I, Stephanie Van Sandt of MonsteRawr.com, listen to Kesha. I also listen to Demi Lovato, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry. I have listened to the song “Wreckingball” without sneering, and I sing along loudly to “Roar.”
(I’ll wait a moment for you to finish judging me.)
For a very long time, I hid this affinity for female-driven synthpop/R&B/dance rap. I hid it from myself (“I only listen to it when I run, to pump myself up,”) I hid it from Kyle (“I totally made that Katy Perry Pandora station as a joke, to piss off a coworker,”) and I definitely hid it from my friends (“Ugh, how can anyone listen to anything with that much auto-tune? What’s wrong with people?”)
I didn’t want to admit to myself or others that I listened to that type of music because to do so is considered unpopular. Only thirteen year old girls and basic bitches listen to that over-processed shit, right? No one with any semblance of taste or half a brain could possibly listen (or, god forbid, sing along!) to music as shallow and overly produced as pop music, right?
But I refuse to hide it or lie anymore. Truth is, I love that shit.
That’s not to say that all of my musical taste is entirely devoid of cultural merit. I’m absolutely bonkers for Frank Turner and Red Molly, and worship at the feet of Florence + the Machine. Getting to light Guster, Ben Folds, and Ingrid Michaelson were highlights of my career. And I’ve got a perchance for jazz vocalists like Madeleine Peyroux that Kyle finds positively annoying. (He says they all sing the same dozen songs. To be fair, I’m not entirely sure he’s wrong.)
But if you look at my Pandora account, my most used playlist is Kesha. I can’t help it, I love that over-produced-auto-tuned-bubblegum shit. I love listening to it because it’s upbeat and empowering, and it makes me feel good. It’s music to kick ass to, that gives me a voice with which to declare my prowess and strength to. It’s music to sing off-key in the shower and feel sexy to. It’s music to have a kitchen dance party while making dinner and pretend that I’m less exhausted than I really am to. It’s music to dig deep for that last quarter mile of my run, when my lungs are on fire and my tank is empty, to find the hidden strength and finish strong to. It’s music to feel like I can do anything and be everything I ever wished for, to. It’s music that makes me happy.
But is it musically complex, you may ask? Does it ponder over some existential mystery that calls into question the core of my very belief system? Does it leave me breathless with the surreal musical drama that crawls under my skin and into my blood and puts me in a dulcet trance? Aaaaahhaha–no. But does that mean it can’t be equally valuable to me than that which does? Isn’t music supposed to be a deeply personal thing? Expression and emotion and thought, using the medium of sound and silence? Just because a thought isn’t fucking Shakespeare, does that make it less legitimate of a thought? Isn’t there room for silly and soft and fun alongside thoughtful and provocative and awe-inspiring? Or does our quest for cultural perfection doom us to only enjoy music with a prescribed number of guitar solos that you’ve probably never heard of? If no one is impressed by your obscure musical taste, does it still make a sound?
The reality is, much of what is considered “culturally valid” doesn’t resonate with me. I find The Beatles wildly annoying. (I said it, no regrets.) John Mayer only has one song that he entitles with twenty different names. (And don’t even try to defend him by talking about how his recent stint with Dead & Co gives him enough musical legitimacy to forgive years of whiny bro-folk. I will still pants him ever given the opportunity.) Anything with the word “experimental” anywhere near the title makes me uncomfortable. And I don’t even fully understand how jam bands constitute as music. The truth is, I just don’t connect emotionally with music like that. It doesn’t make me feel anything that doesn’t resemble irritation or fury. So I don’t really understand why I should feel obligated to listen to it, just because it’s been declared musically credible.
But maybe that is something you connect to! Maybe you’re staring at the screen, mouth agape, wondering how I could so ignorantly insult the creator of what is obviously the greatest music of all time! (I mean, The Beatles are considered one of the greatest bands ever, so someone has to like them.) And maybe, just maybe, four musicians starting four different songs at the same time (I’m looking at you, Phish,) is your jam. I get that! I mean, I don’t get why you like that crap, but I get that you connect with it emotionally in a way that I don’t. And that’s great for you! You rock out to that free-form jazz that I find totally grating! I like to think that deep down inside, we all have that band that we’re a little ashamed of. All I ask is that you afford me the same acquiescence to listen to what you perceive to be shitty music that I afford you to listen to what I perceive to be shitty music.
(Or at least judge me quietly.)