Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why Music Anyway - An East Coast Liberal Learns to Live with Nickleback

Today was a pretty decent day here in CT weather-wise if your goal was to get in a workout. It wasn't so good if you wanted a white christmas- amazing how almost all the snow was melted this morning.

We got up, opened stockings, had traditional breakfast, opened presents, took a Lathan-style walk, then took turns doing workouts and trying to enforce the nap time and zone. Pictures here

When it was my turn, I cranked up my iphone to Dark Horse. I wanted to do a sort of time-trial effort on the mountain bike on the Hammerfest bike course and then do a run that would take me on the Branford Road Race and Y Walk and Run courses.

I got off to a really good start, and had a really good workout. The two loops of the bike course were hard, the first one was faster than the second, and what seemed like a mild breeze at my back seemed like a strong headwind in my face- no doubt being on a 20 pound bike had something to do with that...

I got off the bike and started running, and I was running really well, and I was definitely into the music.

But I have to admit that enjoying Nickelback's music is a little embarrassing sometimes. I've always been pretty attuned to the lyrics in the music I listen to. While I can't listen to music that sound horrible just because the lyrics are awesome, I can get turned off to music with lyrics that really bother me. Yeah, Sweet Home Alabama is a great song, but the words, well, I just can't stand the lyrics.

The funny thing about Nickelback is that I love working out to the music. And the worst part of it is, that when they are at their drunkest, most debaucherous, and most mysonginistic is when the music is at its best. The lyrics are often sophomoric and seem to appeal to the 17 year old boy the band has got to be assuming is in all of us. Yet the song Burn it to the Ground is at its best at the point where the lyrics go 'No class, no taste, no shirt and shit-faced.' While Dark Horse is not entirely given over to this, the songs that have a higher value- Never Gonna Be Alone, especially- don't always carrying the same impact, and leave you having a sort of weird, metallic, scratchy-voiced Air Supply flashback.

There's nothing boastful about finding enjoyment in a song like Something in Your Mouth. And I couldn't help but think about how many people view music as uplifting, spiritual, something to help a person find contentment, even completeness. I get this- I can feel a little bit of that when I listen to Gregorian Chant, Ravi Shankar, even (forgive me) Alanis Morissette.

But something Yo Yo Ma was saying on public radio last night connected the dots for me as I was running. He was talking about how he dislikes CDs because they are a possession. They do not allow for a dialogue, but rather enforce a monologue. He's running a contest allowing you to participate in his music: by collaborative sampling of Dona Nobis Pacem.

And that's the thing. When I listen to Nickelback, or Nine Inch Nails (whose lyrics are far more complex) and other bands making those kinds of music, I am establishing a two way dialogue. This is loud, in your face music. these people are shouting at me, and I'm shouting right back, not with my mouth (unless you hear me singing along), but with my legs and arms. What draws me to Nickelback isn't the women-as-sex-objects or let's drink ourselves stupid lyrics, it's the balls to the wall energy and emotion.

I'm not a highly talented athlete. I work hard, I try to race hard. And this music, well, it puts me in that emotional/physical space I need to be in. It's a tool.

Yes, I enjoy the music. Even if the lyrics rub me the wrong way, I do enjoy the music.

And there's nothing wrong with that. For all the right reasons...

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