Musical Omnivore vs. Junk Bonds of Cool

A small sample of the shit I’ve been eating for admitting to buying a Kelly Clarkson CD:

“first, even jenny says you’re a girl for the kelly clarkson.”

“I don’t know man. I always looked at you like the guy in High Fidelity, tons of music knowledge with an uncanny ability to find music with cowbells. Now that is all tainted with the thought of you cruising in the EVO with Kelly Clarkson all cranked up to 11 dancing and tapping the steering wheel.”

“I was looking at your music reviews and said, ‘don’t know it… Don’t know it… KELLY CLARKSON?!?! I had to come right over. I don’t think I can look at you the same.'”

“You don’t like Kelly Clarkson. You like ‘KILL YOUR MAMA! KILL YOUR MAMA!'”

Of course, they were all kidding…

There’s no way that I’ll sit here and defend Kelly Clarkson as the pinnacle of musical perfection, and I expected a certain level of grief for admitting to making the purchase. I suppose that I should be grateful that these people once had a vision of me being cooler than I actually am, but I’m not going to lie just maintain that image. That’s not why you’re here. You’re not here to see me cool. You’re here because you know that “the only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”*

Me and you are tight. We’re like this. And I can’t lie to you, now can I? Not a chance.

When it comes to music, though, the world is full of liars. You know all those people with the bad haircuts who only listen to the most ultra-exclusive, undiscovered bands out, and once the bands get more than 90 fans, they drop them cold? Yes, you do. They wear those little tiny glasses, carry messenger bags, and are always talking about how they liked the band’s early stuff before they got so commercial. If engaged in a conversation for more than five minutes without getting punched in the face, they’ll inevitably tell you what you should be listening to.

They may claim to be heavier than thou, or more obscure than thou, or more underground than thou, but you can always count on them claiming (even if silently) to be cooler than thou. For them, music isn’t about notes and chords. It’s not about kicking back and letting your brain blindly decide what moves it.

It’s a disaffected outlook, a bad haircut, wearing all the right clothes, dropping all the right band names, and living in hip, shitty little apartments in the city. It’s acting like they don’t give a shit what people think about their musical taste, when they actually care the most about what people think.

To them, music is a race to get there first, and a junk bond in which to store their credibility.

It’s a sad fact that most of the cool people I’ve met in my life have turned out to be pretty uncool. Or fake. Or assholes. Or all three. And most of the time, the cool is just a perfume to mask the stink of whatever is rotting inside them. But the deeper you have to dig through all the layers of cool, the more likely you are to find people that grew up in some hick town on the same uncool shit that we all grew up on. They my be listening to Boris now, but when no one’s looking they’re listening to stuff that is completely uncool. And if they’re not, they’re completely wasting their time:

Because when you’re alone, there shouldn’t be anyone left to impress. Music isn’t about cool. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about feeding your brain what it needs to get by.

So, I can’t understand the Musical Vegans, who consume a very limited subset of music while rejecting all others. For me to get what I need, I need to be a musically omnivorous. There is just too much music in the world to worry about what’s cool or to pigeonhole myself into some narrow slice of the musical spectrum.

In my collection, Richard Buckner sits with Bullet LaVolta, Burn the Priest and Junior Brown. Clutch is next to Clarkson, HateBreed next to Ben Harper, and Only Living Witness next to the Old 97’s. Pig Destroyer touches the Pixies, Shadows Fall touches the Shins, and Killswitch Engage touches Kraftwerk. Even Lords of Acid is allowed to get its unique brand of nasty all over Lamb of God.

So remember, I’ve never claimed to be cool. It rewards me far less than being musically omnivorous.

*Lester Bangs, Almost Famous

6 thoughts on “Musical Omnivore vs. Junk Bonds of Cool

  1. Probably my favorite line from /Almost Famous./ The second being:

    William: “I’m glad you were home.”
    Lester: “I’m always home. I’m uncool!”

  2. Excellent retort. Those who demand people dash their idea of cool and realize the speaker is, in fact, uncool by Cool Dude standards, speak to me in a special way only a band geek can hear.
    Bravo. Well spoken.
    or to quote you: “wow.”

  3. Well said. As a music snob of the highest order for, oh, the last twenty years, I learned long ago snobbishness was nothing if it was not paired with an honest appreciation of a good pop tune. I’ve been a Clarkson-booster since AI1 and while I caught a fair amount of flak for it way back then, when I started spinning “Since U Were Gone” at the tail-end of ’04 I found most of my fellow snobs could only stand slack-jawed going, “Wait, that’s Kelly Clarkson?! Maybe you were on to something…”

  4. Good call. It’s a well put-together disc with top-shelf pop songs all over it.

    And just think: jaded hipsters in 2021 will be buying that shit up like a Bobby Sherman picture sleeve 45…

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