I Don’t Get It, You Don’t Get It, Who Does Get It?

I’ll state right up front – this is going to be one of our only posts for the week, folks. My schedule is very busy right now, and with the lack of any real projects that interest me to write a review or feature in some type of way, we’re don’t have a lot to say this week (although I do have plans for one project that may be out next Monday. I have to see).

So naturally when I have nothing to say about a particular project I think of an underlying topic that’s on my mind and share it with you all to see what you all think. I believe that I’ve harped on this subject enough already, especially lately, but maybe there will be something here, we’ll see.

Anyway, I was chatting with a friend of mine, Michael Rauch (of the Cheap Seat Report) over on Twitter. I’ll share what was said and figure out where to go from here. It all started with his tweet, “I may be wrong on Natalie Hemby’s “Puxico” based on reviews. But to me it’s a snooze fest”. I replied, “There is no “right”, there is no “wrong”. Whether music is good or not is completely up to you”.

Now, that right there is a topic I’m going to explore very soon, but for now let’s continue this conversation. He replied to my tweet by stating, “I think this one may be getting the “I need to like it because all the cool kids like it” treatment. I just don’t get it.” 

Bingo.

“I don’t get it”, “this isn’t for me”, “I may be wrong”…..we’ve all been here haven’t we? Correct me if I’m wrong (please), but haven’t we all been in a position where everyone loves an album, song, or artist and we just fail to see the appeal in it? I have. You can’t tell from my reviews last year but it’s happened.

Of course, everything today is great isn’t it? Every album, song, or artist – mainstream, independent or otherwise is an invincible wall of greatness waiting to be heard by our ears. You don’t like it/them? You don’t get it then. Save your criticisms and quit being a hater.

Right? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

NO

Now, I know what you’re thinking, this is another piece regarding the critical consensus. Well….yeah, kind of, and it’s also another piece about being honest with ourselves regarding music, but it goes a little further than that. To introduce my next point, let’s turn to a scenario, shall we?

Envision two people out in the desert walking side by side. They both have extremely different personalities, but they also share some commonalities (naturally). They’ve been walking for awhile, so naturally they both will take anything they can get – food, water, a vehicle back to their home….anything. Let’s say person one eventually sees something in the desert. Person one walks up to the object only to find a crinkled up water bottle with barely anything in it. It’s not much sure, and to the average eye it would be trash.

But damn it, person one likes it anyway. It’s hot out, and while there’s barely anything left to the darn bottle, there’s something there – a little bit of water to make this person happy. It gives them joy and happiness, and when asked why it does, the person can happily reply that this water will give them satisfaction.

Person one begins to drink it, but is stopped when person two asks what they are doing. Person one looks only to see that their hand doesn’t contain a bottle at all – it was a mirage! Person two couldn’t see what person one saw, but person one saw something that gave them a joy that nobody else could feel, at least seemingly nobody else.

The two continue their journey. It’s getting dark out, and all of a sudden, they see an owl. Person two isn’t necessarily afraid of it, but they can’t stand it. They say it’s their least favorite animal in this entire desert. Person one replies to this by saying, “we’re out here in the desert with snakes, coyotes, scorpions and tons of other dangerous animals, and you mean to tell me that an owl is what you dislike the most? You’re weird, owls are beloved creatures!”. Person two replies, “I just see it differently, that’s all. It’s sort of like you with your water bottle”.

Surprise, surprise, this conversation relates to music – both good and bad. Notice how I gave almost little to no details about these people other than what they were currently doing. I made no mention of their genders, names, personalities or other things that shape who we are. That’s because none of that stuff matters. We are all person one and person two, just at different times.

Michael in this instance reflected person two more than he did person one, but he is not always person two. Again, just in this instance. For all we know, there could be many worse albums (what the critical consensus considers worse) that he might like better than ‘Puxico’. The point is, he didn’t care for Natalie Hemby’s album in the same way, an album that was critically lauded elsewhere. Was he actually wrong? I’ll answer later.

To give an example of person one, I’ll use myself as an example. Now, I remember when I didn’t do this whole critical thing and I just was a listener of music who shared his thoughts in his head rather than online. One album I remember being especially polarizing was Eric Church’s The Outsiders. The blogosphere heavily criticized it, but of course the mainstream media loved it because…..well it’s modern media. Remember, everything is great.

