Musical Backgrounds

Music will always be a product of where you come from. For example, JAMC yells about “dying by the river of disease,” and Bruce Springsteen sings about “trouble in the heartland.”

So just as the Chain’s music will always be influenced by living in a crappy suburb in Scotland, and Bruce Springsteen’s music will always be influenced by….living in a crappy suburb in New Jersey, our individual backgrounds inform what we listen to. For instance, a lot of straight white nerdy guys listen to Elvis Costello, because that’s who Elvis Costello is. That’s also who tends to listen to the Smiths – those guys, and the women who love them.

And then there are musicians who transcend demographics: your Michael Jacksons, your Aretha Franklins, your Adeles. (Interestingly, Michael Jackson was singing white pop, and Adele is singing “blue-eyed soul.” When does cross-demographic appeal become appropriation, and when is it just good music?)

I don’t have a good answer for that. What I’m thinking about right now is why we listen to the music we choose to listen to. Surely it’s a combination of emotion and marketing, but I think that there may be something deeper at work. Identification, perhaps. We choose music because it resonates with us. Either it describes what we’re feeling, better than we ever could, or we use music to set the tone for our world.

So that’s why I put on “Pure Morning” when I’m feeling angsty, or “Roar” when I’m feeling stereotypically girly and on top of things. Listening to those songs, I think, yeah, that’s exactly right.

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