Dec 282009

Yesterday I posted a rant about a song by Ke$ha called “Tik Tok” that is the No. 1 selling single on iTunes and is at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Among other things, I said it made me wanna claw my skin off in big hunks, that a whole album of similar songs would make me want to vomit up all my internal organs, and that it was yet another sign of the increasing idiocy of popular culture.

Elise from Reign in Blonde (one of the two sites that was our inspiration for NO CLEAN SINGING and one of our essential daily reads) posted this comment about the rant (and I hope she won’t mind that I’m featuring it here):

“I actually really like that “Tik Tok” song. I’m not saying YOU have to, but it honestly feels like too many people still MAKE metal or LIKE it just to “stick it” to other genres or to prove they’re better. Heavy music is fully capable of standing on its own. I like to think of myself as a peacemaker.”

I usually prefer to impulsively shoot from the hip and then forget about whatever nonsense I’ve written, but Elise’s comment brought about some moments of self-reflection. That in turn caused me to confess some things to myself. And then I impulsively decided to share those confessions, after which I’ll forget abut the nonsense I’m about to write:

  • I listened to “Tik Tok” once before writing yesterday’s post (via this video of the song). I haven’t listened to it again. I don’t want to listen to it again. Unfortunately, 24 hours later, I still can’t get the damn thing out of my head. I listened to metal non-stop yesterday in an effort to cleanse my mental palate, but it hasn’t worked.
  • That doesn’t mean I like the song. But I confess I’ve got a Pavlovian response to just about any music with a compulsive groove in it (check out our recently completed list of The Ten Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs of 2009 if you have any doubts). Again, that doesn’t mean I think it’s good music. I just can’t help myself. Put a coconut cream pie in front of me and I’ll eat the whole thing, but that doesn’t make it good for me.
  • I confess that I went a little over the top when I said an album filled with songs like “Tik Tok” would make me feel like vomiting up all my internal organs into a steaming, slimy pile at my feet. Only a surfeit of tequila has ever made me feel that bad. But I still agree wholeheartedly with none other than the executive producer of Ke$ha’s forthcoming album, one “Dr. Luke,” that “a whole record of that might get annoying.” (More confessions after the jump)
  • I confess that Elise is right in saying “too many people still MAKE metal or LIKE it just to “stick it” to other genres or to prove they’re better.” The metal scene has its own form of political correctness that drives many of us to apply a litmus test of purity even to music within the metal genre. If it’s not brutal enough, if it enjoys too much commercial success, if it doesn’t display technical virtuosity, lots of us tend to shit all over it. And as for pop music, well, Elise is right that some of us listen to metal to prove that we’re better than that. It’s that whole “us against the world” attitude which is a defining element of extreme metal. (And I’m compelled to say to all those people who don’t like metal, “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.”)
  • I confess there’s a lot of metal that’s just as formulaic, just as devoid of real artistic merit as “Tik Tok.” In every musical genre (as in all things), there’s more mediocrity than there is genius. (I saw the new “Sherlock Holmes” movie this weekend, and that’s genius.)
  • I confess that music, like all art, is a matter of personal taste. And given that, I do sometimes wonder whether it’s valid to say that some music is good and other music is bad, in the same way you can legitimately draw a distinction between, say, good and bad jambalaya.

OK. I’ve gotten all that off my chest. My soul feels somewhat better now that I’ve confessed. Unfortunately, I still can’t get that fucking “Tik Tok” out of my head. And despite unburdening myself with the honest confessions above, I haven’t changed my mind about some fundamental things:

My tolerance for music that isn’t extreme metal has grown more limited with each passing year, even when the non-metal music is well-written and well-executed. I just find it boring. I’m not completely positive why that is. I used to have very eclectic musical tastes. I can only say there’s a level of energy and intensity to extreme metal to which I’ve become addicted and a “fuck you” attitude toward the rest of the conventional world that for some reason I find appealing and that (most of the time) I respect.

And finally, I do still think that “Tik Tok” is an example of the idiocy of popular culture. I take back the part I wrote yesterday about it being a sign of “increasing idiocy,” because popular culture has pretty much always been idiotic.

No doubt, there’s an infectious quality to “Tik Tok,” but it makes me feel manipulated. I just have this feeling that the song and the artist are constructs of commerce — yet another packaging of a pretty face (whether it be male or female), a breathy auto-tuned voice (whether it be male or female), an electro-pop rhythm, and one aspect of novelty (white girl rapping, if you can call that rapping) for the principal object of making as much money as possible for the architects.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think extreme metal is better than that, in part, because on the list of what drives extreme metal bands to do what they do, making money isn’t at the top. For a lot of them, it isn’t on the list at all.

To close (finally), thanks to Elise for providing so many thought-provoking ideas in so few words, and forgive me for responding with so many.

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