In a perfect world, nobody would feel guilty about listening to any sort of music. But we do. And it’s not just because the world we inhabit is, at best, a tragicomedy. Music isn’t an art form anymore. It is a business unit in the entertainment industry. Success has as much to do with talent as it does with marketing budgets and social media strategies.
I do more push-ups when I listen to Madonna’s Ray Of Light. When she sings “and I feel like I just got home”, I am inspired to work out a little extra. But I feel terrible after it. I want to cleanse myself in unicorn milk, button-up my shirt, backcomb my hair and be a good boy.
Whenever OMC’s idiotic anthem – How Bizarre creeps into my playlist, I can’t help but start dancing. It is only unfortunate that I look like I am suffering from arachnophobia. With rabid tarantulas on my shoulders. And then there is the nonsensical Yey Shabba Aey Shabba – a song in a goofy Tamil film called Karnaa. As a kid, I thought it had a really catchy melody. Despite its lumbering desperation for sensuality, I still, sort of, sing along.
I feel guilty about these visceral experiences I have. I think it’s because I still reel from having been a pretentious music lover. I used to assume I had better taste than most people. Just because the songs I liked weren’t popular. And they were obscure. Since the Internet wasn’t a factor in shaping my taste in music, I was proud about whatever I had acquired.
At one point, I found that most of the bands I listened to had weird names. And they weren’t on the radio. In any of the mixtapes being passed around in my social circles. Or onstage at a concert in Africa to collect money for dying children or promote racial empathy. Dog Fashion Disco, Camel Of Doom, Atari Teenage Riot, Therapy?, People Under The Stairs, Del Tha Funky Homosapien and Corrosion of Conformity to name a few. While they created amazing music, I am unsure how I consistently discovered them. Maybe it was because nobody else I knew was listening to them. And I probably felt special.
It was a repercussion of consciously moving far from popular music as a listener. When contrariness became a hasty reflex action instead of organic appreciation. I even gave up on a cushy gig as an erstwhile music columnist for the Saturday magazine of a newspaper.
I had a full page column called Christy’s Music Box. I burned that bridge because I was disappointed that they, at times, published reviews about The Eagles’ remastered albums instead of carrying my 1,000 words of appreciation for subversive genres. It wasn’t enough that I got paid for publishing articles about Radiohead and Portishead.
Only later did I have an epiphany about it (felt silly and ignorant too). That my criticism of music or any popular perspective of it adds no value to anyone’s life, much less my own.
I have been listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird everyday for the past week. It is their most popular song next to Sweet Home Alabama. It has one of the most recognizable solos in the history of American rock music. And I could care less about how loved and saturated it is. I play the air-guitar (and mouth-guitar) like my life depends on it during the last 4 minutes.
It’s not like I am a purist now. I have not returned to the old-school. I don’t feel like saluting anyone about to rock and roll. I am just too old to listen to music for any other reason than to shake various parts of body until my soul catches up.
A few other guilty pleasures of mine:
(I didn’t want to force fit a dialogue about birds or write a vacuous poem in this post. But now is a good time, as any other, to remind ourselves that Flamebacks would be on percussion in the event that the birding kingdom decides to form a Led Zeppelin tribute band.
And that Kamala Das wrote beautiful poetry)
(Photographs – Chennai, Kodaikanal)