Music Snob

Yes, I’m a music snob.  If you’ve followed for a while you probably already know that, I’ve mentioned it in a couple of my music video posts.

For those of you that haven’t been following long, or are forgetful like me, I played in several bands during my high school and college years.  I even seriously considered moving to Seattle to go to school for Audio Engineering, they have some fantastic schools and the music scene there is incredible.

Being a musician, even if I don’t play much anymore, I’m very picky of “popular” music.  Really picky, to the point where I can’t listen to the radio (doesn’t help that there are only a couple stations here and they’re terrible).

The problem is, most music getting played on the radio these days is all done on computers.  It’s crap.  I’m talking pop mostly, they’re the biggest offenders and get played the most.  They slap a computerized drum track down, throw on some synthesizers, (maybe) have one or two real musicians for things like violin, and have someone sing over it all.  It’s not real music.  That would be like equating a photoshop expert to a painter, maybe his photoshop skills are art, maybe not, but they’re definitely two different things.

A while ago I heard an interview on NPR (it’s all I ever listen to in the car) with a guy who studied our sense of hearing, it was fantastic.  There is a surprising number of crazy things about hearing that I bet you don’t know and I highly recommend his book, The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind.

That interview shed some light on why I didn’t like the computerized crap.

One of the many things he talked about was how we feel music.  He wanted to know if we reacted when notes were held longer in songs, if subtle pitch shifts and timing made a difference.  We’re talking extremely minor differences, too subtle to even consciously recognize.  And yet it turned out, part of our hearing is so sensitive that it “feels” the difference even when we can’t identify it.  So, for example, if you played a timing and pitch perfect computer flute vs a human flute player people would react far more to the human.  Every time.  Even when a musician is reading music they have their own subtle variations they put into it.

In essence, those almost imperceptible “mistakes” of timing and pitch make music powerful.  Music is art, it should make you feel.  Throwing in all the digital crap and computers takes out its very humanity, it’s originality, what makes it unique, what makes us feel.  Art should be visceral, powerful and evocative.

Still not convinced?  I’ve got some fun examples.

If you have the time, I highly recommend watching this whole video.  If you don’t have time, skip to nine minutes in and watch as much as you can.  I challenge you not to get chills at least once.  Even with all the fancy effects taken away, Pearl Jam still totally rocks this set.  Those are real musicians.

(I stumbled on this video today, it actually sparked the whole post.)

Now, watch a pop mega star.  I even picked out one of the better-ish ones.  The video is pretty terrible though, I get what message they were shooting for but the explosive boobs doesn’t do them any favors.

There are aspects to this song that I actually like, that’s why I picked it out… and yet it just feels so fucking flat.  It’s like the whole song was watered down.  It frustrates me, why isn’t this song better?!?!

What would make it better?  How about ditching the computers and getting some real musicians.

Still not convinced?  Watch an actual band play the same song.  Just so you know, I went through a handful of covers and picked out the best.  Yes, I suffered through all of that for you.  Do you know how long I’m going to have this fucking song stuck in my head now?

These dudes are from Indonesia and I have to say that’s a pretty badass cover.  Could be better but definitely an improvement over the original (in my mind).

Can you feel the difference?

Real musicians, real music.  Accept no substitute.

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11 thoughts on “Music Snob

  1. I think I figured something out – Katy Perry’s version of “Firework” bothered me because somehow, with perfect pitch I expect perfect in everything else. And the lyrics are really lame. But with the imperfections of normal musicians, I am more accepting of the occasional clumsy lyric bludgeoned into place.

  2. Rarely do I hear people say they can FEEL the music. I sort of thought it was an experience that only I had. There is actually some music that courses thru me, and physically I can feel it. Not the bass — the sound. The feeling.

  3. ok….lets see if I make any sense after a couple of glasses of wine (and I blame it all on my supervisor…lol)….My soul wants to be a musician but I’m more left brain than right brain. Music speaks to me, it makes me feel (like you mentioned). Music tells my worries and doubts and hopes and dreams. I dance and dance when it’s good. You might remember, Pearl Jam was my very first concert. And I’d go see them again tomorrow. And guess what…I actually like this Katy Perry song. WHAAAAT?!?!? You might be thinking….I DO WHOLE HEARTEDLY agree that this version you posted is flat and terrible. But, when I saw her do a live performance on tv somewhere, it spoke to me because the lyrics mean something to me…I think if you had chosen a song that was flat and also whose lyrics were terrible, I could totally agree with you…And I guess the fact that Katy Perry played a free concert to the kids at my old high school a couple years ago also makes me like her…you just chose the wrong song for me…But I do understand your point and can agree with your point so I guess I’ll just blame the wine for this nonsense =)

    • I picked that song very deliberately because it’s one of the better pop songs out there. I wanted to show that even a “good” pop song could be better. Katy Perry is a good singer, I want to see her in front of a real band and see how much better she could be. Singing over a computerized drum beat and a synthesizer is such a waste of talent and potential.

      Nothing wrong with having some wine. 😉

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