Music Condescension: A Sanctimonious Affliction
"I only listen to bands no one else cares about."
We’ve all encountered and endured the hyperbolic rantings of music snobs. You know the type: someone who not only thinks they know more than the average music buff, but more than anyone else, period. The stereotypical music fanatic feels self-important and even entitled to an unjustified sense of coolness by playing the anti-mainstream music game, declaring a particular favorite band or artist is better than whomever someone else is listening to because said artist is more obscure. Yet, these so-called music aficionados are the first to abandon their favorites upon the very first sign of even a minuscule amount of commercial triumph, because of some imaginary belief system based on tiresome and ridiculous self-imposed “rules,” which decree mainstream success is evil and taboo.
I witnessed fan base abandonment when R.E.M. left an independent label to sign with Warner Brothers, when Weezer started getting airplay on mainstream radio stations, and again when Green Day’s popularity grew beyond mere punk rock recognition. The same thing is presently taking place with U2 and Coldplay, which I find particularly ludicrous as I vividly remember when both bands were heartily embraced by the indie demographic, as both bands struggled for several years before attaining any amount of mainstream success. I’ve always been perplexed by this because eschewing an artist after achieving a perceived amount of popularity seems to be the equivalent of the same juvenile mindset of blindly following the masses. Ironically, every musician I have ever met would willingly sell their souls to Beelzebub himself at the promise of achieving enough success to afford them the opportunity to make a sustainable career out of creating and/or performing music.
Perhaps the most irritating and puzzling quality of self-appointed music snobs I’ve encountered (and there have been many throughout the years), is that I’m yet to meet one who hasn’t said to me, “I don’t like that kind of music because it all sucks” and “I used to listen to (insert any band or artist’s name here) before they sold out and became popular.” Really? Then what right do you have to call yourself a music fan if you don’t like all types of music? Moreover, how can you consider yourself to be an expert on music if you don’t listen to every genre and like something in every category?
Now before you start thinking to yourself that I’m the pot calling the kettle black, understand my point is this: I don’t think my musical taste is superior or inferior to anyone else’s. But then again, I’m certainly not the type of musical hypocrite who will stop listening to a band or artist I’ve followed for years just because the mainstream masses eventually jump on the proverbial band wagon (pun intended). Also, I’ll readily admit I’ve had countless first-hand experiences of initially rejecting particular artists too hastily based upon bad first impressions, only to discover later I had prematurely misjudged or overlooked their significant musical contributions.
In the end, everyone is entitled to their own preferences, but if you justly think of yourself as a music “expert,” then lose the teenage mentality of discounting entire genres due to your own ignorance or biases towards them. I’m yet to find an entire category I don’t like, nor have I ever let anyone else’s perceptions dictate what’s included in my music library. I’ve never listened to anything simply because it fits into one category or another. In fact, the music I find to be the most rewarding has always found its way to me on its own accord, devoid of recommendation, hyped marketing, or any other degree of superficial coolness. I don’t pretend to know everything about music (who does?), but I know what I like despite lack of popularity or chart success. After all, isn’t music really about evoking an emotional and psychological response from the few as well as the many? However, I’d venture to say I’ve probably forgotten more about music than most people bother to remember.