Music… it’s always been one of those unifying arts. The collection of chords and rhythm combined with lyrical accompaniment has been a catalyst for documenting and remembering very specific moments from my life. There are songs we use to rejoice and celebrate events and lives, gone, present and on their way.

There are songs that rejuvenate us using beats and chorus that instills in us an uncontrollable desire to move both emotionally and physically. Sometimes it’s a subtle as smiling as we tap of our toes and bob of our heads. Other times we let the power of the song flow thorough us and we stomp our feet and raise our hands above our heads in joy and adulation, while we sing out loud. Then there are songs that, well, let’s just say that there are entire city populations that owe their existence to three people, their mother, their father, and Barry White.

Music also instills in us very powerful and protective emotional reactions from their listeners. Think I’m kidding? Just try telling a Skynyrd fan that Skynyrd sucks and… I’m not sure you’ll get to the “and” part, before a beer bottle is used as an implement for getting you to shut up. Likewise, try telling a Lil… (some random rap artist) fan, sorry I don’t listen to rap so I’m not sure what artist in that genre has the more avid “most likely to attack you for bad mouthing them” fans. My rap education stopped around Run DMC’s team up with Aerosmith, and the Beastie Boys License to Ill album.

Then again, if you tell a Depeche Mode fan that their music sucks, they’ll most just avoid making eye contact with you and hope that you just go away. But once you do leave you can be assured that they are going to bad mouth you with each other and probably say a few profanities about your mother.

Then there is the same genre clash, questions like the Stones or the Beatles, Frank or Dino, Bell Biv Devoe or New Edition, or Joel or Mike. It’s something I think we all do. A sort or personal preference in genres that to the outside listener might not make a lot of sense, but to you personally, there is a line! The big one for me was the grunge movement that lasted about three weeks back in the early 90s. It was always Nirvana or Pearl Jam. I’m not sure why, but I could not stand Nirvana… I still can’t. I was always a fan of Pearl Jam, but Nirvana… it was the difference between using sandpaper or Kleenex to blow your nose.

Still, there are two things I’ve noticed over the years in regards to my attachment to music. First is the evolution in my musical listening repertoire. It altered immensely over the years. Song I swore I’d listen to all my life and want played at my funeral are now songs I can go the rest of my life without ever hearing again. Music I hated in my youth now has a place in my listening palate. Then there is some music that falls under the same category as fingernails on a chalkboard, dentists’ drills hitting an open nerve, or ally cats copulating at 3 AM outside your window.

The other thing is that my affinity and intense musical appreciation as been greatly reduced over the years. I know that the music industry is taking a huge bite due out of their profits due to piracy, but it’s kind of a double edged sword. I know that there are many people are leeching the creator’s talent, and that sucks. I do feel that if you love a song or an artist you really should pay them for the aspects of their creation that truly moves you. That is the brilliance of this whole electronic musical era. You can check out the entire album and then purchase only songs on the album that are worth a damn.

I think music piracy began as a result of years of fans being crapped on by the music industry in regards of quality vs. quantity of musical reward. Here’s what I mean. Remember back in the day when you would hear a song on the radio and become smitten by some catchy tune. The song was so brilliant that the only natural next step and option was to purchase the artists entire CD. Sure you could listen to the radio for hours so at a moment’s notice you record the song off the radio, but the damn DJs always talked through the beginning of the song…EVERY TIME! This is the key reason radio DJs are some of the most hated people on the planet.

A CD was your only option at getting an unviolated copy of the song. The problem was there was never a listen before you buy option. These CDs were always locked down. All you got was a sticker on the cover advertising that they performed the “Smash hit…” you were after, and a price tag letting you know the album would cost you about $15 to $20. I think the sale price was usually $13 to $15.

As you drove home you’d listen to the song that inspired the initial purchase over and over again. Then once you finally got home, you’d go to your room and:

  1. Place that “Do Not Disturb” door sign that you took from the hotel you stayed at while on vacation the summer before.
  2. Close the door.
  3. Place the new CD into your player.
  4. Have a moment of silence asking the music gods to bless your CD so that it would be the Holy Grail of all musical purchases you had ever made up to that point.
  5. And then press play so that you could properly take in the majestic brilliance that was your new musical purchase.

Things usually broke down like this (let’s say the CD had only 12 tracks)…
Track 1 – Listened to for 30 seconds… “Eh, it’s ok, but not really as good as track 3 (the reason for the purchase).”
Track 2 – Listened to for 25 seconds… “At least tract 3 is next.”
Track 3 – Listened to for the whole song… “Ahhhhh. That’s the stuff. I love this song.”
Track 4 – Listened to for 30 seconds…“Hmmm.”
Track 5 – Listened to for 25 seconds…“Still, track 3 is really good.”
Track 6 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to for 10 more seconds… “Lame”
Track 7 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to for 5 more seconds… “Sucks.”
Track 8 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to for 2 more seconds… “I should have just purchased the damn single.”
Track 9 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to rest of the song… “Eh, maybe… that might take a few more listens to get a proper feel for it.”
Track 10 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to for 5 more seconds… “Are they really this consistently worthless?”
Track 11 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to for 2 more seconds… “It would appear so.”
Track 12 – Listened to for 10 seconds, skipped forward one minute, and listened to for 2 more seconds… “$15 for only one damn song… worthless one hit wonders!”

Then, to feel better you would go back to track 3 and listen to it about 12 more times and then leave my room in a better mood, but still with a lingering hint of disappointed. Sure there were albums that were the opposite of this, 10 songs you loved vs. the 2 songs that sucked, but those were the exception and were a very rare occurrence at that. In my experience, for every ten CDs I bought, 7 to 8 of them were $15 singles that had 40 minutes of inexcusable musical vomit professionally referred to as filler tracks. One or 2 enjoyable songs, and then there was the one in ten that gave you the 3 or above ratio of songs worth listening to.

On a plus note, this corporate musical CD release practice of paying $15 for only one enjoyable song is responsible for a great deal of my profanity practice growing up. Again, I don’t feel bad for the corporations in, but I do feel bad for the artists. It was the artists that came before them that made all of those one good song CDs that ruined it for the musicians of today. It’s a kind of musical karma I think. If you give that much musical rubbish to the world, it’s going to come back and bite you where it hurts the most… and for the corporations it’s their wallet.

Just remember, if you pirate a CD, at least remember to go online and purchase the song that motivated you to rip the CD in the first place. Rarely is an entire album with the entire purchase, if a song give you joy, tip the artist a dollar as of way of saying thank you.

Any thoughts on today’s Smirk?

Image Sources:
Google Images, key words: music, plug ears, cd shop, and tip jar.