Sympathy for the Devil

Heard that song? It’s a very compelling story of a man who is just doing his job. It’s “the nature of my game” he says. It’s a good jam, but it makes you think. Everything, from the angels in heaven to the demons in hell, has its place.

But that’s just an example. Not really an appropriate example mind you, but I had to tie in the title of the blog somehow. Although, I could have just started with my original opening line. Before I picked the title, I was going to start like this:

I’m a sympathetic soul. I have the ability to see both sides of a situation, and this trait makes it hard for me to get off the fencepost sometimes. I’m not sure where I acquired this trait. Maybe it was something I developed on my own in an effort to make people feel included just like I wanted to be. This is why I’m not an arguer. I have my opinions just like everyone else, but I know what it’s like to have someone make you feel guilty for having them. Aside from the completely ridiculous, I think opinions should be respected.

On the same spectrum, I understand what it is like to have someone harshly criticize your work just because they didn’t like it. It can be painful. People are known to say things like “I just wasted 4 minutes of my life that I’ll never have back” and “that made me sick to my stomach” and also “my five-year-old could have done a better job”. Why do people feel like these kinds of criticisms are warranted or even appropriate? I ask this question because I’m looking inward and seeing that these feelings do not belong to just the jerks. I’ve done it, too. If any of you are familiar with my blog, you know that I attempted to tastefully bash the band Nickelback in a previous post. I actually said that Nickelback makes me feel hate inside me. Really? Are they really that bad? The more I think about it, the more I feel like I’m grossly overstating. If I really am attempting honesty, the things that I hate elicit so much more emotion in me than tuning in to a local radio station and hearing the sounds of Nickelback or Saliva or 3 Doors Down. There are worse things that have happened to people I know and to the human race in general, so assigning a hatred to a group of guys that are just making some music for their audience is just plain mean.

Now hold on. I haven’t suddenly changed my mind about these bands. I don’t like their music. I still believe as I said before that the radio is the fast food of music. It tastes good, but ultimately you’re missing out on viable nutrients. But not everyone is a musician like me and has the desire to search out new kinds of music to develop their palate. In fact, there are some people who (this might shock you) don’t like listening to music at all. Gasp! (see, I told you) Some of these people will just turn on the radio to have noise and they don’t listen for the same things that I do. They don’t get all tingly when they hear an unexpected chord progression or nod in agreement when a particular lyric resonates. It’s just not possible for everyone to have the same experience.

So Nickelback is not just for the tone-deaf and the uninterested and the “lay person”. Plenty of musicians love music as much as I do and enjoy the sound of “new metal” or whatever the heck you’re supposed to call this genre of music that Nickelback and all their counterparts are belong to. I’m not the person that feels immediately self-righteous when I hear that someone enjoys a band I don’t. I used to be, but I’m trying to change my attitude. To be clear, I do not think that any of these bands are good music, but my perception of such is unique to me. This is actually good for these bands because I don’t go to their shows or buy their albums and they’re still making more money than I am.

Next question: What kind of critic are you? I could get meta on all you fools and say that criticizing your form of criticism is in fact contradictory to my point of being respectfully critical, but there is a finite amount of information I can discuss in one day, and many of you have children that need not be left to defend for themselves for too long. Plus, I’m actually right on this one, and you’re probably not reading my blog if you’re a jerk. So if you’re ready for it, here’s my challenge: be a responsible critic. Be the type of critic that is a happy medium between your mom and a hipster newsletter. Share with the world your opinions about art, positive or negative, in such a way that the artist(s) will respect you back. If you didn’t like “The Immortals”, which I did not, tell us how you feel, but remember that the people who spent time and effort creating that movie don’t want to hear about how they “shouldn’t be allowed to work in Hollywood anymore for making such a piece of trash” (not an actual quote). I’ll bet you, the people behind these movies are happy to hear your critiques just as much as they love to be praised, because it means you saw the movie and you reacted to it. But lets not make it so personal all the time. Hell is busy enough with all those that will be judged for their unthinkable atrocities. They don’t have time to look after Justin Bieber just because you think he should be there instead of making music (actual quote). And when you’re in doubt, think of the target of your animosity as just a regular person like you who wants to be loved and accepted and remember what your grandma said to do if you can’t think of anything nice to say.



