“Hey DJ, Only Play Good Music!”
I hear this statement all the time. It is actually kind of funny really. My response changes depending on mood, situation, individual and circumstances. The truth is that there is no such thing as ‘good music’ or ‘bad music’. Music quality generally is a subjective determination. While one person thinks Kenny Chesney is the best, the next may hate Country Music and think he sounds awful. The next guy may be a total fan of The Ramones but someone who thinks Punk Rock is just loud noise will surely not think The Ramones are ‘good music’ would they? The young woman who adores Michael Buble will not necessarily find agreement from listeners of R&B, Rap or Hip Hop would they? Certainly, very few Classical or Baroque Music collectors will run out to buy the new Ke$ha record the day it hits the stores. How many Jazz Musicians do you think find Usher or Rihanna ‘good musicians’? I think you get the point. I won’t bore you any further with continuing this list of potential music genre contradictions. It does not matter what genre or style we are talking about; Disco, Soul, Reggae, Reggaeton, Pop, Oldies, Motown, Classic Rock, House, Trance, Trip Hop, Merengue, Bachata, Soca, Bollywood, African, K-Pop, J-Pop or anything else. Somebody loves it and somebody hates it.
So, what is good music?
Simple. Good music is music that you like. It rarely has anything to do with quality, technical ability or how well the songs are written. Most of the time it is what you like and nothing more or less. This is not a bad thing or a good thing, just what is. I realize some people may get offended by this but I believe it is true. Here is an example of an experience I had about a decade ago.
Me and some guys were sitting around talking one day. A guy I had just met shared that he was a guitarist and music was his life. I immediately sat-up wanting to join the conversation, since obviously I love music and it too is a significant part of my life.
“What kind of guitarist are you and what genre do you play” I asked.
“I am a Blues guitarist and I play Blues and Rock Music.”
“Cool. Who are your influences?”
“Eric Clapton is why I became a guitarist at age fifteen and why I still play today.”
“Wow. I too like Eric Clapton. But what specifically inspired you about him that got you to pick-up the guitar?”
“I think he is the best guitarist that ever lived. That is why I started playing guitar.”
“The greatest guitarist that ever lived? That is a bold statement.” I paused before proceeding, “Were you able to play Eric Clapton when you were in high school?’
“Yes, it didn’t take me too long, since I have listened to him from childhood.”
“Did any of your friends play Clapton in high school as well?”
“Yeah, we were all musicians and loved Clapton. We all played his stuff to a T.”
“If all of you could play his stuff to a T in high school, how can he be the greatest guitarist that ever lived?”
“What do you mean?”
“If he was the greatest guitarist that ever lived, no one would be able to play his stuff and certainly not a bunch of high school students. Right?”
“I never thought about it that way.” He thought for a second, “Humm. I guess that makes sense.”
Our conversation went on for a while longer with others joining in and adding their two cents. Again, I think you get the point. I think this is a perfect illustration of musical tastes are predominantly subjective and that is fine. The problem arises when people tell other people their musical taste is “good” or “bad” since so few of us are trained enough in music to know the difference between the ultra-talented and those who can hold a note and play basic chords. Again, this is totally fine. There is nothing wrong with having your own taste in music or any form of artistic expression for that matter. We all need to respect each others musical taste just like every thing else. There is plenty of music I love that is just fun, with little musical skill or talent. Fun music has its place and is an art form of its own and needed. There is also lots of dance music I enjoy just to dance to that I would never listen to at home or in the car. Does that make it ‘bad music’?
What Is Good Music?
I invite you to hesitate for a moment before you yell at the professional DJ at a Wedding, Party or Event, “Hey DJ, play some good music for a change”. It is possible he is playing ‘good music’, just not what you think is ‘good music’. In fact, it may even be that eighty percent of the people at the Wedding or Party love the music he or she are playing already. In addition, it is also possible that they too do not like the music they are playing and just doing an excellent job as a professional DJ of meeting the needs of the Bride, Groom or Party Planner that hired them. Generally speaking, only DJs under the age of twenty-five or twenty-seven play music they like exclusively. Most good, professional adult DJs play music that they are hired to play, not what they want to hear. I listen to the music I like on the way to the Wedding, Party or Event, on my way home or when I get home. Your money is not for me to hear my music at your event, but your music at your event. This is one of the primary differences between a good professional DJ, and an amateur DJ who is doing it just for fun, popularity, sex or to be cool.
Do you agree that musical taste is mostly subjective? Is there something that qualifies as ‘good music’ regardless of the listener’s personal taste?