Friday, January 15, 2010

Music and Me

So, if you have met me, or know me at all, you probably have encountered the fact that my music trivia skills are beyond horrible. They are so bad, indeed, that it comes up frequently. You know, someone mentions a band or a song or a singer that they think is common knowledge and I am left either asking "who is that?" or pretending to know for convenience's sake.

It recently came up when someone, in an online game I do with movie lines and song lyrics (I have gotten a few of the movie lines! no song lyrics yet...surprise surprise), used The Racounters. granted, after some popular polls amongst my friends (who actually have some music trivia abilities), I don't think this is THAT well known of a group, but their lead singer is Jack White (who I also had never heard of), formerly of the White Stripes. I have heard of the White Stripes, but only in the last six months because of Rock Band and because DH likes them and was talking about them recently. Anyways. This of course lead to a discussion at book club about it. The other women started playing "do you know who sings this?" with the music that was in the background at the resteraunt (The Mellow Mushroom - AMAZING Buffalo Chicken pizza, but that is another story). I got the Johnny Cash song, but that is about where my knowledge ended. Some of the other bands I had never even heard of, or heard of only in passing reference (such as the Crosby Stills Nash and Young joke song on the BNL Christmas Album).

So, why is my music knowledge like this? I attribute most of it to my parents. I say attribute, not blame, because I don't think its an inherently bad thing. When I was little, my parents mainly listened to old country (Willie Nelson, etc), public radio, and classical. There was also a tiny bit of modern country, especially as my older sister got older. We listened to The Morning Show, the daily morning show at Minnesota Public Radio, that played songs like Waltzing With Bears and other folk music. You could say I was raised on the show. It unfortunately went off the air last year (because they wanted to retire). Strangely, my upbringing also involved a lot of Tommy and the Who, but that was about it for rock.

Sometime around 5th grade I feigned an interest in popular music, like Ace of Base, because my friends liked it. By middle school I was still mostly listening to NPR, classical, and country, though other music started to become more known to me, especially soft rock like Third Eye Blind. I listened to more soft rock as I got a little older. In ninth grade (1998) my best friend introduced me to the Barenaked Ladies. I became obsessed. I knew all their songs, we went to a few of their concerts in high school. I also listed to Matchbox 20, some Foo Fighters and what not, but I still did not listen to popular music on the radio, or seek out new artists. In fact, I hardly listened to ANY radio besides MPR in the morning. In High School I was involved in The Minnesota High School Music Listening Contest, in which you study mostly classical music and learn to tell by ear what era it is from, who composed it, etc. We did very well in these competitions, senior year we came in 2nd in the state of Minnesota, and if it had been based on points alone, we would have come in 1st.

Then I headed off to college. I aggregated what I thought was a nice (mostly illegal) music collection while I was in college. It featured all of the bands I had already mentioned, plenty of classical and film scores, and the random songs that I liked the lyrics of - ranging from Ludicrus to Eminem to the Rainbow Bright Theme song and every variation on the Mario brothers theme known to man. It also had a lot of modern country as my now husband got me listening to that genre again. I eventually lost this collection and still miss it :-(

So, looking at this history, perhaps you can understand why I don't know much popular music. I STILL don't listen to the radio much. In the car I typically listen to Audiobooks. If I do listen to music its a 108 the Mix (80s, 90s, now). If it happened before 1998, there is almost NO chance I know anything about it. I may know the song by listening. I may know the name of a big band, but probably won't be able to link them to a song. If it is 1996 to now there is slightly more chance I will have a clue, but its still unlikely, especially if it would fall into the category of "rock" or "hip hop". Recently, Rock Band has given me a big boost in song recognition. I did not know the vast majority of songs that it came with, or the bands that played them (you can see Wikipedia for a list of what songs comes with it, some examples of what I did not know: Mississippi Queen by Mountain, Suffragette City by David Bowie, Pump it Up by Elvis Costello... I had heard of David Bowie because the movie Labrynth, but thats it for this list).

This is why I basically suck at music trivia. I suck at band name recognition. I suck at all that sort of stuff. I am more likely to be able to tell the difference between a Mozard and Vivaldi piece than I am to be able to tell you whether Lady Gaga or JZ sang a song. I am more likely to be able to list someone who is famous for fiddling than to tell you a single popular female singer of the 1970s. But, I don't think this is a bad thing. Sometimes, I think I appear to even be proud of it. Typically I don't think its good to be proud of NOT knowing something, and not even wanting to learn it. Maybe I am proud of this, I don't really know.

Just don't take it personally, please, if I have never heard of someone you think is awesome. Its not personal offense.


attadad said...

Willie Nelson wasn't "old" when we started listening to him... he just got that way as we continued to listen him as others became new the star of the day !

Laurelyn said...


can i just copy, paste and delete the parts about soft rock and music listening? :-)

my coworkers never fail to be astounded at my having not heard of an 80s pop or rock "legend", despite my explanation of my music knowledge.

i agree, its not a bad thing by any means. Too bad I can't tell mozart from vivaldi or i'd be as cool as you :-)

Manday said...

It was not old when you started, but you kept listening to it instead of the new stars of the day, making it old.