popularity contest

i was listening to the Power Trip Morning Show on my way into work yesterday, as i am wont to do. they were discussing music, particularly the popularity of genres like rap / hip-hop and country. chris hawkey– a person who i typically agree with– asserted that country music is by definition \”good\” because of the high number of albums sold.

fast-forward to this morning, and i\’m reading a review of last night\’s bon jovi concert by jon bream– a person who i typically disagree with. his take was that the show was good, but the article was littered with sentiment embodied by the following:

The couple next to me pretty much summed it up: He liked the Boss and she didn\’t, but she loved Bon Jovi and he dug it, too. \”Anybody could walk in and enjoy this,\” he said, \”but I don\’t think anybody could just walk in and enjoy Springsteen.\”

bream is basically saying the exact opposite of hawkey: because it\’s popular, it *isn\’t* good. or at least as good as springsteen who– apparently– just has a cult following.

i\’ve decided that both of these stances bother me, although bream\’s is more annoying in that it\’s pretentious. bon jovi is more accepted by the masses because it\’s simpler; those with more discerning tastes can \”appreciate\” higher forms of musical entertainment like springsteen. (apparently bream hasn\’t heard \”darlington county\” in a couple of decades.)

here\’s the thing. the only thing that makes a band, a song, a book, a painting good is if i like it. just because stephen king is wildly popular doesn\’t make him good, or bad; just because only people with a deep knowledge of the local music scene like a band like the rank strangers doesn\’t make them good or bad. you\’re not smarter if you prefer king to steinbeck; you\’re not dumber if you prefer sarah mclachlan to rank. you just like what you like, and how your favorites are perceived (or ignored) by the masses does not matter.

or at least it shouldn\’t.

(author\’s note: i may have stolen 95% of this from a chuck klosterman article. however, i\’ve loaned that book out and can\’t confirm right now. so– just roll with it.) 🙂







4 responses to “popularity contest”

  1. Brian Scott Avatar

    I’m going to disagree. In the same way that the Turtle Bread Company (a deli in S Mpls) is better than McDonald’s, so is Steinbeck better than James Patterson. The quality is simply better, there is no debate. This doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a Big Mac now and then, but when I do so, I don’t kid myself, I’m eating shit.

    Another example, I watched the Transformers this past summer with some friends and I enjoyed it a great deal. But I knew I was watching crap. And when I watched Juno later this fall, it was better. Objectively better – a higher quality of movie.

    It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the crap – even without any self aware hipster irony – it just means it remains enjoyable crap and never anything more. Other things are more profound, more moving, more real, more… well, just a lot better all around.

  2. anderswa Avatar

    not that i don’t see your point, but– aren’t you assuming that everyone does (if not should) have the same value judgment as you?

  3. Brian Scott Avatar

    Well… no. I’m saying that there is something objectively better about the food at Turtle Bread compared to McDonald’s. It is of a higher quality. Just in terms of craftsmanship and attention to detail, it’s better.

    I guess I’m arguing for tiers. There are some items of entertainment that are simply on a higher tier of quality than others. Steinbeck is of a higher quality than Jackie Collins, just by judging the craftsmanship of it.

    I will grant you this. As I’ve been thinking about it, music doesn’t work well in this. Since a lot of music is pure emotion, much of it stripped of craft intentionally, it is hard to make reasonable comparisons. But in movies and books (and food) there is a craft involved which means, I think, you can objectively compare and say, ‘this one is better’.

  4. wadE Avatar

    I think the issue is if we can all agree on “societal norms”… I doubt we can… hence I agree with Wade

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *