Band T-shirts and the people you meet wearing them

Last February I paid a whopping $45 for a hefty, overpriced tour shirt. Now before you start lecturing me on loose spending habits, I’ll have you know that 1) I freaking love Fleetwood Mac, and 2) that’s the only reason I need to give.

FM shirt

Wearing band shirts is a point of pride. It shows your (musical, cultural, sometimes even personal) allegiance. Tour shirts are souvenir items that prove you were there, that you saw Stevie Nicks in the flesh and heard her give an inspiring pep talk (that was probably inspiring just because it came from the mouth of Stevie Nicks).

Band shirts also make for some neat conversation starters.

The first person that commented on my Fleetwood Mac shirt was a bespectacled twenty-something lady working at a Take Five cafe. She lamented on how lucky I was to have seen it, and we talked about music for a bit before I thanked her for my matcha latte and went my merry way.

Several other people commented on my shirt shorthandedly like so, but a great conversation leapt out of a night out at a launching party space for a local literary magazine I volunteer for. A fellow is his fifties, a board member, sauntered up to me and just started talking nonstop about Fleetwood Mac. Turns out he first saw them in 1976 as a 17 year-old. This, of course, got me fascinated, as that was the golden age of the band and me being born in the wrong era had only seen bootleggy YouTube clips of Stevie Nicks in her glory. But this guy had seen them in the flesh at the height of their fame.

We then launched into a spirited conversation about classic rock. I learned that he was in a local squeeze-box band (that means accordions). He, in turn, was interested at the phenomenon of young people like me listening to music from his generation. Of course, we also talked about writing, and he alerted me to a nearby historical literary artifact associated with the first Chinese-Canadian writer to have graduated from the program I’m currently enrolled in. Neat stuff.

Perhaps there’s nothing too special about this story, but I’ve always been fascinated at how people connect through music. You realize that someone shares your love of an artist, and suddenly you become kin.

My music tastes tend to differ with those of my friends, so it’s difficult for me to make it out to a concert with company. But when I meet someone with whom I can discuss music…the joy is so much greater.

Music is also a cross-generation conversation topic if you are a consumer of classical or pre-21st century genres. I’ve also found unexpectedly enjoyable acquaintances in flee markets in boomers with beards and white hair selling first issue 60s albums.

Tshirts are a pretty awesome, subtle way to declare what you enjoy without being obnoxious and pretentious about it…well, not too pretentious. Next time you see someone wearing something you recognize, no matter how different they seem from you, strike up a conversation. You might make an unexpected friend.


6 thoughts on music and productivity

Music listener.jpg

Probably one of my favourite things about being at work is I get to listen to music. A lot. Non-stop, for eight hours straight, if I don’t have any meetings or if I decide to be totally unsociable and not talk to colleagues. Thanks to Spotify, my musical knowledge has expanded widely because I listen to many albums, front to end, while tapping away at work. What can I say? Spotify is god.

People are quite divided when it comes to whether music helps or hinders productivity. Here are my observations from endless hours of listening at work:

1. Don’t listen to new music if you want to focus.

If I’m not doing anything that requires a rigorous mental workout, I might browse playlists for something I’ve never listened to. New music is not conducive to focus, because sooner or later, you either 1) come to the conclusion that the playlist/artist/album is no good and frustratingly hunt for something else, killing your line of focus; or 2) completely fall in love with the artist and go on a Wikipedia tangent.

2. However, tried favourites aren’t the best for focus either.

If I listen to a favourite Fleetwood Mac track, I have to stop focussing on everything at a certain point so I can listen to that one awesome part. And if I miss That One Awesome Part, I have to drop everything, rewind the song, and listen to the part again.

3. So, in conclusion, albums you like but don’t like too much are probably your best bet.

4. Classical music and instrumentals win.

I’m an enormous (and pretentious) fan of French post-romanticism and impressionism. The music is quiet enough that it doesn’t distract you or give you a headache, but complex enough in texture, timbre, and structure to stimulate your brain. Baroque fugues, which are often incredibly complex polyphonic (multiple melodic lines) compositions, are a little too stimulating for me and give me miniature panic attacks. Especially since I associate Bach fugues with frustrating practices sessions at the piano.

