You are what you play: music shaming

Categories:  The Arts    Opinions
Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 at 6:18 PM

You’re going on a road trip with some friends and you’re riding shotgun. The driver hands you the aux cord and you start to panic. Nickelback’s “Photograph” comes on first. You laugh nervously, skip the song, then sink into the seat feeling completely embarrassed.

Congratulations! You’ve compromised your own enjoyment and happiness because you’ve been conditioned that your taste in music is not good enough. You’ve been music shamed.

Out of 100 people surveyed, 79 percent said they have been mocked for their taste in music, while 62 percent said they have done it to someone else.

The question is, what is it exactly that makes us hold our taste in music over the heads of those that don’t agree? Why do we allow the opinion of others on something as trivial as music define what we enjoy listening to?

Music shaming not only serves as a form of embarrassment, but it also reinforces sexism and gender stereotypes. Teenage girls are often ridiculed for loving artists like Justin Bieber and One Direction, while grown men hold themselves on a pedestal because they listen to The Beatles and cry to “Hey, Jude” on a daily basis.

Laura Kiesling — a graphic design student at Edinboro — thinks music shaming can and should be considered a serious societal issue.

“It could make people ashamed or scared to listen to music they like or have a connection with in front of other people,” she said. “It could make people afraid to be who they are.”

Kiesling says her musical guilty pleasure is Taylor Swift. She thinks Swift is and always has been “super overrated,” but still enjoys her music, especially Swift’s latest release, “1989.” Considering herself to be well-rounded as far as musical taste, Kiesling says it’s not always easy to be in the car with other people, as that’s where she is music shamed the most.

“If someone doesn’t like the music I put on...I get upset,” she said. “Being the passive aggressive human that I am, I just let them change it and I don’t speak until I cool down and get over it.”

Kiesling says she is music shamed the most when listening to rap and R&B.

She explained that it doesn’t bother her when someone doesn’t want to listen to rap or R&B, but when others refuse to branch out to different music and tear it down, it makes her angry.

“I hate when people are so closed minded to music. They don’t give other genres a chance [in order] to hear what artists have to say,” said Kiesling. “At the end of the day, they’re all just trying to express their feelings and experiences to the world.”

Kiesling says she believes some people simply can’t appreciate certain types of music. “I think if they see it as something they hate, others should hate it too,” she said. “They think they might be weird for liking a certain genre or artist.”

In a study performed by the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne in Australia, a group of authors led by Neil McLachlan asked if knowing how music is made impacts one’s ability to recognize and appreciate its beauty. Their answer? Absolutely. Their experiments show that dissonance — or clashing chords, a lack of harmony— was more evident and sensitive to those with trained ears than those without.

It doesn’t go without saying, however, that you don’t necessarily need a Ph.D. in music theory to enjoy intricate, classical arrangements. Just because you enjoy classic rock or heavy metal, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy artists like Kesha and Kendrick Lamar. It especially doesn’t mean that you should shame those that do.

People relate to different types of music for different reasons. Who are we to invalidate that? It’s not harming anything or anyone, and really is none of anyone’s business why they choose to listen to what they want. We use music as soundtracks to our best days; as the coping mechanism for our worst; as background noise while we work. Why make everything so complicated and shameful when it doesn’t need to be?

Kimberly Firestine is the arts editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at 

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