I would like to confess, here and now, that I have absolutely awful taste in music. Well, to be more precise, I have very good taste in music, but I have a bottomless appreciation for certain kinds of bad music. I mean, you know, I love my Garbage CDs to pieces and I was all about U2 in high school and I listen to movie scores and all that. I have music I am not ashamed to claim on my MP3 player. I’ll admit to the David Bowie and the Wallflowers and the Pretenders and the Smash Mouth and the Pearl Jam and the Cure and even the select group of ‘80s songs that everyone loves. I’ll cop to the Depeche Mode and even the Kylie Minogue. I will even confess an honest love for Siouxsie and the Banshees, because they make me sound cutting-edge. Occasionally I’ll admit that I’ve got some lesser-known New Wave tracks as well.
And then… there’s the rest of it. And before you go calling the RIAA on me, let me compound the sadness of this story: most of the stuff I download, I already own on CD. That’s right. It wasn’t enough for me to download Samantha Fox’s “Naughty Girls Need Love Too”—I had to own it. I had to replace my Paula Abdul tapes from elementary school with actual downloads. I had to spend the time and effort hunting down Bon Jovi songs, man. I own more “Greatest Hits” albums than I care to tell you. I actually have “How Can We Be Lovers If We Can’t Be Friends”—I have Michael Bolton MP3s, man. It’s a sickness.
You know, it’s really hard to hold some kind of moral high ground when you’re critiquing a story for workshop to the strains of Britney Spears’ “(You Drive Me) Crazy.” (Did you notice that? Did you notice that I knew the exact placement of the parentheses in the title without checking? I’m ashamed.) I can’t even be obsessed with a Britney Spears song that was an actual hit—I have to love the one that supplied the title of a crappy Melissa Joan Hart movie. Damn you, Britneeeeeeeeeeeey!
And you know what the saddest part is? I don’t even watch MTV or VH1. I haven’t since my sophomore or junior year in college, I think. (After I got my own computer, I was pretty much a one-screen girl.) I stopped listening to the radio entirely. In fact, if I hear new music, it’s because I hear it 1) from my sister, 2) on a car radio, 3) in a commercial, 4) in a movie trailer, 5) in a movie, or 6) advertised on my Windows Media Player. On one hand, with the state of popular music being what it is, I feel like I’ve been really fortunate to have all this clutter cut out of my life. I mean, I don’t like rap, and I don’t like metal or this watered-down stuff passing itself off as “punk” nowadays—did you see that? My hair just went spontaneously grey—so I feel relatively comfortable sealed off in my pre-1999 musical world. But at the same time—when I love a really bad, cheesy song, I don’t even have the excuse that everyone else right now loves it, too. I’m actually luxuriating in old bad music.
(At the same time, I will say: You know that whole Madonna comeback? What was that album, Ray of Light? And the “Dress You Up” Gap commercial? I was totally listening to the original “Dress You Up” on CD at the time, and trying to hide it from everyone cooler than me. That’s the one advantage of being into really old, crappy music—when it inexplicably becomes cool again, you are, for 2.3 shining seconds, a visionary. And then they move on to someone else, and you’re stuck with what was cool five minutes ago. Sigh.)
It gets worse: I swore, when I was in high school, that I was going to grow up but I was never going to grow old, popular culture was always going to be my culture, I was going to be hip way into my 40s and 50s. (Pop quiz: How can you tell that this was a quest doomed from the start? The word “hip,” that’s how.) I always wondered why people’s musical taste seemed to stop cold in their twenties and thirties… and then I found out, sooner than any of my friends did. I’m not even twenty-five yet, and already my culture clock has been stopped for four years. Imagine my embarrassment when I hear a gorgeous piece of music in a trailer and go searching for it, only to have everyone tell me, “Oh, that? That’s Coldplay’s ‘Clocks,’ haven’t you heard it before?” When did I get old before my time?