It can be very exciting when a new band comes on the scene and steals your heart with its debut or even subsequent albums. You feel as though you have discovered new talent that is worthy of praise. If pop culture overlooks it, you’ve got your own little secret, an untapped resource in the world of music. If the album rises to commercial success, you nod your head and say you saw it coming.
But if commercial success is in the cards for this band or artist, are you always happy for them?
Take Maroon 5, for example. I saw this band at The Roxy in Los Angeles back in 2002, when a likely response to the mention of the band’s name was ‘Maroon who?’ I enjoyed the band’s opening set and got around to purchasing ‘Songs About Jane’ soon thereafter.
I got into one of those grooves where you buy a CD and are then addicted to it for a month or so thereafter. You dare not remove it from your player and you don’t even think about getting any new CDs or even changing it up by listening to others you already own. You are a slave to this marvelous new sound you have discovered and you have no desire to experience anything else.
I knew Maroon 5 was good times, and it seems like it took everyone else a couple of years to catch up. But when they did, it hit hard.
I’m sure I have some empathizers out there on this one: If I hear ‘This Love’ one more time, I might have to throw myself off a bridge.
Maroon 5 is definitely worthy of the commercial success and popularity it has received in the past year or so, but I recognized this worth long before it became ‘popular.’
When I hear teenyboppers loudly singing the lyrics as they trot through the mall, the annoyance burrows even deeper.
Another example, you say? You don’t understand what I’m getting at?
A friend introduced me to Incubus during my junior year of high school, when ‘Make Yourself’ was all the rage. I loved that album, but really pissed my friend off by characterizing myself as an Incubus fan when I halfheartedly jumped on board without first reviewing and approving of the content of ‘S.C.I.E.N.C.E.’ and ‘Fungus Amongus.’ After all, Incubus had been around for several years, and how dare I call myself a fan when, unlike my friend, I ignored them until they hit mainstream?
I saw this particular case study come full circle when, during the following year of high school, a couple of my friends and I were gushing about Incubus’ CD. A girl nearby chimed in and remarked that she loved the song ‘Driving.’ It was fascinating how quick our annoyed bunch was to correct her: ‘Uh, you mean ‘Drive’?’
Why do we get pissed when the rest of the world finally tunes into the talented bands we’ve loved for years?
Are we selfish? Do we want to hog all the goods and keep them for ourselves and only those we approve of?
Do we not want our favorite bands to succeed? After all, if you know they’re talented, why shouldn’t others appreciate that talent, too?
I’ve even heard people say that they liked so-and-so until they became popular. Then they got over it because they didn’t want to associate with a band who was adored by more than a handful of fans.
It sounds ridiculous, but the fact of the matter is that in some way we are all very sensitive about our music choices and the other people that listen to these choices. The reason many of us overreact to the gradual or sudden popularity of our favorite bands is because we feel as though the music we enjoy is deeply rooted in who we are and we don’t want others to exploit or take advantage of that.
My roommate (the one from Arizona) was the person who originally introduced me to The Format (I don’t live in Arizona; when would I have heard of them otherwise?). When I wrote a column a few weeks ago that asked what was being fed to the emerging musicians in Arizona, my roommate couldn’t stop herself from peering over my shoulder and bragging, ‘You only know about them because of me! I found them first!’
One more example of what I’m talking about: my boyfriend is one of the biggest music snobs I know. He likes to carry his iPod around and show everyone what’s on it and tell them why it’s great. He’s gotten better, but he used to get angry with me if I admitted liking something from his collection. As someone who used to spend all day searching the Internet for new music, he would get frustrated if I took a liking to a band he also happened to appreciate. He never could pinpoint exactly why he reacted this way. He wanted to show everyone what good taste he had, but he just didn’t want to share it.
In conclusion, it’s a stupid game we play with ourselves and others regarding the hoarding of music from the unwashed masses. We’re scared that if our favorite bands manage to stumble into the mainstream and garner the popularity that we ironically might think they deserve, they won’t be as highly appreciated as they are when we listen to them. Which might be true, but it’s no excuse for being selfish.