Music shaming and the non-existence of guilty pleasures

31 January 2018

Whenever people hesitantly talk about their guilty pleasures, I kind of get them, but I also don't.
Sure, I understand that there is such a thing as a 'guilty pleasure', but I don't support it or feel like it is useful in any kind of way.
 People listen to the music they like, and that   might not necessarily align with your musical   preferences, but is this really an issue or   something worth judging an other human being   over?
 In the past, I've received fairly aggressive   feedback when expressing my taste in music   and  I never quite understood why.
 Sure, you've listened to those bands and didn't   find any particular liking in them, but I don't   feel  like my liking of them affects people   negatively in any kind of way. When people   start slandering certain bands immediately after   you've mentioned them, I always wonder what   goes on in people's heads for them to have such   a strong reaction to a mundane thing as   expressing a preference in cultural consumption.

Sure, we live in the high time of cultural branding. People don't just consume products for the sake of consumption, they consume as part of their identity. Every brand we associate ourselves with is part of our identity, and a brands' image is crucial to whether people will consume it or not and what kind of people will consume it.

At the end of the day bands are also brands. They have an image, communication strategy, visual identity, etc. So for people who take their musical consumption seriously the bands they listen to frequently are part of their identity. Furthermore, every musical genre comes with its own image, which people will also want to associate with or not.

This makes me believe that people's strong reactions to a different taste in music stems from the identity element to music. When people cautiously choose to associate with certain music and make this part of their 'image', they also deliberately choose not to make other types of music part of their identity.

Within this train of thought guilty pleasures can be seen as music that we like, but doesn't fit within the 'image' we try to create, and the heavy reaction to certain musical preferences can be traced back to the associations we have with that music style.

Someone, for example, really likes metal, they like to think of themselves as confident, unique and strong, as these are the associations they make with the metal genre. Pop music may in this discourse be viewed as dull, weak and easy. So the person in this case will probably want to distance themselves from pop music to keep up their desired image. This does not take away however that they might secretly sing along to ABBA whenever they get the opportunity, but they will probably categorise this as a guilty pleasure as the associations made with ABBA don't fit their image.

I think it's sad that we resort to cliché associations as far as music and music style goes.
Maybe some of those cliché associations turn out to be right some of the time, but if people's taste in music doesn't personally affect you why bother reacting negatively? The music you listen to make you happy, right? And it probably does the same for other people, so just let them be happy, and think twice before you make unnecessary comments. And don't get me wrong, I love to see how people make music part of their identity, but I don't feel like the negative aspects that come with this phenomenon need to be as pronounced as they are at the moment.

So if you want to dress up as ABBA, listen to melodic death metal when you're sad, fangirl over Alex Turner and dance passionately to 'When the rain begins to fall', go for it, live your best life.

Or maybe I just think too much,
long story short, mind you own cultural consumption.


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