Everything to Everyone*

“So do you like music?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah,” I said

It’s pretty much my reason for existing. I would wither up and die if I didn’t hear music every day, didn’t sing every day, didn’t dance a little around my apartment (or office, if no one’s there–or hell, if someone is there), I thought.

“What kind of music do you listen to?” he asked.

“Well, I would say ‘I like a little of everything,’ but I just have particular artists that I like from a lot of genres,” I said.

Everyone says they like (or, in more dramatic cases, love) “everything,” and this response makes me irate like few other things (save Oprah) can. You like everything, do you? Do you? Do you really? ‘Cause I kinda doubt it. Do you love eastern European gypsy punk? Do you love hard-core, OG rap circa 1992? Do you love a good polka? Do you love barbershop quartets?
I don’t say this because Iactually love all of these things. I say this because I, too, once fell victim to this heinous overstatement. A casual acquaintance would ask me what type of music I listened to and I’d blindly respond “Oh, everything” and these acquaintances would let that answer slide–perhaps because they, too, would respond similarly when I posed the question back at them. I’d like to say that I once encountered a person who challenged my “everything” response and thus, changed my musical outlook for good, but I don’t think this person exists. Rather, I guess I kind of realized the falsity (and downright inanity) of my statement on my own, little by little, as I aged and (supposedly) matured.
I realized that I did not, in fact, like “everything” when I began to make the blanket statement that I “hated covers.” I vehemently argued that hearing a current band cover an old song drove me to projectile vomit…until I realized that what was actually true was that I generally preferred the version of the song that I heard first was generally the one I liked best and that wasn’t always the “original” version. In fact, many times it wasn’t. The more I researched, the more I discovered that some covers turn out to be monster hits for the “covering” band while the original artist remains cloaked in obscurity (or just goes on to record better songs). Basically, someone else wrote and sang it first (maybe even recorded a version for the studio), but they certainly receive zero due credit (to the casual fan, at least) for its success.
As I came to terms with this (I am, at my core, a gigantic music snob), I made the co-epiphany that instead of “liking” “everything” I simply had a basic level of tolerance and/or respect for those genres and artists who did not make my standard playlists and CD collection. I made the connection (running out of synonyms for “realize” here, sorry) that particular genres of music (or even artists) were more appreciated at different times. For example, listening to ‘harder’ rap is great background noise for me. I can concentrate on something else without getting hooked into lyrics and trying to anticipate the melody). More importantly, I realized (screw it) that my music choices were overwhelmingly made on an artist-by-artist basis. Do I like eastern European gypsy punk? Maybe not overall, but I do dig me some Gogol Bordello, I thought.

“Okay, name your top three bands,” he said.

“Um…Elliott Smith–obviously, I’m wearing the t-shirt…Curtis Mayfield–some 70s funk in there…and…uh…………I’ll say Blue October,” I said.

Blue October? Blue October? I choked. Where did that come from? I mean, I enjoy this band–their lyrics are superb. But in my top three? Not hardly. Please don’t ask me to rank, because I have no such stock answers from which to choose. Perhaps Three Dog Night? But then I’ve named two non-current faves and one deceased. Something more current? The Postal Service? The Kooks? Stellar, but again, not top-3 material. What if I threw him a curveball and went way back: The Grass Roots? Or even further: Nat King Cole? Still, I’ve got to have a better answer than that. I’m intimately acquainted with the entire discography of Ben Folds, but I tire of him after awhile, and knowledge does not always beget fondness. Chicago is a good choice, but I just. Don’t. Know. Arrrrrrgh.

“Cool,” he said.

“Why can’t I have this discussion aloud?” I thought.

* A bit disappointing, but my disappointment was somehow fitting, given the nature of the album: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everything_to_Everyone

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