As you might recall from my first piece about hip hop, I love almost every genre of music unabashedly and without shame or remorse. Mainstream or obscure, modern or classic, there’s a good chance that I’m a fan. However, it wasn’t always this way. What follows is the story of how I learned to set aside my musical pretensions and just like what I like.
I listened to a lot of metal when I was growing up. I was also one of those annoying metal kids who thought that metal was the ONLY music worth listening to. I’d say stuff like
“Oh, you listen to rap? I listen to Opeth. You probably haven’t heard of them.”
“You listen to country? I listen to Deicide. Their name literally means ‘the killing of a god.’ You probably haven’t heard of them.”
“Your favorite bands make it rain by throwing money on the crowd? My favorite bands make it rain with fake blood.”
” Your favorite bands sing and dance on stage? My favorite bands play real instruments. Let me talk to you about sweep picking. Let me talk to you about blast beats. Let me talk to you about 14 minute songs and changing time signatures every four bars.”
I liked the really technical stuff. The faster they played, and the more solos, the better. I even hated other heavy music for not living up to my standards. Killwhitneydead was too gimmicky. Glassjaw was too soft. Breakdowns were stupid and so was hardcore dancing. I would’ve hated me. It’s a wonder I had any friends at all.
My dad wanted to make sure he instilled his sense of music into me as a kid. I was mainly reared on a healthy diet of Pink Floyd and Rush, and to this day, those albums remain some of my favorites. It wasn’t difficult for a kid who was into Pink Floyd to make the jump to a band like Tool. It also wasn’t difficult to make the jump from Rush to Dream Theater. Yeah, I went through a Dream Theater stage. I was really into them at one point. I think most “Music Nerds/Metal Kids” listened to Dream Theater at one point. I’m not ashamed of it. These were the types of bands that got me into the really heavy stuff. Sure, I listened to some things that weren’t metal, but I either kept it a secret, or had some weird way of justifying it. Mostly, I identified as a metalhead. Imagine my surprise when I fell in love with a song by a mainstream band.
I used to drive around in my Honda playing metal as loud as I could. I wanted to scare old ladies when I pulled up to stop lights. But, sometimes I would get bored with my own music and flip through the radio stations. Much in the same way a liberal will occasionally watch Fox News, I used to listen to the Top 40 stations to see what the enemy was up to. The first time I heard “Sugar, We’re Going Down” on the radio I was driving home from work, and the song just caught me. It had real guitars, real drums, and real vocals which automatically made it better than everything else on the radio.
If I had known the song I was listening to was by Fall Out Boy, I would have changed it immediately. I had never really heard any of their songs but I knew that I didn’t like them. I especially didn’t like their fans with their eyeliner, and stupid haircuts, and girl-pants. To me, the band – and their fans – were what was wrong with rock music. The second time I heard the song I literally checked around me to make sure no one was around before I turned it up. It was just so damn catchy. Those drums!! The guitars were heavy!! The lyrics were so clever!! I wrote this one song off as a fluke; it didn’t mean anything. Plus, whoever did this song was probably an okay band.
My world came crashing down during Ms. Pohlig’s second-block Spanish class when a friend of mine walked into the room singing “Sugar, We’re Going Down.” I asked him who the song was by and he said “I’m not sure, but I think it’s Fall Out Boy.” My stomach dropped. I felt paralyzed and powerless. There was no way I could like a song by a band like “that.” I had not only spent countless hours railing against bands like “that,” but I aimed my hatred at Fall Out Boy specifically. What followed was a time of self-reflection and self-loathing. It may sound like I’m exaggerating, but the mind of a young and naive metalhead is strange place.
I had a friend burn me a mix with what he thought were the best Fall Out Boy songs. The only way out was through the fire. Ideally, I would hate all the songs and I could go back to metal. But, as these things tend to go, I listened to the CD endlessly. I sang along. I played air drums in my car. I had no shame. As it turns out, I was missing out on a lot of good music by writing off anything that wasn’t metal. Who knew that “Tell All Your Friends” by Taking Back Sunday was the ultimate drunken sing-along album? Who knew that I would one day call Brand New one of my favorite bands?
My new-found love of not-metal music eventually led me to the standard Top 40 pop music. It’s hard, if not impossible, to try to explain why I like the music that I like. A guy like myself probably shouldn’t have listened to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” for 3 straight weeks. But, when that album came out, that’s exactly what I did. And I did it enthusiastically and un-ironically. Haters be damned. There’s no set formula that will determine which songs you like and which songs you hate. Sometimes, you’re going to like something that’s either mainstream or outside of your normal preferences or both. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, so embrace it and if anyone gives you grief, screw ’em.
So here’s a huge thank you to Mr. Peter Wentz and his band. Your catchy songs and clever lyrics are responsible for tearing me down and building me back up again. Somewhere there’s a 16 year old version of myself wringing his hands in agony and shame. That kid needs to grow up and get over himself.