Often, we use music as a map of the soul, especially when we consider how such a large consensus of us use it to ground the stakes of who we are. Whether we are aware of this, or do so unconsciously, music is central to our identity, especially as we grow up. It is how we curated our individuality, and as we take from the music our parents passed down, we developed and tailored it into our own tastes. As it’s a basic human function, I think a lot of us are oblivious to how significant music is in our everyday lives as it is omnipresent in society and every other creative and cultural sector. Whether for the enjoyment of listening to a specific track, the emotional response it evokes, performing, or creating, it is It has the ability to lessen stress, pain, struggle and bring a calmness into our daily lives. It holds to the power to bring people together in different ways and this is no different for classical music, pop music, or even heavy metal.
Though, regardless of music’s universality, there is still a curated stigma around certain genres and by association, someone’s personal taste. For something that we use as an easy form of connection, it is unsettling to see the way in which some individuals use this to divide. We might ask why, but then that evokes a larger enquiry on societal expectancies and the pervasive unkindness that is present in consideration to a lot of creative cultures. The stigma surrounding music tastes co-exists with a lot of cultural and creative aspects, people believing that because they don’t particularly like something, that it is okay to judge someone for their liking of something. However, we cannot always answer why someone wishes to be unpleasant in response to what someone loves, but we can distinguish the fact that despite what some may say, all genres of music have immense worth in their own way. Don’t get me wrong, not every genre is for everyone, and we all have adapted and adjusted our tastes to what works and what doesn’t. Though, that does not mean it’s fair to critique someone else’s taste because it doesn’t fit your own. Every single genre of music is tailored to reach a particular audience that will love that genre for reasons of their own, and yet still we under-appreciate what certain artists or songs mean to someone.
As an anecdotal example, my love for K-Pop became something I was ashamed of for a while. Nobody else seemed to be ridiculed for liking Bruno Mars, or Ed Sheeran and Adele, but consistently people are quick to judge K-Pop simply because it is a culture they have not bothered to understand. I could go into all the specific reasons as to why I enjoy consuming K-Pop, but it is not actually something I should have to justify to someone who has just tutted and brushed me off when I said ‘I like BTS’. Since this apparently equates to my liking of other fields, I once had someone say that the reason I don’t like watching football is because ‘there’s not enough Koreans in it’. This was said regardless of its irrelevancy to the topic and the fact I’ve disliked football longer than I’ve ever liked K-Pop. Frankly, for someone to find that as a source for a joke is juvenile and coarse, and comes from the very conservative and ignorant mindset that I’m critiquing here. What might have seemed hysterical to some, actually affected me a fair amount and it made me regretful for ever sharing my music taste in fear of being the brunt end of some classless joke. You should not feel that you have to defend why you like something, nor be defined by petty assumptions and I would hate to think that anyone would feel belittled and undermined because they like a specific music genre.
Furthermore, it was strange to feel so degraded just for liking a genre of music and after similar occurrences, I became super aware of my music taste and people’s possible response to it. So, as I began my MA in Music Industry Studies, I rarely brought up that I liked K-Pop. I would specify every other genre on my playlist while purposely avoiding the amount of times my favourite genre came up. Thankfully, my course is full of people who too share similar passions and an adoration for music that is so prevalent that it erases the stigma behind specific tastes. After encountering people who were admirably unashamed of their own love for K-Pop, I became more comfortable with opening up again and discovered that those who were not even a fan were nevertheless intrigued and listened. These people made it seem so easy to just respect someone’s music taste and something so trivial became easy. Because it is! You do not have to like something to respect it. While I also have my fair share of opinions on different types of music, that does not give me the right to slate someone’s favourite artist with childish remarks and uncultured stereotypes so that the same person leaves a conversation feeling ashamed for enjoying something they love. I have realised that is there no reason K-Pop shouldn’t be seen as a legitimate genre of music and this goes for all types of music. Different cultures have different styles, but different should not be seen as a derogative.
Moreover, you don’t know what a certain song means to someone, nor do you know how that artist could have helped a person get through what might have been the worse time of their life. You haven’t asked what about this particular melody someone likes, nor have you considered why this person likes this style. Did you know that this was their mother’s favourite artist who they grew up listening to, did you know that this musician inspired that person to start creating their own music? No, because you haven’t asked before you judged. I will admit that I too was guilty of a one-dimensional perspective when I was growing up and was so sure that my music taste was ‘superior to all’. Though, now as I get further into developing my knowledge of this creative sector and begin shaping a career path for myself, I understand that music is shaped by its universality and doesn’t adhere to rules or restrictions. It is not as simple as saying someone’s taste in music is good or bad. That is why I want to make it imperative that it should not matter what type of music you like and there is really no such thing as having a ‘bad taste in music’. Although, some may find that statement subjective.
Overall, the role of music in our society fills a void that we all need to enrich ourselves and our culture, no matter the style. It provides alternate infinite experiences, and further enhances the skills we use in other professions, but it’s also a personal companion to many. There is no such thing as ‘bad music taste’ as music is ubiquitous and tailored to fit their audiences, so for someone to like it, that just means an artist or musician has successfully done their job. No one should have the audacity to judge someone who is passionate about music beyond its surface level just because they don’t like the song. While it may sound like I’m preaching, all I ask is that sometimes you consider your response to someone who has chosen to share something with you that might mean a lot to them. Ask questions and use it as a chance to learn something new, you might just surprise yourself.