Non-classical instrumentals are often good, if not better, choices. I am a big fan of Explosions in the Sky, a post-rock group that churns out dreamy, minimalistic, songs. The big, flowing, never-ending, slightly-trippy instrumental interludes in Pink Floyd half-hour masterpieces are also good bets.

5. Listening to the Top 40 at work is an efficient way to up your knowledge so you don’t embarrass yourself at the next social gathering.

I admit it. I’m a bit of a music snob. I never ever ever listen to mainstream radio, so when everyone starts bursting into song at the next social gathering, I’m left in the corner wondering what the hell is going on. As much as I dislike Top 40 hits, I hate the feeling of being left out. (Besides, pop music has its cultural significance). Absentmindedly listening to music at work is an efficient way to remedy that.

And I realize Top 40 is all that bad. Maybe there’s around 3/40 songs I actually really really like. I’ve been quite obsessed with “Rather Be” lately…

6. Absentminded listening is also good for filling in those knowledge gaps.

I grew up listening mostly to classical music. My parents weren’t big fans of pop culture, so I have enormous “knowledge gaps” when it comes to pop culture trivia. (I cringe when I remember the time I thought Billie Holiday was a man.) Spotify at work is an easy way to fill in those gaps because they have a whole Decades section to school yourself through the must-listen classics. (And I have to admit I’ve fallen in love with the ’60s).

So put your headphones on and get some work done 😉

Music listener” by Kashirin Nickolai – Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

How to write “effortlessly”

Mozart sonata 2

A sonata by Mozart. I’ve always admired how effortless and natural Mozart’s pieces are. As if God handed him melodies on a silver platter.

I’m writing a song and it just won’t sound natural. I’ve been going at it for quite a few days now, hammering it out, but I can’t seem to make the bridge less…bridgey. In fact, the entire song sounds too deliberate, too mechanical, as if someone wrote one note after another in hopes of finding a song at the end of a string of notes.

But hey, that’s exactly what I – casual, amateur songwriter – did.

We all admire people that effortlessly perform tasks we find difficult, whether this be music, sports, dance, acting, whatever – and of course writing. Have you ever read a book so elegant, so natural, so flowing, it was as if the writer plucked a story out of the air and inserted it into a book? Without the need to pour over mind-maps and spreadsheets, whiteboards and sticky note flowcharts. Then, you wonder if you could have written that. The writer had made it seem so easy, as if any nitwit with half a brain could have plucked the story out of thin air.

Stories are awesome when they seem natural, when characters are believable and make believable actions, when the story doesn’t seem planned but works out anyway. Stories suck when they look like a military team planned out all the tactics on a strategy table. Narration sucks when it’s stiff, convoluted, over-written, and unbelievable.

My dear fellow amateur writers, I believe we are all walking the same path on the same quest to this ideal of effortlessness, when our pieces are strung so seamlessly it’s as if we were never there. Like the story wrote itself. How do we get there? I’m sorry – this post does not provide that answer; I am merely here to share my thoughts 🙂

But I believe in practice. As a player of musical instruments I can well attest to the feeling of helplessness when one is first approached by a new piece. Your fingers get stuck and your eyes water as the notes seem to blend together. You see your instructor play the piece effortlessly, a tempo, and in the pit of your stomach you think: “Surely I will never get there.” But lo and behold, fast forward a few weeks, and you’ve got the song beneath your fingers, trickling at a steady allegro.

I believe in practice, but I also believe in relaxation once in a while. Remember that song I was writing? I shoved it away for a little while and just started noodling around the guitar, when I found something within the progressions. I shut off the logical side of my brain, the part that worries about resolving cadences, verses that rhyme, so I could just feel out the chords. I’m not sure how I did it, but I came up with an intro, a verse, a bridge, and a chorus in what must have been under ten minutes.

Now, I’m no professional songwriter; not even close! I’ve only written a handful or so songs in my life, and only about a pinch of those have actually made musical sense. But hey, if you try enough, good stuff does happen, maybe even a miracle! Pick up that guitar, pick up that pen, do something, and may you find your way to effortlessness.

