For the fear of being, oh, three years too late, I would like to announce to you all that I have taken the plunge: I have caved into society’s demands and purchased a smartphone. Perhaps it was some subtle need to honor Steve Job’s legacy, join the 21st century or, most likely, just a super efficient way to replace a broken MP3 player and an aging phone — I bought an iPhone. While it does make me feel like those douchey hipsters waiting in line in those Samsung commercials (I mean, I write a music column for a college newspaper; indeed, I am the enemy), it has proven to be an invaluable and nifty device. Alas, I am beginning to realize that it has been nothing but a gateway drug to the unbridled horror that is Spotify.
Having a nearly unlimited music library on-the-go seems like a music lover’s dream, doesn’t it? I should be wandering the annals of music history with glee, but, instead, I may be discovering an as-yet-unrecognized appreciation for Glee. This is because, while I am capable of listening to most anything with my phone now, my brain is incapable of harnessing this most harrowing of powers. Indeed, as Uncle Ben said: “With great power comes great responsibility.” And, as anyone whose vocabulary routinely includes a non-baseball version of a “strikeout” is, I am wildly irresponsible. It used to be that when people asked me what I was listening to, it was from a meticulously selected portion of my iTunes library that not only reflected what I believed my music taste to be, but was relatable and not too obscure so as to invoke accusations of “hipster!” Now, I make decisions like listening to …
1. Broadway Soundtracks: I grew up doing theater. It was a chapter of my life that, until I was forced into retirement by the insults of my lacrosse teammates, I enjoyed very much. But as I roam about campus or set down at a table in Trillium, I am revisiting that time in my life with far too much aplomb. There’s nothing wrong with kicking back and enjoying the delightful orchestration of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last 5 Years. It shows a balance and appreciation for a craft long ridiculed by those overvaluing their own masculinity. No, the problem emerges when I am inspired by a particular key change to start belting along in a key I can’t quite hit. While I have been good at keeping it below the surface (the basement of Olin is surprisingly empty this time of year), I’m afraid that I’ll belt the wrong thing around the wrong person and give off the wrong impression. Mr. Brown, your music is indeed powerful, but have you ever considered that it might be — ahem — too powerful?
2. “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj: You’d think that, at this point, I’d get over liking a pop song. I’m a pop apologist, always trying to rep the ubiquitous gems of Top 40 radio, and “Super Bass” is indeed a great song that many recognize for its general awesomeness. Except I have listened to the song 35 times this week alone. It’s a startling piece of music that sounds like something tailor-made for Kidz Bop or a Disney pop princess, but it has Nicki Minaj on it, so its sugary sweet production is subverted by lines about a jacked coke dealer who she wants to sleep with. Club-romping drug dealers, all of a sudden, sound downright cuddly. And it’s awesome! And I can’t turn it off! And it’s kind of ridiculous.
3. The Star Wars Soundtrack: John Williams is a bonafide genius, as his music can lend gravitas to any and every situation available. The Star Wars Soundtrack is so brilliant because it invokes so many different feels while still retaining a sense of accessibility and distinction. It is emotionally stirring for anyone whose childhood was spent arguing over who got to be Han Solo and who got to be Chewbacca (I never got to be Han!). It’s music that is wildly inappropriate for my day-to-day dealings, and it’s irresponsible of me to waste it on my daily walk up the Slope, traverses into the depths of Olin or even my time studying in A. D. White Library (though the “Cantina Band” theme works pretty well when grabbing some coffee in Libe).
4. Van Halen: Thanks to years of exposure to advertising campaigns that helpfully informed my feeble mind that electric guitars kicked ass, especially when combined with long hair and spandex, I have harbored a sincere but wary enjoyment of Van Halen. While their music can, at times, be transcendent (I have distinct memories of hearing the Sammy Hagar-helmed track “Dreams” during the credits of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie and thinking it was possibly the greatest piece of art mankind ever conceived), it also has a pretty obvious streak of creepy sexism that makes me kind of cringe. Take “Feel Your Love Tonight:” “We’re getting funny in the back of my car / I’m sorry honey if I took you just a little too far.” Somebody should definitely inform David Lee Roth that a woman has every right to say no, and that “I’m sorry” doesn’t quite cut it when you violate that right.