Thursday, September 28, 2006

So what kind of music do you listen to?

One of my former students, who just started college at UCLA, asked me how I respond to that question about musical taste. And that of course started me thinking about how often I've been asked that question, especially in college and high school ...

Here's what I came up with:

Ahhhh, yes, one of the MOST popular questions in college.

Well, if there's one answer I hate getting (and have even started pre-emptively telling people not to answer) it's "well, my taste is really eclectic." That's so gutless. It means, I'm embarrassed that you won't like my taste, and ergo me, so I'm not going to answer. I get where that answer comes from, because I used to give it myself. And in most cases, as it was in mine, it's honest. But it's soft honest, as it also was in my case. In high school I listened to alternative rock almost exclusively: R.E.M., U2, Sarah McLachlan, Curve, Spirit of the West, Belly, Pearl Jam, etc. These were bands that you'd find on the Alternative Nation on MTV (back then they had an alt-rock show every Mon-Thurs at midnight) and/or on CFNY (an alt-rock radio station from Toronto).

Of course I had other things that I listened to that I felt earned me the right to answer "eclectic." I listened to a fair amount of classical music, some musical theater and I owned Legend (Bob Marley's greatest hits). I rarely listened to it though. So I didn't want to seem like narrowcast high school alt-rock kid and instead wanted to appear to be an "individual" so I answered "it's really eclectic" even though it really wasn't.

So, I suppose that I should get around to actually answering your question ... sorry aboot that. I tend to digress at any opportunity to talk about myself.

My new thing is to name my favorite bands by situation (I sorta pick and choose which of these I list, otherwise my answer is pretentiously long and off-putting):

Fave album this year: Rabbit Fur Coat by Jenny Lewis
Band I've listened to the most in the past year: Rilo Kiley
First favorite band: R.E.M.
Favorite female artist: Rachael Yamagata (I always note that my taste tends to lean toward female solo artists and male groups)
Favorite new artists: The Pipettes, Jennifer O'Connor
Favorite artists that my parents listen to (not named the Beatles): Emmylou Harris and Allison Krauss
Favorite non rock genre CDs/artists: The Dixie Chicks, West Side Story, ABBA, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper
Guilty pleasures: Spice Girls and early Britney Spears
Songs that make me: sad (a million tears by kasey chambers), dance (pull shapes by the pipettes), dream (pictures of success by rilo kiley), wistful (nightswimming by REM)
Best concerts I've ever been to: U2, R.E.M., RiloKiley, Coldplay, Rachael Yamagata, Damien Rice, Belle and Sebastian, Arcade Fire, Tift Merritt, Sufan Stevens (for some of them)
Tour I most wish I could have seen: Radiohead in support of The Bends

Other things that I really love: Avenue Q soundtrack, The Firebird Suite by Stravinsky, Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin, No Doubt (except for Retun of Saturn), the Smashing Pumpkins, early Pearl Jam, early Metallica (pre Black album, which was actually titled Metallica), lots of 80s one-hit wonders, Janet Jackson's early solo career, The entire Thriller album, college marching bands/drum corps, Stars.

to do it quickly ...

Desert island CDs: Takeoffs and Landings, The Bends, Achtung Baby, Automatic for the People, 12:00 Curfews, RENT soundtrack, Happenstance, O, Faithlift, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, Funeral, A Rush of Blood to the Head, The Roads Don't Love You, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Tambourine, Barricades and Brickwalls, Set Yourself on Fire, Get Behind Me Satan ... with the understanding that this could change tomorrow.

or the really quick answer to what i listen to ...

"Indie rock" (which, btw, has become the new "alternative.")

Ironically, though this question is often asked as a way to pre-judge whether someone will "fit" into your group of friends, my college friends and I had very little in common musically. As did my Albany friends. High school, Syracuse and Los Angeles are the places where I've flourished musically, especially Los Angeles.

The other irony is that now that I've carved out this long, drawn-out, complicated answer, I could legitimately answer "ecletic." I've actually added Rock en EspaƱol, Latin Jazz, way more muscial theater, bluegrass, more legitimately country country, and good pop and punk to my alt-rock catalog.

This question definitely made me think!

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