Mozart Piano Sonata No.16 in C major, K.545: Public domain via IMSLP – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts WerkeSerie XX:
Sonaten und phantasien für das pianoforte, No.15
 (pp.2-9 (174-181))
Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1878. Plate W.A.M. 545

Pretentious Hipster Album of the Month Review: The Good Life

The Good Life, Album of the Year (2004)

How did I find this album? By literally Googling “best hipster albums,” funny enough. It was right up there with The Strokes and Neutral Milk Hotel. Well, I had to try it then, did I? This is today’s Pretentious Hipster Album of the Month Review.

Album of the year.jpg

Brief artist background

The Good Life is the more introspective project of Tim Kasher, lead vocalist and guitarist of post-rock act Cursive, a side project that became just as big as the main project. In fact, Tim Kasher’s band didn’t get a solid line-up until he was successful enough to go on tour. Thus, the band was chiefly composed of Kasher and the efforts of his friends, an eclectic array of musical minds from different bands of their own.


By Album of the Year, however, the Good Life had solidified, and so did this album. In fact, this is an incredibly uniform LP. The entire album is a classic story of love: the magical moment when two troubled souls meet, the intimate pain and closeness they share; and then, inevitably – the fall-out, the accusations, the lies. The fact that “Lovers Need Lawyers” (track 8).

According to AllMusic, each track of the 12-tracker is a month in the year of a relationship between an aspiring-musician protagonist and his bartender girlfriend. This is where I’d like to cock an eyebrow, however – despite the strong storytelling concept of this album, I often squirmed at just how similar the tracks were to each other. Yes, if taken independently, certain tracks were undeniably strong, but the presence of what I felt were “filler” tracks merely diluted the albums’ strength rather than add to its overall narrative value.

The style of Album of the Year is easy to appreciate, however. Familiar, plain melodies chock-ful of confessional lyrics and simple acoustic motives drive the album. There’s a spoken conversation at the end of “October Leaves” and a brief, smattering collage of one-liners from the album’s previous tracks in the ender, “Two Years This Month.”

Top songs

The title track, “Album of the Year,” sums up album’s premise so well sometimes I wonder if an entire album of 12 tracks was even necessary. “Night and Day” is also a powerful track, focussed on the dark but intimate dynamic the two characters share that keeps their relationship together. These lyrics –

I know a girl with cuts on her legs
I think that she hates the way she was made
But we never spoke of why they were there
I just squeezed them and kissed them 
Until we both felt a bit better

– were suitably meaningful, skirting emotional-overload by their affirmative sense of acceptance.

Another strong track was the 9:39 opus “Inmates.” Sung primarily by a female vocalist (Jiha Lee), it rises from slowly taunting the protagonist with acoustic strings to angrily jabbing him – in pitch intensity – with “50 ways to get lost.”

Story factor 4/5

The entire album is built on a narrative. I took off a star, however, because I felt some tracks were simply repetitive statements of previous tracks and didn’t add the value a 3-4 minute track should warrant.

Style 2/5

The style is a quite static from head to tail of the album: rhythmic and driving acoustic rhythm guitar, lilting melodies that are similar across most tracks, simple driving chords, and broken chords played by a lazy, drippy lead guitar.

Originality/innovation 3/5

I have to admit, some of the lyrics do catch an ear. Kasher is a poet, a cynical one, and his project is sure to be relatable for many in plot and theme.

Recommended for

Post-break-up romantics who need a non-alcoholic audio fix. Anyone who likes sappy poetry and staring out the window on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Worth the hype?

There are strong tracks and weaker tracks. Personally, I fell in love with the title track almost immediately – the rest of the album? Not too sure.

Listen to “Album of the Year” for sure, but only listen to Album of the Year if you got time to spare.

Final score 3/5

It’s alright.


