Dot writes: we’re listening to Dido, because, by a rather odd coincidence, we both had different Dido songs running through our heads. We haven’t played this album for ages: it’s not part of our regular soundtrack, which is currently dominated by The Proclaimers, Bach, and the Blackseeds. (The Proclaimers are playing in Dublin two days before my due date and I’m wondering if it would be a good idea or a very silly one to get tickets.) One reason I haven’t listened to Dido much is that I’ve been infected with a feeling that it just isn’t very cool to like Dido. Her records are sweet and inoffensive and suitable for playing in shops. It irritates me that this bothers me. I thought I’d got over trying to be cool in any way at all. (OK, we’re now listening to the song Eminem sampled for Stan. I don’t much like Eminem, but the mix of Dido’s dreamy, gentle, slightly melancholy riff and that bitter, sharply dramatic story was absolute genius.)
It’s very hard to like music just for the music. Music is like smell, evocative of memory; and music is also like clothes in that it’s often part of the persona we present to others. When I look at my CD collection – now mostly integrated with Ken’s, but I remember which parts were mine – I see a record of my relationships, and also a record of some of my more embarrassing poses. I haven’t got rid of the Oasis albums from my unconvincing late-teens attempt to be a Britpop girl (apart from their third album which I didn’t even like at the time): it would feel dishonest to do so, though I never listen to those CDs any more. OK Computer reminds me of my second boyfriend and that makes it hard to listen to as the relationship was bad for both of us (but also pretty short, fortunately). My heavier rock and metal CDs live separately from the main collection, indicating that they represent a period that was passing before I got together with Ken, and also that AC/DC, Aerosmith, Metallica etc aren’t really Ken’s thing. I no longer listen to them much but sometimes I do get them out and have a good old happy bounce around to them. However, my ears have readapted to gentler styles; and I no longer have the right clothes. How can I like Judas Priest properly now I wear bright stripy jumpers and sensible shoes?
Classical music has strict standards of cool and not-cool marking social groups, just like pop and rock. Among choral singers at Oxford, many of whom had backgrounds in cathedral choirs, I learnt to despise John Rutter for being sugary and populist (though I learnt to love Parry, who is just as outrageously tuneful, for being catchy in a manner so bombastic, Edwardian and camp as to be readmitted to acceptability from the other side). Subsequently I’ve often been embarrassed in parish church choirs when people expressed wholehearted enthusiasm for Rutter. I seem to have gone beyond sharing the snobbery of my social group to genuinely disliking his music.
Hey ho. I’m not sure there is a real point to this post other than that it’s surprisingly complicated deciding whether you like a piece of music or not. Also, I hate it when people write things off on the grounds of genre when all they really mean is that they are not one of the people who normally like that kind of thing. I even like Phil Collins. So there.