Whenever a conversation about music turns into a comparative discussion, it’s incredibly important to remember the difference between what is good and what a person likes. Discussions can turn ugly when someone starts bringing up a favorite song or artist in the company of the musically literate, because why would a person possibly enjoy music that isn’t technically sound? Because fuck you, that’s why. But seriously, though…if there is some standard for the quality of music, then why would someone be such a big fan of a song that isn’t? There are a lot of reasons, and to be honest neither the question nor the answer actually merit much scrutiny, because like all art music doesn’t really care that much about rational qualification. But just for the sake of argument, let me show you what I mean. The following are, in order, my five favorite songs of all time.
Everything Louder Than Everything Else (Meat Loaf)
Hey Jude (The Beatles)
Us And Them (Pink Floyd)
Hammer to Fall (Queen)
The Night Santa Went Crazy (Weird Al Yankovic)
You read that right, my favorite song EVER is a Meat Loaf song. In fact, Bat Out of Hell 2: Back Into Hell is hands-down my favorite album of all time. For those of you who don’t know, Bat Out of Hell 2 is the album with “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That.)” It’s the first song, and by and large my least favorite. That said, almost every other song on the album is one of my favorites. And I’ve been listening to that album since I was a kid. The same can be said for most of my top five. Hey Jude has been my favorite Beatles song since forever, and the same for Hammer to Fall and Queen, and there are considerable libraries of songs to choose with both of those.
As for Weird Al, I want to go on record, in writing, and say that I believe he may be one of the most talented musicians of this generation. It’s true that a lot of his work is parody, and as such there’s only so much actual music, but he also does a lot of his own material, and he’s been ripping on the most popular artist of the times since the 1980s. Michael Jackson, Madonna, Nirvana, he’s done them all, and he’s even out-Devo’d Devo. If you’ve never heard Dare to be Stupid, give it a listen and you’ll see what I mean. His writing is quality and while goofy and outlandish and sometimes disgusting, he’s always maintained a certain level of standards.
I’m not a musician, but I’m a voracious devourer of music and I have a fairly broad range of interest. I also bear the dubious joy of enjoying a lot of music either before it becomes popular or long after it’s become relevant to the zeitgeist, so I feel a little like a hipster. I sang Rehab’s Bartender at karaoke in a bar in 2000 or 2001, when it was a brand new song on Southern Discomfort. Then, some eight or nine years later I hear it on the radio and my hipster brain just cranks directly into ludicrous gear and snorts, eye-rolls, and proceed to rage-vomit about it to whatever poor sap was in the car at the time. Six months after I already knew the words to every song on Disturbed’s The Sickness, Stupify hit the radio to a storm of similar rage-vomit.
Sometimes, when I find myself in a room full of people who believe themselves to be musically literate, I choose to treat the topic like religion or politics and just avoid a messy confrontation. Other times, I find myself in a room with actually literate people, and I find that I can have conversations about the music I enjoy nostalgically and the conversation turns out just fine. Because I promise, it’s okay to not like whoever you don’t like. But just because you like it, doesn’t mean it isn’t good, and just because something isn’t good doesn’t mean someone can’t like it. I won’t mention names, just turn on any Top 40 station and insert name here.