How to convince someone to listen to your favourite song/artist (Music Mondays)

[[File:Listening to is Yes' self-titled debut album from 1969.jpg|Listening to is Yes' self-titled debut album from 1969]]

[File:Listening to is Yes’ self-titled debut album from 1969.jpg|Listening to is Yes’ self-titled debut album from 1969]

Have you ever found a song that was so good you thought everyone in the world should listen to it and love it? Have you ever given a song to a friend saying “You HAVE to listen to this, it’s AMAZING” only for them to brush it aside and not even click on the goddamn YouTube link?

I like to think this is the one thing I have in common with, say, Mormon missionaries. You love something. And you genuinely think other people will love it too and it would make their lives better. So you push it on them to like the thing you like.

But people never seem to buy it. It’s very difficult to convince someone to listen to a song you like, much less get them to like it. It’s frustrating, because to you, the song is awesome and you want to spread its awesomeness. You genuinely think its awesomeness could benefit other human beings. And it’s not like you’re delusional. Your song has thousands of other fans from across the internet-universe, all singing its praises.

So why doesn’t your friend love it? And how can you convince them to love it?

Sharing music with your buddies. [ photo essay 090316-A-5049R-018.jpg| photo essay 090316-A-5049R-018]

Sharing music with your buddies. [ photo essay 090316-A-5049R-018.jpg| photo essay 090316-A-5049R-018]

Sadly, you really can’t.

If you think about it, what drew you to the song in the first place? Personally, most of the songs I like I didn’t get from other people. I find songs from background tracks to videos or movies, or from the biography an artist I highly respect. But usually not from a friend’s YouTube link. Sometimes I like a song simply because I’ve heard it so many times I just surrender to it. “Alright already, I’ll enjoy this damn song.”

And when other people try to get me to like a song…well, usually I don’t really like it. For some reason. There’s something about discovering a piece of music by yourself that adds so much to the song. It’s as if music discovery is an integral part of music. It’s also a very private, independent thing that has be done naturally – kind of like emotional puberty. And you can’t force someone into emotional puberty. Some people will develop – say, crushes – earlier, while other people don’t get their first crush until much later. It’s all circadian rhythm. Nature-takes-its-course-like.

Music is like that. Because music is so personal. The same piece of music can speak to us differently. Bob might like a certain song because the lyrics really speak to him. I might like the exact same song as much as Bob, but it’s the guitar solo that gets my heart pounding.

So how do you get people to like the songs you like? You can’t. Not really, at least. Encourage people to discover, share music, put it in the background in the car, but don’t evangelize it. You can put music in people’s paths, but people have to choose for themselves whether they want to stop by or not.

Want more Music Mondays?

Pretentious Hipster Album of the Month Review: “Horses” by Patti Smith (1975)

My first Pretentious Hipster Album of the Month Review will be on an album whose sound shoots quite radically off the mainstream (or at least the contemporary mainstream). However, Patti Smith is considered a popular artist…or at least she was at some point before computers were invented. IMO, I’d call this album not mainstream, exactly, but a few notches east or west of it.

**DISCLAIMER** Reviews are subjective and are a reflection of my personal opinion only. Agree or disagree. Love or hate. These are only my thoughts.


LP cover. Photography: Robert Mapplethorpe Design: Bob Heimall

Brief artist background

Patti Smith

By Vistawhite (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 Patti Smith was both a musician and a poet. She was born and raised in a rural and religious setting, then moved to NYC to pursue painting and performance. Her heyday was in the ’70s, but she’s still popping albums in the 21st century – albeit lesser known, though. She formed the Patti Smith group, mixed with the intellectual lot of the day, such as Beat novelist William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch). She’s most well-known for her contribution to the evolution of punk rock, as well as her unique brand of poetry/spoken word + music.

If you want to know more about Patti Smith’s work I recommend Patti Smith Complete: 1975-2006, where I got most of my facts for this review.


I will henceforth call the “songs” on this album “pieces.” I think the latter is a more appropriate term for these poem-song half-breeds. Each of Patti Smith’s pieces is a combination of spoken word, sung melody, and supporting instrumentation. The instrumentation is substantially complex; however, it’s obvious those little background guitar licks, adorable as they are, play only a supporting role to the smashing vocals and bold poetry.

