Musical Esteem

Music has always been a big part of my life. I sometimes have difficulty identifying with people who do not share a similar passion-bordering-on-need for music in their own life. I like all sorts of music, but I have a definitely preference for anything riff based and heavy as hell. Heavy meaning feel, not gainy guitars and screamy vocals. In fact, if you like Five Finger Death Punch at all, you should probably stop reading this right now.

I love music, and accompanying this love are plenty of loud and outspoken opinions about what is ‘good’ and what is not. Believe me, I find plenty wrong with a lot of different music, which overlaps pretty heavily with the music my wife enjoys. She’s thrilled about my critiques, too (he said, sarcastically). It all works out, though – she doesn’t like heavy stuff and I don’t like pop, so we end up jamming out to classic rock together, which is always loads of fun.

Despite my critical annoyance with some music, and my general dislike for other sorts of music, I always try to appreciate it. I like the idea that anyone is spending their time creating something. Even the awful pop stars that don’t write their own music – I keep in mind that someone wrote that song. I respect that it exists, and that someone (hopefully) created it with passion, even though I might actively avoid hearing it.

I can’t stand shows like The Voice or American Idol (which I only recently realized is still airing). I don’t like what they represent or how they go about things. I turned on the television the other night and The Voice was on. After feeling sufficiently disgusted with the idea of it, I thought about the dichotomy that now exists in obtaining notoriety in the music industry.

The music I listen to is ardently in the underground. There seems to be a certain honor that comes from being a touring musician that develops a following without major label support (or any at all in the case of Bongripper) or ever hearing yourself on the radio, which is not nearly as important as it used to be anyway. Bands cut from this cloth play because they love their craft. They have music to make, and are willing to scrape by and work shitty day jobs in order to hit the road once or twice a year and share it with us.

That’s real passion. It’s also believing in yourself in an authentic way.

My dudes out there saving up for small vinyl pressings, screening shirts themselves, mailing out each and every merch order on their lunch break, doing all of their own marketing and press – these brothers and sisters of the riff are not cut from the snowflake cloth. Nay, they are hewn from something far more durable. Given my predilection for doom music, it’s probably hemp, but it’s authentic, and that’s what actually matters.

The same cannot be said for the hopefuls on America’s favorite pacifiers reality music game shows. Many of the contestants on these shows have undeniable talent. They also have to believe in themselves to think they stand a snowball’s chance in hell to win the show and achieve fame. It’s a different kind of belief though, and that is where they are different from my underground metal brethren.

The people on these shows are seeking validation. Music alone does not satisfy them, so they are looking for fame and the adoration of millions. That’s not to say that music is not their passion, but fame seems to be equally important. The fact that they are on a game show reeks of arrogance. They feel entitled to fame, and don’t even want to work for it. These shows are a shortcut to the finish line.

Bands like Elder, YOB, Deadhand, Ancient Warlocks, Khemmis, Infinite Flux, Bloodmoon, and the like are not in it for the fame. Even if there were some bullshit ‘America’s Next Metal Band’ show coming out next week, none of them would show up. They are in it because they love playing music and feel fortunate to do so. Fame and fortune would not be turned away, but is not actively sought after.

Singers on The Voice are still looking for the trophies they got as kids. They need that singing trophy and ongoing validation to feel like a successful musician. Bands touring in smelly vans don’t need it – they are validated by their art, which, in my mind, makes it more meaningful.

People ask me why I listen to heavy music, and I usually tell them its because I like playing guitar and enjoy riffing out with some loud fuzz pedals. But maybe I’m choosing to shun the mainstream because it lacks authenticity, and inauthentic art its own kind of offensive.

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