Sunday, May 15, 2011

Grey Music

The world is grey. Or gray, if that’s your preference. But it’s not black and white. Or, it’s rarely black and white. The portions of the world which are either black or white pale in comparison to the portion grey.

You could argue that seeing things in grey is a sign of being jaded or compromising, and in some cases it is. I really can’t make any definitive statements here when my point is that almost nothing is definitive. But more often than being a sign of a loss of clarity, I think seeing that things are grey is due to increased clarity, and in fact of maturity.

As a youth, I would have labeled music as good or bad. Now admittedly, I would have been a bad judge of what is bad. I distinctly remember us taking a poll in elementary school of our favorite types of music and I listed mine as reggae. Which wasn’t even accurate, because I meant calypso. Which isn’t even accurate because I was stupid. But at some point I started listening to music of my own volition (approximately 1994) and started to decide what was good and what was bad. I knew Achy Breaky Heart was bad. I knew Elastica’s The Connection was good. Black and white. (Incidentally, Black and White was good.)

Now I know that music is grey. Bad music has good bits; it’s black with islands of white. And I don’t just mean ironically bad: Insane Clown Posse and Rebecca Black are so bad they’re entertaining. I’m not necessarily looking for redeeming qualities in them. But music doesn’t have to be sublime masterpieces of tonal elegance to be worth listening to. They can be deeply flawed, but entertaining. In August I’m going to a Katy Perry concert. Is it going to be a masterclass of class or music mastery? Not remotely. It’s going to be a cute girl dancing to dance music. But I certainly expect that it will be fun.

In Thailand I’d sometimes watch MTV-Asia. Partly this was because it was the only channel in English, and partly because it was novel to see music videos on MTV. Now they did spend a lot of time playing Katy and Lady Gaga (one night they actually played Born This Way on repeat for an hour) but they did throw in some actual Asians every once in a while. The only one which I remembered enough to download when I got home was this:

There is no way anyone could describe this as a good song. Unless you speak Korean, you don’t understand the lyrics, but trust me, they don’t matter. There’s something refreshing about this manufactured pop nothingness. Somehow J-pop and K-pop and whatever other pops Asia makes seem even faker than ours. You just know that the groups are put together based on pictures of the members, not audition tracks. And the goofy little dance (how is it that they never jump in a song called Jumping?) is almost more of the video than the song. And while the popping and shaking was enough to grab my attention and lodge itself in my memory, it in and of itself is pretty inane; these girls don’t have the curves to be doing dance moves emphasizing their curves. But does the fact that this song is bad, and the video is bad, and really the whole industry producing this song is bad mean it can’t be enjoyed? No. I bet the song is already tunneled into your brain.

If someone told me that Jumping was their favorite song, I’d be sad for them. I’d probably also be talking to a 14 year old Korean girl. But if they told me they liked this song: great. So do I. It’s a fun piece of fluff. In the murky greyness of the musical spectrum, it’s on the whitish end.

Originally I’d intended to present further examples of grey people, situations etc, but I’m done. Extrapolate on your own.

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