The album begins with the daring and seductive growl “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine” and we hit one of Patti Smith’s beloved classics – “Gloria (in excelsis deo).” The song pulls lyric from “Oath” (a poem) and “Gloria” (Van Morrison song). It’s radical. It’s loud. It’s anthemic, and it’ll probably be most people’s favourite track.

The other highlight on Side 1 must be “Birdland.” This is a sprawling 9:16-epic inspired by Peter Reich’s Book of Dreams. A trippy scene, in which a boy sees his deceased father piloting a spaceship. This is perhaps the most emotionally-intense track of the album. It slowly builds from wavering piano chords and spoken word to what can only be described as vocal exorcism. At the climax, it’s as if the musicians are all demon-possessed. The repeating line “we are not human” fits very well.

Side 2’s star track is undoubtedly “Land,” another long anthem. It’s split into three parts: “Horses,” “Land of a Thousand Dances,” and “La Mer (de),” and was inspired by a William S. Burroughs novel. The lyrics here jump around a bit, and it’s a little more difficult to follow. There are disjunct references to horses, dance moves (especially the watusi, for some reason), possibilities and seas of possibilities, and of course a suicide scene.

Top song

Patti Smith in Rosengrten 1978

By Klaus Hiltscher [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I waver between “Gloria” and “Birdland,” depending on my energy level.

Story factor (how well an album flows)

3/5. The flow was well-balanced. Long, serious, intense songs gave way to lighter, shorter, more upbeat songs, then back to long and serious. The tracks “Redondo Beach” and “Kimberly” are arguably a little lighter (at least in sound, not subject matter). It’s nice that the album ends with “Elegie,” a simple, short, sigh-of-relief track.

There was some connectivity. The lines “Saw this sweet young thing/Humping on the parking meter/Leaning on the parking meter” from “Gloria” return at the end of “Land.” I’ve yet to figure out why she chose these (seemingly crude) lines in particular but who am I to judge.


4.5/5. Attitude on this album is pretty substantial. Patti’s got swag.


5/5. According to Wikipedia this is one of the greatest albums of all time. It’s on the Rolling Stones list and was super-influential to the punk scene or something. So there you go. *Applause*

In all seriousness though, and cynicism aside, it’s a great work and it’s well worth a listen to. You may not like it, per se, but it’s definitely an interesting piece of art.

Recommended for

Writers, poets, and literary connoisseurs who enjoy good old-fashioned rock’n’roll. If you like wearing leather jackets and sipping wine, listen to Patti Smith. If you like wearing leather jackets but would rather chug beer, Joan Jett’s more your gal.

Worth the hype?

Horses is a legendary album and for good reason. It’s ranked as one of my top favourite albums. Will I listen to it while I vacuum floors and study for tests? Maybe not. It’s a little too intense for regular listening.

Besides, it has its flaws. I’m not sure if I like Patti Smith’s use of repetition of certain words and phrases; she does it quite often, as if emphasizing almost everything. Too much emphasis is not emphasis at all – why the need to repeat stuff so much?

At the end of the day, though, it’s a cool album that proves words and music are the couple to ship.

Final rating: 9/10 Bravo!!

I admit it. I’m succumbing to hipsterism for this one.

Writing reviews

I realized I haven’t done a Music Monday in a while, and thought I’d spice it up with a new tradition: Pretentious Hipster Album Reviews. Which is exactly what it sounds like. Each month, I’ll pick an album society deems as diverging from the contemporary mainstream, hipster, and pretentious. The music will be…unconventional, the type of thing 21st-century 20-somethings drinking out of mason jars flock to while their peers roll their eyes.

I’ll listen to said great pretentious album, be shamelessly pretentious about it (don’t say I didn’t warn you!), and see if the album is really “all that.”

If you’ve read this far and have no idea what I’m talking about. If you’re rolling your eyes already (fair enough if you are), do some background contextual reading on 21st century hipsterism. (UPDATE: in a reply to a commenter below, I suggest hipsters as people who like things they deem “better,” “classier,” and “deeper” than the mainstream; my role would be discovering said great things and seeing for myself whether or not they really are better/classier/deeper).

