I like music that makes me think. This can come in two forms: it can be stylistically complex or the lyrics can tell me a story. For this reason, I have an aversion to overtly simplistic pop music. However, sometimes, it is simply a small sound or technique within a song that causes me to hate it.
- Such is the case with Lana del Rey. At face value, I would expect to love her music. The beats and instruments are interesting and keep my attention, but her voice immediately turns me off. Someone once described her to me as pop alternative opera, but her voice sounds entirely average to me. Sometimes, she chooses to make it raspy or to over-enunciate consonants. Each song as a whole strikes me as mediocre, and these bad stylistic choices, sometimes just a few bars, make me wince. Listening to her music feels like an incredible waste of time.
- Due to a lovely phenomenon known as music streaming, I rarely listen to radio, but when I do, I can’t seem to escape “All About That Bass”. I understand why it’s constantly playing on the Top 40. It’s a standard issue pop song: it follows a I, ii, IV, V chord progression, has an outwardly affirming message, and a catchy melody. At first, I hated the predictability of the song. If I can foresee the melody before I’ve even heard the song once, it’s a waste of my time. Music should stimulate thought, and listening to it should not be a passive experience. I identified with the body positive message, but didn’t think it excused the song’s mediocrity. I quickly learned that this was not a popular opinion to express among other girls my age. My friends love its message, as does, apparently, the rest of America. But I disagree. This song is not a feminist song. It still revolves around attracting men, and the lyrics shame “skinny bitches”. We’re used to a music culture that puts skinny people on a pedestal. “All About That Bass” made waves because it celebrates the opposite, and Trainor is hailed as a role model for young girls because of it. What people don’t realize is that she—like many other female pop stars—is famous because of her body. It may not be because she’s model-thin, but her popularity can still be attributed to selling her curves.
- It seems nearly impossible to find a good female role model in popular music. My ideal would be a modern day Nina Simone. Instead, her ingenious songs are re-recorded by pretty boys like Michael Bublé. I have never wanted to murder someone quite so much as I did when I heard his overly stylized voice bastardizing “I’m Feeling Good”. Granted, Bublé’s voice has always, to me, sounded as fake as a badly affected accent. While Simone displays power as the horn section enters, Bublé’s voice sounds false. He doesn’t convey the song’s message as well as Simone does. The popularity of his version makes me sad, but doesn’t surprise me. He’s attractive, someone pretty for girls to have crushes on.
- If there is any genre of music that irritates me as much as badly executed covers do, it would be contemporary country. The exceptions typically tread into other genres. Sometimes, though, that strategy ends very badly. For instance, when I first heard Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down” on the radio, I immediately changed the channel. The beat borrows from hip-hop, and had heightened my expectations. Then, with all the subtlety of a fire truck, Aldean proceeded to wedge his voice into the song. The vocal style fit into the beat like Mitt Romney at a reggae concert. The song could have had potential to win over people like me who don’t listen to country, but ended up a badly executed crossover.
- The music I do listen to includes classic rock. When I’m listening to old rock and roll, I don’t expect it to sound like children’s music. This means that I am excessively annoyed when “I’ve Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher comes on Pandora. The repetitive melody and chorus make me want to throw up. Cher’s waxy alto triggers my gag reflex. The overly used chimes are the cherry on top of the shit sundae. But I suppose if it has stayed on the radio this long, I must resign myself to hearing it indefinitely into the future.
That seems to be the case with a lot of songs that I dislike. I realize that my tastes differ greatly from many music listeners. In the case of pop music that I dislike, I wonder if it is because I listen more actively than the target audience for that music. Other times it is simply an aspect of the sound itself: Lana del Rey’s vocal decisions, the instrumentation in “I’ve Got You Babe”. Sometimes I dislike a song because of its message. Whatever the cause, I always run into people who disagree.