselves, and they seek mindless pleasure through different outlets.

For me, music is an escape. It is the media equivalent of fast food, I simply turn it on and appreciate the sounds and catchy lyrics. I have no desire to turn to music as intellectual consumption—this would be a burden for me, in the same way that I spend days thinking about and discussing the latest great book I read, or video I watched. I cannot imagine actively listening to every song I turn on, and spending time dissecting every track on an album.

Now, there are music snobs that are complete snobs, living their lives as eternal intellectual pursuits. My question to these people is—when do your rest? What do you use to escape? Perhaps, this over-intellecuatilization of everything is their coping mechanism against the stresses of modern life, but there is no reason that they have to try to force their lifestyle on others.

The Conclusion

I have a love/hate relationship with common platitudes, but a specific one really applies here: live and let live.

It is possible to appreciate both kinds of music. Some of the best people I know can easily switch from discussing various pieces of classical music, to quoting the lyrics of the latest Travi$ Scott song at the top of their lungs. That’s an extreme example, although the point remains that there is no shame in digesting what is popular, what is “mindless.”

Music is meant to be entertaining in a physical form, as well as a mental one. Limiting yourself to conscious music discounts the joys of music accompanying you partying, dancing, working out, hooking up, so on and so forth. Also, if you take a listen to these so called “mindless lyrics”, you’d realize that there is more depth to some of them than you imagine. They may be simpler, but their straightforwardness is simply a reflection of the environment the artists were raised in. This does not make their stories any less compelling, and this rough edge has a draw.

Regardless, no one prevents you from enjoying your intellectual music. Seek out those artists, support them, and do your best to make them rise to the top commercially, but do not be disappointed if they do not do so. Find communities of people such as yourself, and engage in discussion with them. Do not go around taking out your insecurity or resentment on your peers.

As for this article, I can imagine some people must think the only way someone would take the time to write a long piece on this topic is because they had to have gotten into an argument with someone. I have not, and although I may sound particularly aggrieved, this is just an idea that I’ve had percolating in my head for some time, and wanted to commit to (digital) paper.

As always, I am more than happy to hear thoughts to the contrary, and yes, I am aware that this argument suffers a bit from the strawman fallacy. If you’re a music snob, feel free to tear in to me. Nothing more I love than good debate.

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