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Musical taste [Jun. 14th, 2007|12:09 am]
I worry sometimes that if I ever learned much about music theory, I would discover that I have no taste.

Seriously, I have this kind of nagging fear that I'm just a sucker for a particular set of chord progressions and bass lines or something like that, and that I will like anything, anything at all, so long as it's in the right key and has the right rhythm and instrumentation to it.

This comes up whenever I find myself really enjoying pop music with enough hype orbiting it that I'm vaguely aware of buzz, even in my mass-media-deprived shell.

At the moment, I'm really enjoying My Chemical Romance. (Well, their three songs that are in chart rotation, which you can hear on their website, anyway. I don't actually have an album yet.)

If this means I'm falling for an overproduced marketing product with no actual talent... don't tell me. (Because, as I said, I can't actually tell the difference.) I guess I would rather remain blissfully ignorant and unsophisticated and continue to enjoy the music.

[User Picture]From: melted_snowball
2007-06-14 10:58 am (UTC)
As long as you don't turn into one of the mcrsecrets people, we're all good...
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[User Picture]From: rlegters
2007-06-14 01:28 pm (UTC)
OK - I'm kind of a music snob, but if you're enjoying the music, who cares if it's overproduced marketing product with no actual talent? They're making pop music, not auditioning for Julliard. If you like it, they've done their job. :-)
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[User Picture]From: quirkstreet
2007-06-14 01:32 pm (UTC)
I think personal taste is a really good thing. Just because people can disagree about it doesn't mean someone's wrong. I used to get flak for my musical taste; these days I often get strokes for it. My taste hasn't necessarily changed--I'm more familiar with a variety of things than I used to be, but I'm still applying the same standards of "what I like" and "what pleases me."

As for music theory--a LOT of pop music is based on a limited palette in terms of chord progressions and so on. There is still room for tremendous variation. If we picked apart some of My Chemical Romance's songs, I bet we'd find they have the same chord progressions and instrumentation as other songs that sound NOTHING like that. Music is fractal: permutations of simple rules can yield very complex results.

As for marketing: I've played on the bill with a lot of bands working territory similar to MCR. In general it's not my favorite thing, but there *are* noticeable differences between the bands who have a better knack for songwriting and performance and those that don't. The suck factor is that the very *best* band, musically, doesn't always get the industry push behind it. The saving grace is that the bands that do get turned into stars are usually at least second or third rate ... rather than fifth or tenth rate. And for all I know, MCR really could be the best of their ilk.

It's true that a lot of bands get sent into studios without their songs finished or their skills honed, and studio trickery rescues them ... but even then, all that means is that *someone* in the food chain had musical talent. Even if it was the producer. ;-) You can't rescue music at the touch of a button if you don't know *which* button you should be using.

In short: like what you like. If there are *other* kinds of music you enjoy, listen to those too. And if it's crap, and even YOU decide it's crap after a while, well, treat it like an internet crush on a hot guy who turns out not to be "all that" once you get to know him. You're not wrong to be attracted to pretty surfaces, even if you also wind up wanting depth.
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[User Picture]From: jofish22
2007-06-14 02:40 pm (UTC)
I think this is what you're talking about.

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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2007-06-14 03:24 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: nehrlich
2007-06-14 03:42 pm (UTC)
I love that Pachelbel rant.

I know a little bit about music theory, mostly by osmosis, and I think the thing that differentiates better written stuff is that I can listen to it a lot. Bad stuff is shallow, so I listen to it once or twice and I'm done - I've absorbed everything that they're doing because they're only using a couple chords and their lyrics aren't interesting.

Good stuff just keeps opening up - either the lyrics force me to listen again, or the music has unexpected depths, etc. I like counterpoint, for instance, so when a pop song splits into even two different layered lines, I really like that. I was playing the Fall Out Boy song "Sugar We're Going Down" for a friend recently and pointed out the 5 seconds of counterpoint that made me so happy.

But, yeah, what other people said. If you like it, listen to it. Avril Lavigne 4-evah!
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[User Picture]From: melted_snowball
2007-06-14 04:04 pm (UTC)
I keep being surprised (apropos of other CanCon) by the discovery that Alanis Morisette's Jagged Little Pill actually hasn't aged all that badly.
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[User Picture]From: 0nce_and_future
2007-06-14 08:47 pm (UTC)
From what I've heard of MCR (probably the same few songs) they seem to be 70's glam with 00's production and tonal aesthetics. There's definitly a Queen-esque type of micro-drama involved with their songs.

It's pop (broadly speaking) but pretty good as such.
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[User Picture]From: 0nce_and_future
2007-06-14 11:59 pm (UTC)
I'll also say that learning a little about music almost never means you end up liking less things - at worst your tastes shift, but almost never get smaller in scope.
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