Over the years, my husband and I have had numerous conversations regarding musical taste. I like to think that both of us have excellent taste in music. We both steer clear of the CRAP (that’s country and rap to all you musical novices). We are in absolute agreement on all music made between 1980-1989, and we both have an undying love for the sound of an electric guitar. However, my husband thinks that there is no such thing as “bad taste.” This coming from a man who believes heavy metal is an art form, I am not surprised.
I grew up listening to the unmistakably superior bands of the 1960’s. I may have been born in the eighties, but I was raised listening to the Beatles…on vinyl. Clearly, I have reason to be the authority over what is considered “good music.”
It also helps that I actually have a musical background. I can read music. I can play more than one instrument. I was in honor’s band. I won a high school trumpet solo contest in 6th grade. While everyone else in my class was still struggling with all three of the notes in Hot Cross Buns I was mastering Vivaldi’s “Allegro.” You could say I was a bit of a prodigy. These bragging points usually find their way into the conversation when my husband and I disagree on a song’s worth.
This is why it was so disheartening for me when I learned that my husband is right. Even with all my musical training, my impeccable music collection, and my uncanny ability to determine which bands have potential; I am still not immune to bad taste.
There were moments of clarity in the past. I was never too proud that I owned an Enrique Iglesias CD and could sing all of the words…in Spanish. I suspected something was off upon discovering a Michelle Branch album in my CD stash. But I would never admit it. In fact, it took nothing short of scientific musical theory to persuade me.
Pandora’s Music Genome Project (not to be confused with the much less successful Alan Parson’s Project) is able to capture the musical identity of each song by analyzing the melody, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and vocals to determine (scientifically, mind you) what other types of songs are related.
When Pandora first started gaining a following, I was a firm believer. It gave me a chance to hear bands I’d never heard of. It allowed me to compare each song to the next and determine why I liked the songs I did. But it had its disappointments as well. When I tuned in to the Beatles station only to hear the likes of Nirvana whining into a microphone, I assumed it was a simple glitch. No self-respecting Beatles fan wanted to hear a heroine-fueled rock star millionaire sing about how shitty life can be. Pandora had gotten it wrong.
Unfortunately, the glitches became plentiful. When other Internet radio stations touted similar programs, the mistakes followed. Even the imperious operating system of Apple could not get it right. The genius function on my iTunes account was starting to feel like a misnomer. There is nothing worse than having a computer configure a playlist to go along with your favorite tune, only to have a Rush song show up in the mix.
And so I throw up my arms in defeat. Perhaps the science is right. Perhaps there are musical similarities between the songs I love and the songs I despise. But I know one thing is for sure. I have good taste in music dammit.