Archive for April 7th, 2005

Train of Thought*

On the train I am listening to the conversation of 4 teenage girls, 14 or 15 years of age, on their way home from school comparing iPod selections. D4/Dort accents. As is the wont of teenage girls, they have started talking about one of their classmates. But rather than bitching about hair, bum size or choice of boyfriend, they are cackling about this particular unfortunate’s iPod selection. They are Eminem fans, and this girl has some ‘really weird’ selections. Like the Bee Gees.

Eminem is a minor hero of mine, and teenage snobbery about music is to be expected, but I pity this poor girl. The Bee Gees aren’t so bad. This seems to me a new form of snobbery, though. When I was at school, the music snobs were the floppy haired misfits and the metallers at the margins. The more straight-laced ones, like these girls I am eavesdropping, had no concept of musical snobbery. Bryan Adams, Cher, The Saw Doctors, Roxette: it was all good stuff. But this is something different. Here, the straight-laced ones seem to be those who decide what good music is, and the fate of those who deviate.

What is the fate of popular music when teenagers must lay bare their entire record collection for their classmates’ evaluation?

I would not have reached 18 had I been obliged to show my classmates that I had records by, among others, The Leather Nun, Bread, Jim Croce and Spear of Destiny. But you can’t get a proper feel for good music if you don’t experiment a bit. Foie gras tastes better if you can compare it with a Pot Noodle.

Maybe record collections (if that is not an outmoded term), like handbags, cars or mobile telephones, have become one more way of determining or displaying one’s status. The impoverishment of your iPod selection, according to ruling ideas (and we all know where those come from) of what makes ‘good’ music, reflects your failure as an individual. What subform of loser would have a full album by Chicago?

Where there is coercion, could popular music become more uniform than ever?

*Never liked A-Ha that much, but I needed to find a song with ‘Train’ in the title, and Midnight Train to Georgia didn’t seem appropriate for an incident on the mid-afternoon train to Drogheda.

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