My Musical Promiscuity

by Nick Smith in


I will open with a plug for a blog post from some friends of mine that has gained some notoriety lately, and is quite relevant to the topic of this post.  Eddie and Meghan posted a very incisive review of the new video by Lady Gaga & Beyonce for "Telephone."  You can read it here: http://onlywordstoplaywith.blogspot.com/2010/03/lady-gagas-telephone-observations-and.html.  Lady Gaga herself has posted it to her Facebook and Twitter pages, and the comments section is rife with debate.  I have only watched the video once and have not really delved into the thinking much yet, but it is incredibly interesting. Recently, I have been timidly dipping my toes into the waters of Lady Gaga.  I have come away intrigued.  On the surface, it is the same dance-pop that has been spit at us for the last 2 or 3 years.  Digging a little deeper, you find a provocative examination of popular culture.  Anyway, I have not explored enough to give an adequate description.  I like it, and hope to explore it further.

But this exploration is a manifestation of something that has happened to me over the last few years.  I got off my musical high horse.  I opened my arms and made attempts to embrace or at least tolerate every kind of music.  Every genre has everything to offer.  At this point, I'd rather talk music with someone who blindly guzzles down Top 40 music than someone who likes "Everything buy Country" or "Everything but Country and Rap" or some incredibly closed-minded philosophy like that.

Every once in a while now, I just listen to the radio in the car.  Country station, top 40 station, modern rock station, I don't care.  I just try to enjoy whatever I'm listening to rather than try to find fault with it.  I have become a total music slut.  And I love it.

The only trouble is that keeping up with modern popular music is EXHAUSTING.  I just don't have the time to do it alongside whatever I'm listening to because I love it (right now that would obviously be the Mountain Goats).  Last night I was hanging out with some people much more plugged into pop music than I and we were listening to Black-Eyed Peas.  They were loving it and dancing and singing along, but all I could do was just sort of bob my head because I wasn't familiar with it at all.  The music was good and interesting, but I felt like I was missing out on something.  I have been in self-exile from pop for so long that I just don't have the tools to manage it anymore.

But there is quite a bit of music that does not really fall under the banner of my kind of music that I nevertheless love.  Some people would call this guilty pleasure, but I refuse to feel guilty or try to hide it.  That's why I'm going to list a whole bunch of it right here.

Sarah McLachlan is a goddess.  Her voice is as smooth as Samuel L. Jackson.  "Angel" cracks my top 5 of most beautiful recordings of just one person and their instrument(s) (probably at #3 behind Israel Kamakawiwo Ole's "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and Dylan's "Don't Think Twice It's Alright").

Say what you will about Britney Spears, but "Toxic" is an INCREDIBLE song.  Probably one of the best pop songs of the just-ended decade, if not the best.  It is downright infections.  Whenever I hear it, it's not just stuck in my head, it digs itself into my spine.

I can't think of a human being who has embodied cool more than Snoop Doggy Dogg has over the last 20 years.  I am a huge fan of his early 90's Death Row output, especially Dre's The Chronic and Snoop's own Doggystyle.  Most rappers try to get your attention by being in your face and pulling out a tough-guy voice and spitting rhymes at you.  Snoop is not like that.  Every line comes out with a chillness and rhythm that make me want more.

When it comes to dance-pop, I implore you to go listen to LMFAO.  They are all about big synths and huge grooves.  And Red Bull vodkas, but that's not the point.  Redfoo and SkyBlue put together a great debut album in last year's Party Rock, and I look forward to hearing more from them.

Another one for the "guilty pleasure" column is Dave Matthews Band.  I HATE DMB fans with a vicious severity that I do exercise all willy-nilly.  I will never go to another one of their concerts again.  But those first two albums are WAY too good to deny.  Under The Table And Dreaming and Crash are two excellent albums from the 90's.  It's a shame such a terrible scene had to spring up around such a talented band.

Anything that was on Top 40 radio in the 1993-1996 area.  That was the period of time where I was too young do have built up barriers that made me hate pop.  Boyz II Men's II was the first CD I ever owned.  Mariah Carey, All 4 One, Ace of Base, TLC and all of the things I'm forgetting are just too firmly entrenched in my nostalgia to dislike.  It's like denying 90's Nickelodeon.  Just way too huge a part of my childhood to simply cast aside.

Hope I didn't lose too many friends there, but I really think all of that music is great.  If you can't handle it, I recommend not being such a musical curmudgeon.  Feel free to share your guilty pleasures with me and the world.  And don't feel guilty.  You like stuff for a reason.  If other people judge you for it, they're the asshole, not you.   And thinking about it now, I'm gonna have to write another post sometime another related guilty pleasure area for me, sappy music and television.  Brace yourselves for that sometime in the next 3 days-10 years.

Yours through the fires, Nick

And shocked and persuaded my soul to ignite