Into the Foul Depths of Nickelback

I was watching a comedian recently, and he said something very funny and very true.  He said that we have used up all our good words to describe life.  We use words like “awesome” to describe Oreos and t-shirts.  We overuse the word “hilarious” when describing farts and people hurting themselves (well that one might be an appropriate use of the word).  And we use the word “hate” to describe our feelings for things that . . . well things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme.  However, when I think of the band Nickelback, I get that feeling in my stomach that some people get when a tactless relative talks about a particularly loose bowel movement at the dinner table.  I get that feeling that people get when they hear of injustices in the world that they cannot do anything to rectify.  It’s out of their hands.  It’s poisoning the very world they live in while they stand by helpless to stop it.  When I think of Nickelback, I actually do feel hate inside me.

I try not to use such harsh terms when describing music.  I have always been of the mind that I can at least appreciate something if I don’t like it.  Atonal music is one of those things.  For the life of me, I do not understand it, but I can see that someone put effort into making the music, and I appreciate what they were trying to do.  I mean, you have to take a different approach to playing atonal music.  That doesn’t mean I want to hear it.  But when it comes to Nickelback, I would rather listen to . . . to . . .

OK, I have discovered something about myself.  I’m not sure which is worse for me to have to listen to for a long period of time.  Nicelback or Charles Ives.  I guess I could at least tune out the atonal stuff and I wouldn’t feel like I was losing brain mass after prolonged exposure.

What sets Nickelback apart from everyone else?  There has to be a reason.  I dislike all the post-grunge, modern rock bands like 3 Doors Down and Three Days Grace and Trapt and Saliva.  They just don’t do it for me.  But Nickelback seems to be the most popular of the this group, so they get the most of my dislike.  And I’m not the only one.  There are plenty of people that hate Nickelback just as much as I do.  But, I suppose I must (begrudgingly) give them credit.  There are no in-betweeners when it comes to how people feel about this band.  People love them or hate them.  You have to be good at something (whatever that may be) to elicit that kind of response from people.

For some reason, I associate Nickelback with people that do not understand what good music is.  These are people that listen to nothing but modern rock stations.  I like to think of radio as the fast food of the music industry.  Sometimes it tastes good, but you can’t get all your body needs from just fast food.  If you listen to nothing but the radio, just like eating fast food all the time, you become unhealthy.  But Nickelback knows their audience.  Their songs are just throw-away songs that can be consumed in large quantities.  Can you tell the difference between a quarter pounder and a double quarter pounder?  How bout a Whopper and a Triple Whopper?  Sure you can tell there is a difference by looking at it, but if you take a bite . . . same thing.

This consistency of sound made me think that that was the reason for my hate.  But then I thought, “Why do I hate Nickelback and not AC/DC?”  I mean, if there was a band that was notorious for sounding the same over the years, it would have to be AC/DC.  Right?  So I considered this for a long time, cranking up some “Rock ‘N Roll Train” in the process, and I discovered the root of the problem.  AC/DC, although consistent in their sound, had a certain style that appealed to me.  Just like many of their fellow classic rockers, they have an influence of blues in their music.  In contrast, when I (am forced to) listen to “post-grunge”, I don’t hear any of that.  The blues had a baby, and they named it rock-n-roll.  But the “post-whatever” crap . . . it’s something else.  I don’t even know what to call it, but it’s not related.

I think there are too many reasons for me to explore them all.  Some of you might go for the obvious joke:  They’re Canadian.  I guess we like to make fun of Canada, because she is basically our half-sister.  We both have the same mom, but Canada wasn’t born until after the divorce.  This is not the reason, though, because there are plenty of musicians from Canada that I happen to like.  BTO and Bryan Adams are two examples.  Also, Lights is Canadian, and to her I say “Oh, Canada!”  (Get it?  Cuz she’s hot and that’s the national anthem.  No, really.  That’s their song.)


p.s.  I have a youtube channel where I talk to you in person!  Have a question that has been bothering you for some time?  Ask your parents.  What if they don’t know?  Well . . . then Ask the Funk Masta!