Thanks to Duck and Ricky for their ranting in the kitchen, which formed the basis of this post.
Everyone thinks they have great taste in music. This is clearly nonsense, unless you can think of a better explanation for the continuing success of N-Dubz. Of late – particularly since Mary and I started making the Shady Ladies podcasts – I’ve been pondering what makes one song “cooler” than another.
A lot of my friends are really into music. Not in the way that one of my mates once declared she was really into music because she owned more than one album by The Lighthouse Family, but in the having-a-whole-room-of-records-and-more-in-the-attic kind of way. Of course my friends are cool – they wouldn’t be my friends if they weren’t, obviously – but there is definitely an arbitrary scale of coolness in music, which I struggle to calibrate myself against.
My taste in music is undeniably eclectic, ranging from Tallis to Toumani Diabate, but it’s not very “cool”. For example, I have an undying love for cheesy pop like Baby by Justin Bieber, but I struggle with “cool” arty bands I “ought” to like, such as Sonic Youth. Maybe it’s the Girl Guide in me – careful with that screwdriver, you’ll have someone’s eye out! – but it just sounds like noise to me. Maybe I just don’t take enough drugs….
Is coolness merely in the eye (or rather ear) of the beholder? The ultimate arbiters of coolness seem to be music critics, but surely they can’t be a reliable judge – critics are desperate neophiles, who’ve listened to pretty much everything worth putting an ear to, and consider anything to be old hat unless it sounds like someone playing a dog with a pneumatic drill and a coathanger.
This is especially true of the male ones who (according to Duck, anyway) seem to be perpetually engaged in a metaphorical pissing contest, to see who can pee highest over the emperor’s new clothes. I can only assume that the aim is to project the attitude that “I’m so cool I like music you don’t even understand.” Although that’s only a short hop from the ironic (and wonderful) T-shirt slogan “I listen to bands that don’t exist yet”.
Anyway – you tell me. What do you define as “cool” music? Can I ever learn to truly love Sonic Youth? Or do I just need to take more drugs?