Friday, July 16, 2010

An Open Apology to Phoenix

Dear Phoenix,

I’m sorry. I thought you were a derivative, super-lame version of Minus the Bear or something. My knowledge of your song catalogue extended as far as that commercial for Lexus-brand automobiles. But then I heard you perform live on NPR’s Sound Opinions and I was a convert. I don’t know why I resisted you for so long. Maybe it was your (now admittedly deserved) explosion in popularity. Or maybe it was the way you sang your songs or the production, I don’t know. Regardless, I didn’t appreciate how effortless you make these pop gems sound. I have seen the error of my ways; and I’m sorry. Can we be friends?


Ignorant Fan Guy

Now, the above is something I would write to Phoenix if I were the type of person to actually write letters to bands. Fortunately for them, I prefer instead to post about my feelings on the internet. But that letter could have been written by anyone, just replace the key pro-nouns and adjectives and you would have a fairly accurate representation of what I call repentant band bias. For one reason or another, people resist liking bands or certain types of music. These reasons can be as simple as “Band-X is too popular” or as complex as “I don’t listen to that type of music because it postulates a lifestyle that I don’t necessarily identify with”. The range of these reasons are all rooted in the same trait: stubborn immutability. An idea is planted, and then, over time, it becomes so firmly entrenched that it is difficult to change; opinions even more so. And while this is certainly the explanation for not just music bias, but most biases in general, it would be outside the scope of this post to address those larger, societal issues. Regardless, as one who devotes an inordinate amount of time to music appreciation, it is striking to take a step back and realize one’s own biases. The intrinsic problem with being a critic is that the entire practice is based upon a culture of biases. It is the reason we can justify our tastes, our ideas, and our critiques. I didn’t like Phoenix because they were too popular and they had a male lead singer. Thus, it was the embarrassment of saying “Wow, these guys are really good,” and having everyone I know respond “We know, we knew a year ago,” to make me rethink my own approach to music. It wasn’t until I heard them play live did I realize the error of my ways. My biases had blinded me from truly hearing the amazing pop gems that Phoenix produces. They had served me well in the past but maybe they were too stringent. I had fashioned myself as the pastor at the pulpit only to realize that I was as guilty as any of the sinners I had been preaching to. Thus, it is with a stern warning that I must end this post: though biases are important in filtering out the junk, sometimes it would behoove the intelligent listener to relax their standards in order to experience a wider range of (occasionally) brilliant music.

No comments:

Post a Comment