Critical Selection

Kevin Sittner, Reporter

Photo by Aalyna Silva


Music has in some ways joined the ranks of politics and religion as another vehicle for divisiveness.”

Music, regardless of how subjective, transformative, and personal of a subject it ought to be, is, unfortunately, the instigator of conflict, spite, and ultimately, a most ignominious plight. Perhaps nobody can speak poorly of a song that is universal in every sense, one free of innuendos and vulgarity, one whose writer maintains an enviable persona, and above all, one that is not marred by controversy of any kind. Yet, it would appear that anybody can, in their own mind, justify criticizing another’s taste in music, instead of criticizing the music itself. This is not to say that the nature of an occasion or event should be disregarded when selecting its soundtrack. For instance, it may be worth refraining from selecting politically-charged music at family gatherings, avoiding lyric-laden works when attempting to focus, or ditching aggressive pieces while others desire slumber, but the notion that humans innately view their own musical preferences as superior and all opposing views inferior is reprehensible. Moreover, the fact that we even characterize others as having “poor taste in music” without immediately stepping back flagrantly contradicts the entire purpose with which all music, or art for that matter, is produced: to express and exchange ideas.

It is through the drafting and enjoyment of music that one may either relate their struggles or recognize that they are not alone in their circumstances. Nobody is afraid to say that musicians possess the right to orchestrate, arrange, and produce music however they see fit or that listeners possess the right to observe, critique, and experience music however they see fit, yet in the same breath, we are so quick to mock the sounds that others are inexplicably drawn to. It has become a societal norm to vehemently invalidate the mere artistic preferences, whether they pertain to music, film, painting, poetry, or prose, to the point that experiencing feelings of ineptitude are common among listeners. A growing concern, the backlash that stems from disagreements regarding the merit of works has influenced many, including myself, to avoid such discussions as they tend to become more heated than civil in quality. Music has in some ways joined the ranks of politics and religion as another vehicle for divisiveness.

 Multitudes of uninspired, unempowered listeners go out of their way to conceal what they listen to, and it shouldn’t have to be this way. Anyone who enjoys Queen’s uplifting repertoire should be afforded the same respect as the listener who praises Kanye West’s often polarizing tracklists. The revere we afford to others is often telling of the love we possess for ourselves, and the ability to empathize with others and respect their opinions is one the most vital traits a human can possess. In such trying times, it is a consideration for the welfare of others that unifies us, even if that consideration only extends to musical taste. It is imperative that we as humans exercise forethought and reflect upon our treatment of others,  whose preferences may seem disagreeable, and that we direct our criticisms of music as an art to the producers of such works, rather than those who seek validation from or extract joy from the art itself.