Yesterday, I found a rare jewel on the Wal-Mart discount CD shelf. I grabbed it, amazed at the sheer luck of my find, and went to work on cracking the impossible cellophane wrapping as soon as I reached the parking lot. I know of only one other person that would’ve shared my excitement, or even considered spending $9.98 on country singer Don Williams’ greatest hits – my dad – and I certainly can’t think of anyone my age.
I’ve always dreaded the popular conversation starter, “What type of music do you like?” Inevitably, my vague “Oh, lots of different kinds,” will draw dissatisfied stares and, if I’m not written off immediately as someone with no music taste, they usually reach that conclusion after more specific questions and evasive answers about favorite artists or bands.
It’s not that I don’t understand and appreciate the objective differences between most “good music” and “bad music.” I just don’t let those labels interfere with my personal likes and dislikes. So when it comes to the question of what music I like, I have yet to find a way to explain – let alone defend – my tastes.
At its base, my rating system isn’t complicated: It’s founded almost entirely on the event association or feelings that a particular song or band evokes. For example, I fully realize that Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” is a truly horrid song. But if I come across it on the radio I’m always hooked, nodding along as I remember my best friend and I dancing around her basement bedroom and screaming the lyrics into hairbrushes. “I Like to Move It, Move It” makes me think of my teenage sister and the flailing dance parties I forced her to participate in during the ending credits of any movie.
Green Day’s “Brain Stew” sends me into a fit of giggles as I remember one of my best friends and his band playing it at our junior high talent show, only to lose to the Bumblebee Dancers, a tap dancing trio clad in yellow and black. Dave Matthew’s and Tim Reynold’s version of “Stream” – undoubtedly one of my “good music” choices – makes me think of the same friend in college, and us sitting for hours in a dingy bar before he won a guitar competition playing that song on bass. Weezer sends me to the freshman year of high school, cruising town with my friend, and only parent-approved teenage driver. Likewise “I Believe In a Thing Called Love” is reminiscent of car rides with screaming 18-year-old guys during our freshman year of college. Kris Cross’s “Jump” is my friend Arik and all the people he surprises when he nails every word of that rap at karaoke.
And Don Williams, well he’s family car trips when I was younger; the only cassette – yes, cassette – two parents and three kids could inexplicably agree upon. Around age 10, I insisted his “It Must Be Love” (here’s an Alan Jackson cover because I couldn’t find the original) would play at my wedding. After listening to it yesterday, I imagine it probably still will. I just hope no one asks why I like it.
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