Friday, October 28, 2011

I know a song that won’t get on your nerves

In the Telegraph (I seem to be reading the Telegraph a lot these days, without becoming A Telegraph Reader – I hope), Lucy Jones asks why musical taste provokes such ire and vitriol. She mentions Chris Martin, head castrato of tepid skiffle combo Coldplay, who asked why van drivers yell abuse at him “because of the songs he had written”. I think he (and Ms Jones) may be missing the point a wee bit; although Martin’s music is bland and anaemic, it’s more likely to be his sanctimonious public persona that really gets on the collective moobage of van drivers (and, no doubt, teaching assistants and milliners and plumbers and actuaries and hired assassins as well), a state of affairs that cannot have been helped by his marriage to tearful platitude/recipe machine Gwyneth Paltrow. That and the fact that he looks like a pubescent tortoise. When the multi-millionaire  song-and-dance man has the chutzpah to whine about this state of affairs, it only encourages us to reach for our revolvers once more.

But leaving aside the vexed critical conundrum of the extent to which one should play the man rather than the ball (BOTH! BOTH!), there is the question of why inoffensive music is, to many people, deeply offensive. This morning, I had a hotel breakfast (having finally been driven out of Bangkok, not by the encroaching floodwater, but by the abject uncertainty, the nerve-jangling space between flooded and not-flooded,  neither waving nor drowning, a sort of Schrödinger’s catastrophe) to the strains of some sort of 80’s soul/pop/jazz concoction. I think Michael McDonald and Kenny G might have featured, or if they didn’t, it was people aspiring to be Messrs McDonald and G, which is worse. The music was clearly chosen for its inoffensiveness, but I found it almost unbearable, for that very reason. I fully understand that it’s impossible to choose a soundtrack that everyone will actively like, but is it so hard to pick something that nobody actively dislikes? Is there not a distinction between inoffensive (Coldplay, Kenny G) and not offensive? Nat King Cole, say; while his music wouldn’t be on everybody’s desert island selection, is there anyone on the planet who would run puking from the room if one of his songs came on? Ella Fitzgerald? One of the more restrained, non-Goddy bits of Bach? Over to you: name some music, or any other work of art, that might not send you into raptures, but is impossible to loathe.

PS: Another Lucy (Cage) opines on Coldplay covers, at Collapse Board.

14 comments:

patroclus said...

Air's Moon Safari, Husky Rescue's Country Falls, Archer Prewitt's Wilderness - none of those albums could possibly be the least bit offensive to anyone, yet all bloody brilliant. Actually I don't think that's quite what you were asking, was it?

Yr Heartout said...

A lot of the oldies stations here work on exactly that basis I think, which is why they play so much of the Walker Bros, early Motown, Elvis, Carpenters. Overly familiar in some ways, but it's rare they'd make anyone want to start smashing up furniture.

Richard said...

Most of it, that's why it's there. If it arouses emotions of any kind it works. Some of the protagonists may be annoying but to be fair, there are few performers I'd be prepared to spend more than a few minutes with before I'd want to start throwing stuff. Humility is not a quality that sits easily with the ego of a performer.

Vicus Scurra said...

What Richard said.
And people are strange aren't they - there are some people out there who don't like the Incredible String Band.

Philip Cartwright said...

Girls Aloud. Everyone likes Girls Aloud, don't they?

I've probably mentioned this before, but I can't seem to get over it so I'll mention it again (I need closure, dammit):

Scene: Binion's Horseshoe Casino, Downtown Las Vegas.

Time: Late October 2004.

Clientèle: 95% retired Texans. Huge belt-buckles and angina-related medication were non-optional.

Piped music: "Sex Dwarf" by Soft Cell. In fact, that track was part of a collection of British early-80s experimental synth-pop that the casino played on a loop for SEVERAL DAYS.

For reasons I still can't understand, there was no riot of any kind. Not even an accidental shooting.

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Rog said...

That John Rambo does try hard doesn't he?

I love the last Coldplay Album. But I agree it is sanctimonious that we love to hate - a fine tradition via Sting, Bono and his Chrisness.

You can't hate Bob Dylan because he keeps moving and surprising and doesn't over-share his concerns.

Tim Footman said...

Moon Safari definitely, Patroclus. That's exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of. Others might not quite share your high opinion of them, but they won't suffer the reaction I did just now when I returned to the same dining room only to hear Michael Bolton singing Dock of The Bay. It was as if he'd done a poo in my ear and wiped his bum on Otis Redding's grave.

I see your point YH, but I can think of a few people who would fail to appreciate the Carpenters' strengths.

Richard - I know what you mean about emotions, but if you're managing a public space (eg a hotel dining room) you don't want too many of those about.

The ISB might appeal to an audience of Archbishops, Vicus.

I can certainly see Cabaret Voltaire appealing to a broad demographic, Philip, provided they're not really listening.

84829942-3a88-11e0-83da-000bcdcb5194 (or may I call you 84?): You've never actually done it with a real lady, have you?

Lots of people do hate Dylan, Rog. But quite a few who hate him also love him because he quite clearly doesn't give a damn that he hates them.

(And I just had a tweet from Lucy Jones, who wrote the original article, suggesting The Beatles. Yup, I'd buy that.)

Geoff said...

Anything by Bing Crosby or George Michael.

GreatSheElephant said...

On behalf of all American women, even though I am not one, I think I can express the sincere gratitude of American women towards 84 for his boycott.

Fat Roland said...

I had just written a long comment about Justin Timberpants and Usher, but I lost it. You'll just have to imagine what I might have said.

I hope you're not too wet, Tim. I keep thinking about you when I listen to the news.

expat@large said...

Nothing that they play in a certain "massage " Bruce has been known to frequent is relaxing or sensual. He must try find a place more conducive to the required mood. It was 'Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree' last visit. IKYN.

expat@large said...

'Massage parlor', for typos sake!

Tim Footman said...

Or both at once, Geoff. With Marc Bolan and David Bowie to keep them company. Celebrity Death Match a-Gogo.

It is thoughtful of him, isn't it, GSE? Although I can't imagine his attentions would be very memorable even when they happened.

All swell here, thanks, FR. Am concocting your Justin/Usher comment in my head. Debbie Gibson has become embroiled, for some reason.

What else would they tie it round, E@L?