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Are you a music snob?

Tae Andrews | Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Are you a music snob? Music snobs are the kind of player-hating kids who saunter daily around our campus, noses held high, as they are supremely smug in their knowledge that the iTunes blasting through their headphones are “good music.”

What, pray tell, makes some music good and some bad? Is it that “rap is crap,” as it is sometimes suggested? Does good music have to have a guitar? Is classical music to be reserved for wakes, funerals and masterpiece theater? Or is it possible that different music can be suitable for different occasions, and that we can all join together using a universal splitter and sing Cumbaya?

Granted, Shania Twain has a better chance of joining G-Unit than everyone agreeing on a common taste in tunes. But can’t we all live and let live, or at least live and let die? Hey, it worked with the Spice Girls, right?

Let’s start with the most common of all musical biases – rap is crap. How appropriately white, middle-to-upper class American suburbia. Honestly, have you ever tried getting your freak on to Dave Matthews Band? Sorry, but that’s one sure way to guarantee there’ll be “Space Between” dancers on the dance floor (and also, for Notre Dame students, room for the Holy Spirit.)

It has also been argued that today’s rap is all about gangsters, profanity, illicit sexual terminology and guns. Well, this is America. If you don’t like sex and firearms, get the hell out. In all seriousness, there are rap creative artists such as Outkast and The Roots that appeal to the less-criminally inclined music aficionado.

On the other side of the campus music spectrum are the soft rockers – people who think the only type of guitar is acoustic, who generally shun barbers and their scissors in lieu of growing their hair out and tend to listen to stuff like “Dashboard Confessional.” You can probably find some of these sweet dudes parked on benches out on the quad, serenading females and strumming generic chords while crooning their latest batch of bad poetry.

Soft rockers also like slow ballads about being hopelessly in love and the unfathomable pain and unprecedented heartbreak of such phenomena as dating breakups and unreturned love. However, these soft, emotional types are mostly harmless and content to spend their time quietly strumming their guitars behind their desks.

By contrast, the angriest music fans are the rebel rockers. Shunting the corporate propaganda machine that is radio, they go off on underground jaunts decked out in trucker caps to find bands who haven’t “sold out” yet. Then they sneer at the rest of the world for falling victim to grandiose conspiracy theories involving airwave monopolies and subliminal brainwashing.

Many of the rebel rockers have concert t-shirts that proudly authenticate the fact that they were there and provide proof they were in fact fans before their bands got big. Even bands that were fresh and original often lose their luster over time – a common phrase you might hear from a rebel rocker would be, “their old stuff was better,” in reference to a band’s halcyon early days before they were tainted by success.

Unfortunately, herein lies the conundrum: if the masses were to convert to this path of pure, unadulterated fresh music – these novel bands would lose their novelty and become the very objects of their hatred. They too would be “sellouts” who have fallen victim to mainstream music making.

If everyone liked underground music, it wouldn’t be underground any more. So instead of sneering at the rest of society, perhaps these rebel rockers should thank the mainstreamers for not ruining their insurrection.

However, despite the many differences in musical taste, there is still some common ground to be found. For better or worse, it may very well be that drugs provide the missing link between music fans of all genres. For example, whether the guy hitting the hookah in front of you at the concert is chillin’ to DMB or illin’ to 50 Cent, the second-hand marijuana smoke you’re inhaling is the just the same.

Is it true that only the oldies are but goody? Is music like a fine wine, which has to age to a certain point before it can be savored? Perhaps all music fans can find some common ground in their joint liking for old-school hits, whether the classics you savor are Ace of Base, Sir Mix-a-Lot or Elton John. Regardless of the genre, everyone loves strolling down old memory lane with their headphones on.

Maybe music snobbery is just a permanent phenomenon. On second thought, scrap that Cumbaya thought. Maybe it’s just better that we all walk around as plugged-in podheads. After all, that’s why it’s called an iPod, not an ourPod.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Tae Andrews at tandrew1@nd.edu