There’s a difference between bands that foster a backlash culture in which throngs of too-hip-for-school youths adamently and outrightly claim to “hate” and a guilty pleasure, but the difference is small. To me, a guilty pleasure is something that is universally reviled and critiqued in popular culture (say for example, Britney Spears, or “Who Let the Dogs Out?”) that you secretly love and listen to on a perhaps daily basis, but you turn down the volume a little when you walk by someone. The latter is a band that is often critically acclaimed and extremely popular, but that people harp on all the time and throw criticisms at like cream pies on a circus clown.
Some of these bands, I happen to love. I love them for a multitude of reasons: nostalgia, for example. Or an impressive, extensive back catalogue. Or simply because I love their sound and find it relevant in my life and in society in general. And yet, nobody seems to see them that way; they only see them as a band or artist that, maybe because of their massive popularity or because they’re on every single magazine cover and awards show and festival, they must hate.
Here’s a list of said-bands that are not “cool” to like, but who I feel get a bad rap for no reason.
Enemy #1 among hipsters and pretentious music journalists everywhere, Coldplay is, of all the bands and artists I love, probably the most widely reviled. And honestly, I don’t understand why. Some say they’re a poor man’s Radiohead; some say it’s because they’ve lost all their creative mojo; others just hate their do-gooder “free trade” messages. To these people, I have this to say: fuck you. Maybe you’re ‘right’, and maybe you’re wrong. However you choose to view the band’s creative integrity and originality, they’ve produced some damn fine records and all records aside, I challenge anyone to not go to a Coldplay concert and NOT have the time of your fucking life. Chris Martin et al play a gig the same way a newly-signed, fresh-out-the-gate band would: with passion, uniqueness, and an indescribable and flourishing amount of energy. Coldplay is one of the bands that I long-ago dubbed “one of the four horsemen of the mainstream apocolypse”; meaning, they are one of the few bands who have what it takes to stand the test of time in a decently watered-down, mundane, singles-oriented market. Fifty years from now, people will still be dancing to “Yellow” at their wedding.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was once like all of you haters, who felt as though Maroon 5 as a whole barely deserved to live, let alone make a career past their mainstream-as-yellow lines debut. However, Maroon 5 is aging very well. What started out as a one or two-hit wonder outfit (respectively, “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved”) became a dance rock dynamo. Their sophomore is a should-be celebrated collection of rock-flavoured, shredded guitar-infused pop gems and at the end of this summer, the band can now boast their creation of one of the best summertime anthems in recent memories (“Moves Like Jagger”). While Adam Levine’s smouldering good looks and tight v-neck t-shirts veiling those abs (mmm) may turn off a wide audience of men and his too-smooth M.O.R falsetto may seem like the stuff warped LPs are made of, Levine laughs at his own imperfections; additionally, the man has some mad skills on the ol’ guitar. Sure, they’re not the GREATEST band in the world, but they’re only getting better and all of Levine’s self-depricating charm, sexy music videos and donning a Ryan Smyth Oilers jersey at their Edmonton show scored big points with me; he’s a cool guy. Leave him and his band alone, K?
Is there a less cool band than Train? Um, no. If you looked up the colloquial term ‘dad rock’ in the dictionary, Pat Monohan’s photo would be there. However, what Train does have is a ridicuously old fashioned notion of romance, Pat Monohan’s gorgeous soaring pipes, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. There are few songs from the last fifteen years that I feel are more beautiful than “Drops of Jupiter”; it is the perfect pop ballad with its soaring chorus, overrwrought lyrics and that classic piano riff. Train is a band that never really pushes boundaries – their own or anyone else’s – but there are other bands and artists out there that deserve the hate more than Train.
I’ve seen it written of Bieber that he is “everything that’s wrong with the music industry.” However, Justin’s got chops – if you watch him nail on a drum set and keep time with adult musicians before he was even a teenager, or hear him sing acapella on the spot, you’ll see a kid with talent beyond his years. Sure, Justin Bieber’s image is carefully crafted; everything from his hair to his designer hoodies and trucker hats, to his sneakers feels incredibly constructed and self-conscious even if it’s not. But a little known fact is, even those artists who those people would argue are image-less STILL have an “image”: if they look like they don’t care about image, that in itself, is an image. It projects how they want people to see them and by default, their music. If you’ve ever thought deeply about what you want to wear in the morning, you have an “image” too. I think most people out there in the known universe have heard of Bieber and when his (household) name comes up in conversation, people tend to respond with “I hate that kid.” The question is, why do you hate him? Think about it for a moment. What’s to hate? That he’s a teen pop star? I mean… how many teen pop stars have their been in the history of popular music? And how many more do you think will crop up? If that’s your argument, you’re fighting a never-ending battle. Is it because he’s ubiquitous? Of course he is – it’s because he’s popular and the little girls who love him cannot get enough of him and will not get enough of him, until they’re onto the next ubiquitous pop singer. Is it because you don’t like his music? There’s a lot of people’s music I don’t like. Justin Bieber is actually one of them, for the most part. I don’t spend my 24-year old, indie folk-loving life listening to “Baby” on a loop. But conversely, there are a LOT of musicians I don’t like. For example, Hawksley Workman; I just don’t get it. I don’t get the weird experimental tone to his music, I don’t find his voice appealing, I don’t find his songs melodic and I don’t get any feeling or reaction from anything of his I’ve heard. However, I don’t go around spouting to anyone who brings up Hawksley Workman, “that guy fucking SUCKS.” I don’t like him; that doesn’t mean he sucks. So why then? What is it exactly about Bieber you supposedly “hate”? If you don’t have an answer (which is likely), I’d say that automatically, the term “hate” comes out of your mouth whenever the idea of this kid is presented to you.