Elitism misses the point
Everyone has an opinion; some opinions are just better than others.
When it comes to music – one of the most-widely discussed and rated art forms – this expression seems especially fitting.
Taste is so subjective that any attempt to rank a song or album can create endless arguments and pointless discussions based on supposed merits.
The natural result is that individuals are so sure of the validity of their opinions and tastes that they feel they are obligated to preach their wisdom.
I won’t pretend I haven’t been guilty of this in the past, sometimes offering my opinion or telling someone they should listen to something in particular.
Based on the sheer quantity of music I encounter and consume, I feel for whatever reason entitled and almost responsible to give others an impression of what “good” music is.
What is it about this particular subject area that makes people feel entitled to dismiss the opinions of others and become offended by their “irrational” preferences?
Overwhelming choice seems mostly to blame.
There are so many options out there, from top 40 radio to the most obscure two-piece, lo-fi, post-punk band no one has ever heard of (except you, the music connoisseur).
The widely-dismissed “mainstream” may mean that to some people every song seems to sound the same, while for those with more conservative tastes, the sound of an unheard-of, music-blog-acclaimed band may be as appealing as listening to a lawnmower.
Problems surface when people begin to use music as an indicator of status.
“Wearing” music just doesn’t seem quite right. It’s incredibly easy to seem knowledgeable; anyone can pick a music blog and regurgitate notable artists or tracks along with reasons why a band can be hailed as the next Talking Heads or Pavement.
So what does all this mean?
While music used as a means of being fashionable seems contrived, it seems like everyone who even pretends to know or care about music does this in some capacity.
Where does the balance lie between preaching taste to people and avoiding discussion related to taste altogether?
By no means should opinions or tastes be something to hide or be self-conscious of; taste is what allows people to get the most out of the music they choose to listen to.
People become musical elitists when the question of obscure and artistic versus formulaic and ubiquitous is raised.
It’s cool to know about something interesting that no one else does, but that’s where flaunting how crafty one is at finding obscure music occurs, creating tension.
When people start to use music as a way to show how fashionable they are, what gets lost are the truly meaningful and incredible things music has to offer.
Music can soundtrack your life or maintain your sanity; it can pacify, create a mood, provide a distraction or exist in the background. Those merits are all marginalized by arguing about how awful or incredible the people who make music are, whether it’s Nickelback or whoever Pitchfork is touting on a given day.