I’m hoping this will be fun and humorous. And, as someone who will honestly own up to liking certain aspects of the pretentious hipster musical world (sue me), I hope this will make everyone, including myself, discover cool new music.

Collecting Vinyl – First Impressions, Initial Thoughts


So I recently purchased a turntable and started buying vinyl. While I am by no means an experienced connoisseur, only owning about a dozen or so albums so far, here are my thoughts about the vinyl craze, which seems to be taking a chokehold on today’s hipsters and neo-1970s twenty-somethings.

Shopping for vinyl is like going treasure-hunting.

The cool thing about buying vinyl is you can go as cheap as free or you can go as fancy as paying kobe beef for limited-edition 200g master pressings. I tend to stick to the free bin end.


Hunting for awesome vinyl in thrift stores and flea markets is awesome. Digging through musty bins. The “ah-ha!” moment when you find an album you love. Inspecting the record in multiple light angles to determine if it’s in buyable condition. Negotiating with the seller.

Scoring a really awesome record for a few bucks or getting completely ripped off – it’s all part of the experience. Sometimes you can win really amazing gems for a few measly bucks that may look trampled but end up playing beautifully.

To buy vinyl you gotta go OUTSIDE and talk to people.

If you download your tracks off the Internet you just sit at home and download them. If you buy albums, you go outside into the real world under the real sky with real air and go to real places and talk to real people.


All the record stores in my area are situated in the “artsy” alcoves of town, areas I don’t usually go to. Funny enough, the record stores like to congregate along certain streets so it’s convenient and fun to make a day of it: I start at the thrift stores, then move up the street to the independently-owned specialist shops.

Now, I’m one of those really shy and unsociable people who usually don’t do more than mumble “on visa please” in stores. (Perhaps it’s because I grew up in unfriendly Vancouver). Going out and buying music is a way of trying to encourage myself to socialize more, because I love talking about music. Granted, you don’t walk into a store of pretentious snobs, it’s quite cool to have a short chat with people when buying records, especially in flea markets and thrift stores when some bargaining is involved.

Listening to the work of artists in their original album form

DSC_0996These days, most people listen to music track by track. We might have a playlist with a track from 10 different artists. Gone is the original experience of listening to a full album front to back the way an artist intended it to be played.

Listening to an album front to back is definitely a different experience unto itself. Artists structure their LPs like a journey, with highs and lows and bumps and bends. You can find gems on albums never promoted as singles that become your favourite tracks. You feel like you know the artist in a more intimate way.

Listening to albums front to back is also a convenient way to keep track of time. I usually put on an album before I go to bed and say, “I’ll go to bed after this album is done playing.” It’s a better timer than anything and helps with procrastination because after the album is done, the silence is one of satisfied finality.

Vinyl doesn’t sound better. It just sounds…different.

Granted, I don’t have super fancy equipment so I’m probably not re-producing the vinyl sound in all its glory. I can’t say vinyl sounds better because I really believe it depends on your equipment – how scratched your LP is, how great your turntable and speakers are, etc.

And even that can be totally countered. My $2 The World of Ravel Dynaflex fetched from the flea market sounds beautiful. Strangely, my brand-new Florence + the Machine Lungs LP, which costed as much as casual fine dining, sounds really shallow and kind of disappointing.

I can for sure say vinyl sounds “warmer.” It’s difficult to describe. It’s as if the sound is taller and narrower, whereas digital is flatter and wider…if that makes sense. Doesn’t mean you’ll love it, though. You can rightly say vinyl is “muggy” while .mp3s are “bright.” For example, my remastered .mp3 of “Rhiannon” is brighter with a more prominent vocal track, while the same track on my Fleetwood Mac LP has a more subdued vocal and a more prominent guitar. I happen to like the guitar on that track a lot, though, so the LP works in my favour.

If there’s anything I’ve learned: Beatles albums sound amazing on vinyl. My super-scratched-up-dented-scuffed/smudged flea market $5 Abbey Road is full of pops and crackles but still sounds absolutely charming; as charming as the 1960s. Again, it’s probably all psychological 😉


Previous Music Mondays>>>

All images used in this post are mine.


Music Mondays: Pop music isn’t stupid. In fact, it needs our attention.

