By Sophie Patterson
Music inevitably comes with an image. When you buy a song, you buy into a trend, a lifestyle, even an ideology. But when do we like music for its accompanying badge of cool, and when for itself? Or are the two inseparable?
Liberation is often the driving force behind exciting new music – whether it’s from repressive moral codes, regional stereotypes or political oppression.
The frenetic, vibrating jazz of the 1920’s was a deliberate rejection of pre-war traditional ideals and for a generation that symbolised a new, liberated age. Kerouac’s beat generation travellers found ecstatic immersion in feverish bebop thirty years later.
The haze of marijuana and eastern spiritualism surrounding late 60s pop rock spelled freedom for a developing teen culture. Factory Records rose to fame while protesting Thatcherist excess in the South East and the industrial decline of the North in the 80s. Even Lady Gaga unashamedly embodies Generation X’s preoccupation with image, media and sex.
All of this is Very Important. But sometimes, we find ourselves less able to align our music tastes with our life choices and views. We find ourselves reserving certain playlists for ourselves and covering up our most treasured albums. We buy into the trends but secretly cherish the obscure and old fashioned, or we reject the favourite mainstream beats for a more difficult scene that comes with an indie badge of honour. Either way, we hide and excuse the music that just doesn’t seem to fit with our image.
People, we must nurture our Guilty Pleasures.
I might jump on the bandwagon of N Dubz and Tynchy Stryder (and any other chart-throb who sounds like a dubious brand of itching cream), when all I really feel like is Jethro Tull-ish folk. Paulo Nutini is more socially acceptable at a dinner party than accordion music. Or S Club 7, for that matter.
But I propose a new idea: we abandon the self-mocking eye roll, the apologetic shrug, the shamefaced bliss, and the sheepish disclaimer. Old music that is now derided has once meant something – and probably will mean something again when it is regurgitated and recycled. Almost every song, group and genre has captured some small shard of the zeitgeist. Besides, if you like something, you just like it.
So don’t imbue every assertion with irony. (Note: irony does not make it better. That includes the moustache you’re growing.) Dance to cheesy 80s power ballads, maintain that the Black Eyes Peas have some sort of artistic merit, know every word JLS spout and indulge your love of weird Lithuanian singing. Pleasures should not be guilty – they should just be pleasures.