[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end. I’m calling these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]
I think it’s time I finally admit to something: I like to listen to pop music.
Love it, actually. In fact, I’ve become a closet pop music junkie. And it’s time to finally come out of the closet.
This might not sound like much of a confession, but it will once you realize how pretentious I used to be about the music I listen to.
Too Cool for Top 20
Ever since I got my first new car and was no longer forced to listen to either my hooptie’s radio or a really shoddy Discman-through-the-cigarette-lighter rig, I’ve taken a fair amount of pride in the fact that that I haven’t listened to current music in over 7 years.
I knew nothing about any artist that didn’t appear on my meticulously crafted Modest Mouse or New Pornographers Pandora stations. While I’m a considerable pop culture nerd when it comes to TV and movies, I always skipped the music section in Entertainment Weekly because I didn’t recognize any of the artists or songs, and I didn’t really care to. I was able to recognize two of Lady Gaga’s songs, but that was only because she was the musical guest on an episode of SNL I happened to be watching.
I think the biggest “hit” songs I actually knew over the past 7 years weren’t even real songs, but rather internet sensation “Chocolate Rain” and the “Pants on the Ground” jingle from American Idol. (I only watch the auditions, btw, not the show itself—another bit of pop culture snobbery.)
For someone who is unabashedly open about her love for bad reality TV, this discrimination seems a little hypocritical, but that’s how things were.
Until the day my iPod died.
How I Got Over Myself
Sometime in mid-fall, the charger I use to connect my iPod to my car stereo fritzed out. I was at a loss. Sure, I could bring some CDs into the car, but they were all put away in a binder on a top closet shelf, and I’d gotten so used to being able to choose any song at whim that listening to a whole CD all the way through sounded boring. (Hashtag: “FirstWorldProblems.”)
So, until the new cable I’d ordered came in, I thought I’d give the ol’ radio a whirl. Why not? I was curious, in a “Don’t look at the car wreck—but how bad is it really?” kind of way. It had been almost a decade since I was aware of the music most of the country was listening to, and I kind of wondered what I’d been missing.
The answer was total and unadulterated crap, at least to my ears. Imagine someone from Mozart’s era sitting down at a concert hall to hear a nice symphony and having Metallica come onstage instead—that was how little I comprehended (or appreciated) the horrible noise I was hearing.
But then, gradually, something strange started to happen.
For the first day or two, I kept the radio on for the same reason I like to watch awful grindhouse movies: because I enjoy shaking my head and laughing at things that are over-the-top ridiculous. But, like that moment when you’ve been living abroad for a while and suddenly find yourself understanding certain phrases, I started recognizing some of the songs that were in rotation. And after hearing them a few times, they started to sound kind of catchy. Cheesy as hell, still (of course), and with lyrics that made the writer snob in me cringe…but suddenly I found my head nodding along a little as I was driving. I couldn’t help it. There were a few songs I even started looking forward to hearing. They were just plain fun to listen to on a drive that would otherwise make me incredibly grumpy.
The day I heard my first “favorite” pop song (Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger”—yes, that’s right) being played in the background of an ESPN show my husband was watching and impulsively shouted “Hey! I love that song!” I knew I was done for.
I’d been sucked in. I was no longer tolerating today’s top hits; I was actually, honestly enjoying them. They (*gasp*!) made me happy.
And I felt vulgar and ashamed for realizing that.
But now, several months later and one brand new iPod cable lying completely disregarded in my car console, there’s no more hiding: I love me a good, danceable, ridiculous-lyric’d pop hit, and I’m no longer embarrassed to admit it.
If It Makes You Happy…
Two of The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin’s “Secrets of Adulthood” are “You can choose what you do; you can’t choose what you LIKE to do” and “What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you—and vice versa.”
In other words, you may feel like you should read that mammoth critically acclaimed book because you’re an avid reader and it’s supposed to be worth the effort—but maybe you just can’t get into it for the life of you. That’s o.k. It doesn’t make you happy.
You may feel like you shouldn’t like cheesy shoot-’em-up action flicks because you’re smarter than that, more sophisticated than that…insert-other-presumptuous-reason here…but maybe you just plain love watching cars flip over and large building explode. So be it. It makes you happy.
It seems wrong to call these things “guilty pleasures,” because there’s really nothing to feel guilty about. If it makes you happy, it makes you happy—screw whatever anyone else (or your own self-pretentions) might think about that.
Because you know what?
When I’m on my way in to another soul-sapping day of work—or driving home from a frazzled, exhausting one—car-dancing like a moron to LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” or Drizzy’s “Headlines” totally fucking cheers me up. I don’t want to listen to my Bright Eyes playlist; I want to listen to something catchy, upbeat, energetic, and/or silly. I want something with a beat I can dance too.
I’m earnest and serious enough as it is. Sometimes I just want to revel in fluff, or pretend I’m a gangsta and release some frustration by rapping along as if I, too, know what it’s like when it’s “just me, myself, and all my millions.”
So, I will dance if I want to. And if I pull up next to a super-hip-looking knit-capped young man in a bumper stickered Volvo, I will not roll up my window or turn down LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.” Because there is nothing more indie than liking whatever the hell it is that makes you happy, whether it’s “cool” or “lame” or “cheesy” or whatever other judgmental word you’re worried might apply to it.
What Makes YOU Happy (Dammit!)?
Anyone else care to jump on the “I love this and too bad!” bus? ‘Fess up Proclaim your love below!
Here—I’ll even give you a good beat for motivation.
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