Happy Bloody Monday, everybody! Here’s to another discussion about our favourite thing in the world from a writer’s perspective.

I’m one of those people who don’t listen to the radio. I owe it mostly to the fact that I don’t drive long distances, because c’mon, that’s what radios are for: long-distance driving. Right…?

girl with radio

“Girl listening to radio” by Franklin D. Roosevelt Library Public Domain Photographs. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

I was that snobby 14 year-old who dressed in black, dyed her hair, and scoffed on “popular music.” How it’s not actually music. How it’s shallow. How it’s musically simplistic, lyrically even more so, and basically a way to package sex and sell it to our ears over broadcasted sound waves.

Well, I’m not 14 anymore. Granted, I’m still a cynical douche most of the time (winky face to my friends IRL 😉 ).

Pop music deserves our attention. Yeah, I know, we’re paying it attention already by listening to the radio, going to clubs, and being responsible for Lady Gaga’s multi-million-dollar paycheque. But that’s not the kind of attention I’m talking about.

To make a comparison, let’s look at other forms of art.

In any form of art – visual, musical, literary – the Snobs separate it into two categories: high art and low art.


“WLA moma Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond Monet” by Wikipedia Loves Art participant “trish” – Uploaded from the Wikipedia Loves Art photo pool on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

High art = the stuff in galleries: the stuff that tries to evoke some sort of statement; usually conceptual. Low art = the stuff that’s pretty: fanart, video game art, anime, etc. High literature = the stuff of the masters: Shakespeare, Chaucer. Low literature = your Barnes & Noble bestseller fare.

Let’s pause on books because technically I’m supposed to be studying them for this piece of paper called a BA. I’ve always found it kind of useless to study Shakespeare and Chaucer. Sure, high literature is interesting. It flexes your brain. It’s good practice. It’s good to know how to appreciate it. But if I ever get another piece of paper called a PhD and was expected to beg the government for a grant to write a book about a book…I wouldn’t touch Shakespeare and Chaucer. People have been talking about Shakespeare and Chaucer for hundreds of years. Sure I can add myself to the conversation, but I’d rather start my own conversation.


“Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 in Charlotte, North Carolina” by Derek Gleeson. – Own work.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I’d start a conversation on the books of my generation. I’d study Harry Potter and Fifty Shades of Grey. I’d study Orange is the New Black and Breaking Bad. Why? Because so many people love them. So many people are directly influenced by the authors and writers of these works. I think this is because they are so relatable. They reflect us. Somehow. And that’s the point of art: art expresses the world we live in. It etches our experience forever into print, into paint, into sound, into our minds.

High music = the stuff of symphony orchestras, so-called “art music”: again, largely conceptual, attempts to express something. Low music = the stuff on the radio.

Yet most people couldn’t care less about symphony orchestras and their overpriced wine. We’d rather pre-drink and flock to a Katy Perry concert in a loud-ass arena. But why?


“Gatecrasher” by Original uploader was Mushin at en.wikipedia – Transfered from en.wikipedia. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Pop music is popular because it reflects our experiences. And when it goes out of style, we know our world is changing. For this reason, I think pop music is a vital part of our society that deserves a second glance. It’s part of our world history book of collective consciousness. I listen to Lady Gaga and can affirm that positive identity and equal rights are pillar values of my generation. So is freedom of expression and the right to be crazy. I listen to “Blurred Lines,” hear the uproar it effected, and can see that a new wave of feminism is riding strong in my generation. And I hope people in the future can look back and see these things too.

Besides, pop music isn’t necessarily “bad,” musically. I dare you to look up a super-popular artist and listen to their entire album. You’ll find gems in there that were never promoted on the radio waves.

Also, everything was once pop. Shakespeare was once Hollywood material. Da Vinci was the greatest expression of the Bible fandom. Mozart’s music was freaking pop music when Mozart was alive.

So go ahead, people. Listen to the radio shamelessly and listen to it well!

(By the way, I love writing these things. If I’m not a weirdo and people like yourself actually enjoy them too, please let me know by liking/commenting/sharing these Music Mondays!)