In Defense of the Mainstream

I’m not particularly musical. I like music, especially if “it’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it”, but I’m not musically gifted. I can’t read music, can’t play music, and I can’t hold a tune to save my life. As far as what I listen to, my taste is…varied, to say the least. I listen to anything from Frank Sinatra to Metallica, Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G. to Bob Marley and Jack Johnson. I even like a little country music. Very little. Like just the Dixie Chicks. But, country all the same.

I was raised on The Beatles, Clapton, Hendrix, Dylan, Crosby Stills and Nash, Led Zepplin, the Stones, The Police, Billy Joel, Elton John, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, The Tempations, and The Jackson Five. I remember the cover of Big Brother and the Holding Company’s ‘Cheap Thrills‘ LP vividly (It was vaguely suggestive and an eensy bit graphic for my 7 year old mind. I thought it was porn.). I recall my mother having Ricki Lee Jones’ ‘Chuck Es’ in Love‘ and ‘Danny’s All-Star Joint’ on repeat, singing along over and over again while she cleaned or did laundry. My dad would blast Cream’s ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ in his Subaru Brat to help wake him up on the way to McMichael’s Creek on the first day of trout season. I’d sing along to the chorus.

I grew up listening to Top 40 radio and watching MTV in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, and Bon Jovi were the soundtrack of my adolesence. I fawned over New Kids on the Block for the better part of three or four years. I was one of the first white girls (well, semi-white) in my rural school district to watch Yo! MTV Raps. I loved Bell Biv DeVoe, MC Hammer, Young MC, TLC, Queen Latifah and MC Lyte. I was obsessed with Janet Jackson, to the point where I did that stupid teenage thing where you watch an artist’s videos over and over to learn the dance movies. I found an urban radio station in Philly and listened to them all the time. Drove my parents crazy.

When Nirvana broke out, I was a senior in high school, still deep in the throes of my hip hop and dance/club music obsession. I had doorknocker earrings, and wore baggy pants with black lace up patent leather shoes. I could do the Running Man, the Roger Rabbit, and the Kid N’ Play like nobody’s business. Word to yo’ mutha. Many of the ‘cool kids’ in my class were big into a pseudo-retro-70’s music thing at this point – they would smoke weed, dig up their parents’ old Grateful Dead and Steve Miller Band albums and play them at parties. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I knew all the words to ‘The Joker’ in sixth grade, when they were still whacking it to Samantha Fox.

After high school, my tastes grew more and more varied. I was introduced to Bob Marley (no weed necessary), joined the Hootie and the Blowfish/Dave Matthews bandwagon, and ultimately fell head over heels for the Gallagher brothers. From then on it was more of the same, listening mainly to Top 40, some mainstream hard rock (Foo Fighters, Breaking Benjamin, Audioslave, and yes, God help me, even some Nickelback), and popular hip hop, with a healthy dose of classic rock and motown mixed it. The past few years I’ve listened to less and less ‘popular’ music, straying away from Top 40 radio and just sticking with artists I like. Along the way I’ve gained new appreciation for Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, and recently have discovered a love of musicals and showtunes.

If you couldn’t already tell, my music taste is pretty mainstream – I’m definitely not a music snob, and I make no excuses for it. I only know one Radiohead song. I have no idea who Wilco is. I don’t ‘get’ Tom Waits. I could not name one indie music lable to save my life. And I make no excuses for it. Sure, I’ve discovered new artists here and there that I’ve really enjoyed (most recently, the excellent she&him featuring Zooey Deschanel), but for the most part I stick with what I know. I’ll never be labelled a ‘hipster’ by any means, but I think I’m alright with that.

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