Music and its motive

Matthew Colwell

Matthew Colwell’s take on a world obsessed with criticizing music.

Older than language itself, I’m sure cavemen pissed each other off talking about which bongo sounded better. Since then, we’ve acquired language and a vast array of instruments to piss each other off even more. Music is not only a forefront for capitalist ventures and entertainment, but also one of the oldest forms of personal expression, and everyone wants to be right on the matter. At the root of this discussion is one issue: motive. When discussing what music is “good,” we try to objectify it into one category when the behind-the-scenes part of the creation matters. Every musician has a motive and it makes or breaks the way the outcome should be seen.

Music can provide different memories for everyone. Filing into a stadium where the night will proceed with a wild stage spectacle of fireworks and crazy designs and electronics and inducing wide-eyed, shock value acting can be the ultimate entertainment. You can truly feel a part of something and go home with an experience you’ll remember. It’s exciting and your blood rushes. Or maybe it was something more personal like a night on the dance floor with some drinks. Either way, you go home having listened to music all night and you felt entertained. It was purely about personal enjoyment of sounds. Period.

But then there is the “artist.” As vague as that is, there are musicians who simply create to create and hope to spread a message and feel they’ve done their part for themselves and their belief system. If you’re entertained, that’s fine, but this is narcissism at its finest. This is the category everyone wants to feel a part of and will always tell you they are. No one is going to say, “I just want to fill stadiums and my back pocket.” And if they do, it’s always followed by “but my artistic expression comes first” or some other please-believe-I’m-being-honest phrase. It’s also where the bickering begins.

When you’re approached with a conversation about a pop icon like Lady Gaga, it will immediately split two ways: she’s an artistic genius or she’s a record label cash cow. No one wants to admit their favorite artist isn’t doing it for the music, but rather for the spectacle and their wallet. As much as I’d like this to only apply to pop radio, you then come across acts like Green Day who were revered as punk rock pioneers but have become a stale taste in many fans’ mouths over the past decade. The root of all these discussions comes down not to the sonic waves, but to the reason they were made. Authenticity is the matter at hand.

The end of this is that no one can judge the authenticity of the music you like besides you. You can have the discussion and be open-minded to the viewpoints presented, but remember at the end of the day, you like the music you like because, well, you like it. As long as you have a logically founded rationale for the reasons you enjoy it, don’t let anyone tread on you. The next time someone rebuttals your reasoning with “Well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man,” just know you obviously have taken the time to find a reason for your love of the tunes you love, and they have no logic to tear that down.

Contact Matthew Colwell at [email protected].