An Open Letter to a Friend and the World
Dear friend and internet,
I write this article today in hopes that I might enlighten some of you on the subject of music elitism. You see, a few days ago I had an argument with a friend of mine; which degenerated rather quickly.
It all started when this friend of mine sent me a link to a Youtube video. I thought it was magnificent, whimsical, and hilariously well done. Until I pondered onto a small thought. It started off as a small joke but quickly degenerated into a one sided debate. Here were the exact words that sparked the dispute:
“You say you don’t like rap, hip hop, or pop, but you love Team Headkick. I don’t get it. XD”
I must’ve had a death wish that day as I knew his explosively defensive tendencies for his one-sided opinions.
My friend has always been like this really. And we have always disagreed greatly on music. He argues that genres like rap, hip-hop, and pop lack inspiration, hard work, determination, or true meaning, and that they are merely ways for the “music industry” to extort money out of those who lack “musical taste”. While artists like Team Headkick, Psy, and LMFAO know their place, and don’t make music to be soul driving artists, but just to have some fun.
Do you see what’s wrong with this? Yeah. So do I.
Despite the obvious bias (and lame excuse to mask it), I’m angry at his view on the definition of music, and his lack of understanding for the art I’ve come to love so much. Music isn’t defined by the amount of work that went into it, the complexity of the hidden meaning behind the song (whether it even has one), or the genre it depicts. It isn’t some technical science with an absolute method to creating a song. In its simplest definition, music is simply a form of art and entertainment comprised of tonal and or temporal patterns. It doesn’t need to have meaning, it doesn’t need to have lyrics, and it doesn’t even need to have real instruments.
One argument he often brings up is that rap doesn’t really have tonality. They are just talking into a microphone. It doesn’t have any real melody or harmony, and therefore must require no work to make (Despite the fact he knows nearly nothing of musical composition as he can’t even compose a single note let alone read tabs properly). It’s just rhythm, that’s all.
Well, let me ask you this then. Why is tribal music loved so much?
Those syncopated, free time, drum rhythms from the heart of tribes in Africa and South America. It often doesn’t have any melodic or harmonic tonality, and arguably has even less structure than a rap song, often being in free time and completely improvised. Yet by (my friend’s) definition it is exactly the same as rap. Just rhythm, that’s all.
So it musn’t be music correct?
Let’s take a step back. Most of us know why people dislike rap. It isn’t the music, but the stereotypes, that they dislike. The “gangsta” scene. The drug abusive, misogynist, hateful music that most associate with rap today. Look, by no stretch am I guarding this style of music, but someone who wasn’t narrow minded would realize that this isn’t all the rap out there. There is plenty of good rap out there I’m sure one could learn to love. And this goes for every genre. Rap, hip hop, pop, techno, rock, metal. There is music of every style that someone is going to deem good or bad. This doesn’t mean that any of them are any less musical than the other; it’s all a matter of personal taste. And anyone who thinks otherwise is a music elitist.
Despite the hate that mainstream rap gets, there are some who swear by it, so who’s to say it isn’t music and belittle the very people that live by this style of music? I don’t like it, and I used to talk shit about it too. But until I started making my own music did I realize that great music can be achieved with any style of instrumentation or vocalization. Including rap.
Simply put, music cannot be defined just by tonality. There is plenty of music that relies heavily and exclusively on rhythm and structured temporal patterns.
On to the next topic that bothers me.
My friend claims that real music must be made with heart, and have true meaning inscribed in it. And that real musicians play instruments. This is the reason why he loves folk metal, because the bands portray true pagan meaning and dedication into their music.
This makes me puke.
Music doesn’t need any type of reason to be music. Like I just finished saying, it need only tonal and or temporal patterns to be music. Bands don’t need any absolute reason to make music other than wanting to. Music doesn’t need to have meaningful or deep lyrics. It doesn’t even need lyrics at all. My friend knows this for sure as he loves classical music. And it definitely doesn’t need to have real instruments to be considered musical or having “real musicianship”.
But why do people think like this? My friend brought up that “Even the greatest musicians of all time would agree with him”. That they too think that the genre’s mentioned here today are crap and ruin the face of what is music.
So basically he thinks an arbitrary bunch of musicians have the word of God and can decide what is music or not.
This also makes me puke.
Why in the world are those artists any better than any other artist? They work hard like any other artist (despite what you think of the work that goes into other genres is), and made it to the top because they used the music industry to make lots of money. That’s the only reason they are considered “great”. The same reason Tupac or Justin Bieber is considered great. They aren’t any better at music than anyone else. I can compose a song just as simple and catchy as KISS, Alice Cooper, Manowar, or any other band my friend so specifically mentioned. So why are they better than me?
It’s simple. They aren’t. They just appear to be better and “on top” because the label they’re part of advertised them pretty damn well. They share the same elitist views that many others do and will drag in these kinds of people to their music. People will believe without a doubt that their opinions must be fact because “they made it to the top” so they must know all there is to know about music. This is so absurd it makes me cringe. To belittle the work that people poor into their music. It doesn’t take a great or popular musician to make great music.
Look. Nick. In the end, I’m not asking you to change your musical tastes. You don’t have to like rap, death metal, pop or any other genre. But at least learn to respect different musical styles and genres instead of bashing on them based on some arrogant, opinionated views you got from some brainwashing elitist dickbag of an artist. Learn to understand and constructively criticize them, and maybe then you might start to understand what music truly is. You might even discover music you thought you hated to be really great. I discovered this. So why can’t you?
You know what makes me a musician Nick? And not you? I can listen to and make music without bias. Never once have I ever thought of not using a particular music style or method because of the stereotypes behind it. I will always consider everything and anything to make music. Whether that be rock with rap vocals, metal with techno synths, or classical with pop structure.
To sum up. Music doesn’t need meaning. It doesn’t need absolute purpose other than to please the ears. It doesn’t need to have lyrics or be played by real musicians. It doesn’t require real instruments or melody and harmony. It doesn’t have to follow any arbitrary style or genre. Music can come in any shape or form, be it band music, movie music, videogame music, parody music, independent music without a real purpose. It’s all music just the same. And it doesn’t need the hate and elitism you associate it with. So please open your eyes to a wonderful world of art and music that is out there (Maybe you’ll discover that metal is actually NOT dying if you discovered some of the newer metal bands out there instead of listening to the same old).
Stop being a fucking elitist prick you fucking stubborn mule.