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Objectivity and taste: Should unpopular music mean worse?

I often read interviews in which musicians say things along the lines of ‘I only care about my fans – I don’t make music for critics; it’s all for the fans, man.’

While I am obviously a crazed music lover, I don’t often pay much attention to the ins and outs of what musicians say, unless I believe it will endow me with some insight and understanding of their music that I couldn’t get at from listening alone. This opinion, however, is far from uncommon in the music world and it got me thinking about the way we think about the quality of music and our judgement thereof.

As an independent music fan, it can be tempting to think of chart music as inferior, somehow in virtue of its wide appeal. Now, as unpleasant and snobby as this view undeniably is, what’s the alternative? To think of the charts and musical popularity as some kind of quality indicator? HA! No way.

xand yBut hang on! Why not?! Well, let me examine that. Here’s a few things we’ll need to have in place before I get going:

1. X is a major label artist who writes their own songs

Reviewing Lollapalooza

lollapalooza_2009so i’m reading a bunch of reviews of lollapalooza from music critics and i’m left wondering what they’re looking for when they’re watching these bands? some critics say things like, “i caught the last song of a band’s set,” or “i saw the band’s first two songs” and follow that up with, “the last song really brought down the band’s set” or “the first song set the mood for a boring set overall.” and i’m left thinking WHAT?!? you clearly just said you didn’t see the entire set and yet you’re reviewing the entire set? it doesn’t make any sense to me.