In all seriousness, when I listened to it, I knew I probably shouldn’t like it. It was all over the place, and some of the lyrical content was not Church’s best at all. But what can I say? I appreciated it overall. Songs like “Cold One” and “The Outsiders” were honestly just pure fun, and I think it had its share of good songs like “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young”, “Dark Side”, and “Roller Coaster Ride”. There’s obviously more to say, and I don’t mean to write a review but you get the point. Hell, if we’re going to even continue this discussion, the one track I actually didn’t like at all was “Give Me Back My Hometown” for feeling out of Eric’s element, and that was the one song many people hailed as a standout!

So this begs the question, does quality of music exist at all? Were either I or Michael wrong in these instances? Was my desert story a mirage in and of itself? Well…..in my opinion, yes. However, I believe “quality” only exists in an individual sense. I don’t believe we have a set definition of good or bad music. What is good or bad (as alluded to in my tweet from before), is entirely up to the individual.

If we go back to mine and Micheal’s conversation once more, we can unearth another point to add. After pushing him to speak his mind, he finally said to me, “OK, how’s this for confidence: Most overrated album of 2017! Granted, we’re only 18 days in, but still”. Now, as someone who did have a favorable reception towards the album, what did I say? “I say it’s good to have another perspective on it. And I agree to a small extent. Not that it matters if I do.” He then said, “It’s good to have convo about this. Living in an echo chamber is good for no one.”

And bingo was his name-o.

No, living in an echo chamber isn’t good. Not at all. What good is it if we all enjoy the same things? I’m currently participating in a game over at Pulse Music Board where a bunch of people ranked the 2016 Year End Billboard Hot Country Songs chart with #1 being their favorite and #100 being their least favorite. The result is literally the mashup of everyone’s picks. Some songs are higher than I’d like them to be, and some are lower than I want them to be. Even still, I love the diversity in opinions that it has shown. The chart is weird because we’re all different, and we approach music differently. That’s the funnest part of it all, it isn’t an echo chamber.

When I wrote my piece on what reviews are back in December (our comeback piece actually), I said that writing a review or holding an opinion on music is alright as long as you back up your reasoning why. The more I think about it though, the more I think I’d change that. We all know what music we do and don’t like. Sometimes that’s all you need.

That’s why I really like my new review style. I mean, every review should be a personal reflection of one’s thoughts (in my opinion), but I don’t have to worry about crap like “well, I know this is a good album, but I don’t really connect to it” (and obviously it works the other way). It’s all just a personal summation of my own thoughts, and my thoughts and grade are just what I personally give it, popular or not.

Now, I get that this isn’t a popular opinion at all. Hell, my Twitter poll that I conducted where I asked people whether they thought quality existed or not is the only proof I need for that. I don’t care. That doesn’t mean you can’t try to argue with me or show me a different side. While I may not agree with some of it, our friend Alexander Grant over at Critically Country wrote a piece on how bad music IS a thing as well as raised several good points to boot. But the point I’m trying to make is that one, there isn’t a universally great or bad artist, and two, I’m done trying to make this anything more than what it is.

Andy and I aren’t professionals, and really, that’s always bugged me. I’d like to know every single thing I’m talking about when it comes to music, and the fact that I’m not as educated about those technical elements such as production choices are things I’m still picking up on. I want to always make sure I do an artist justice, but I’ll acknowledge I’m no professional. I don’t and will never pay for my blog since that’s what it is – a blog. A place where Andy and I can share our thoughts that will always strive to be a community where all opinions are welcome. What does this have to do with quality of music at this point? Well, I want to emphasize the fact that I only want to talk about music to throw it out there. I talked about Ray Cardwell this past weekend and shockingly enough, I didn’t care for it at all. I didn’t mean to make fun of Ray or trash him in anyway. That’s not what I want to do with any artist. I want to talk about music to see other opinions. Maybe you liked Ray’s album. That’s fine if you did. Is it good or is it bad? There’s no clear answer, and there’s no clear answer for any piece of music. At least in my opinion. I’m three pages into this and I believed I stopped making sense about two pages ago so, yeah….tell me what you think. Is this all a load of crap? If it is, cool, tell me why. No echo chambers (unless you honestly agree that is).


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