Inherent Cool

March 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Do you watch yourself as you listen to music? What matters more in music: the sound or the associations? Or lack of associations? It is almost impossible for even the casual music listener to not have some sort of preconception of how cool the artist they are listening to is generally considered to be.  Out of the many reasons that a person will chose to listen to music (aside from perceptions of the music’s quality) the concept of it being cool is perhaps the most vague. In other words, the least related to music as a whole. Why is it so universal then?

Radio is an interesting way to explore this question. Do you think you become addicted to something because it is actually catchy, or because some tired, faceless radio DJ is telling you that this is the case? I remember when I first heard Rihanna’s “What’s My Name” and remember thinking it wouldn’t transition to radio very well because I didn’t think it sounded like the songs being played. Looking back, I was both right and wrong. It does feel different, but it’s precisely because of this difference that it came across as in the moment. Which leads to what can be at times the most irritating aspect of the cool factor in music: for cool to even exist, things have to become not cool very quickly, and stay that way for a while. The thing is, this is a good thing too because it prevents stagnation.

Does a pop song feel relatable because it has strong ties to your life, or because it has a symbiotic relationship with a superficial, pop zeitgeist, which has already had a significant influence on you, the listener? The relationship between all these things is at the heart of this conversation. Is there anything wrong with a piece of music being appealing because it is of the moment? Not necessarily. Is there something wrong with this being the determining factor for whether this piece of music gets heard? Yes.

By Derek Kinzel, Staff Music Writer.

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