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Thread: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

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    Resident optimist OldRightHander's Avatar
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    Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    Something has kind of bothered me for a few years now, not a major bother, but it still irks me sometimes. I have seen it on here to a degree, and also in workplaces I used to find myself in before I started driving. It's this idea that liking the more obscure is a sign of better taste, or the idea that liking the popular thing is somehow a sign of unrefined taste or at the least something to be ashamed of.

    You see it a lot when people are discussing music. My tastes can run into the obscure, but that's mainly from a style preference than anything else, but there are times while channel flipping on the radio that I will hear a popular song and think, "That sounds pretty good." Now I will never try to compare the musical quality of a pop song with something like Handel, but both have their rightful place and can be enjoyed. I might be off base a bit, but it just seems that in most musical discussions, there is almost this unwritten rule that anything mainstream is off limits. Don't get me wrong though. I will be the first to admit that most of the mainstream music is garbage, but there still seems to be a group of people who will despise anything mainstream just because it's mainstream, not necessarily because of the quality or lack thereof.

    I notice it as well is some of the literary circles I find myself in at times. Everyone seems to be reading only obscure out of the way authors or books and if you admit to reading, much less enjoying, something that might have been a bestseller, you're frowned upon. You had better not go on some of these sites and mention authors such as Clancy and Cussler unless you want to be laughed out of the virtual room by those who would never stoop low enough to read such fluff.

    If you were to come to my house and look at my bookshelf, you will see some volumes there that could be considered fine literature, a few non fiction books that are geared toward a more educated crowd, but you will also see a decent collection of rather popular novels that I am not ashamed to admit I enjoy. Sometimes you read for enlightenment, sometimes for enjoyment. Sometimes you listen to something that makes you thing, sometimes you just want to tap your feet and not think that much.

    I guess that the same things could be said about movies, tv programming, and any other medium out there that can be used for education or entertainment. There are some who will consider their tastes more refined than others because they stay away from the popular fluff and only partake in the finer offerings. What I see too much of though is an attitude that seems to boil down to obscurity=good taste, popularity=bad taste. That attitude just bugs me a bit. Anyone else?

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    Mon chou Choo vaticanplum's Avatar
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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    Quote Originally Posted by OldRightHander View Post
    I notice it as well is some of the literary circles I find myself in at times. Everyone seems to be reading only obscure out of the way authors or books and if you admit to reading, much less enjoying, something that might have been a bestseller, you're frowned upon. You had better not go on some of these sites and mention authors such as Clancy and Cussler unless you want to be laughed out of the virtual room by those who would never stoop low enough to read such fluff.
    Who laughs at you? Why do you listen to them?

    Taste is taste, there's no accounting for it. I'm sure there are things that have a perceived "cool" above others. What's cool is taste too. Like what you like and don't apologize for it or worry what other people think. I think Mariah Carey's first album is a work of unheralded genius. That's my taste (but I'm also empirically right about that).
    There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.

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    2009: Fail Ltlabner's Avatar
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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    There are always going to be some folks who's first gut-responce to anything enjoyed on a popular level is to express distain. It's an insecurity and ham-fisted attempt to be smarter than everyone else in the room.

    Plenty of people with "refined" tastes can enjoy more popular items and usually they have a knack of picking out the best of the popular trends. Those people I respect tremendously. I like people who can find beauty anywhere...regardless of popularity or classification.

    It's the folks who go out of their way to make sure you know they find popular things distastefull, while looking down their nose at any movie, book, or song more than 10 people have heard of, that I find useless.

    And it doesn't have to be the arts. I enjoy target shooting. Some folks feal that if you don't use XYZ rifle, ABC scopes and LMNOP ammo you are just a complete rube. It's all rather silly.
    Last edited by Ltlabner; 10-29-2007 at 01:33 PM.
    a super volcano of ridonkulous suckitude.

    I simply don't have access to a "cares about RBI" place in my psyche. There is a "mildly curious about OBI%" alcove just before the acid filled lake guarded by robot snipers with lasers which leads to the "cares about RBI" antechamber though. - Nate

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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    Obscurity has no bearing on quality. Jaws is one of the top 5 greatest movies ever made, while I can name hundreds of little unheard-of foreign/indie films I'd just as soon flush down the toilet. Though there are legitimate reasons for liking certain things over others. While there are no hard and fast rules for taste, it's not "everything is equally good if I say so." There are criteria for judgment.

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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    The view in many circles, especially involving music is that anybody can listen to popular music. Just turn on the radio and you hear it. It is music made to appeal to large groups of people. There are a lot of artists with little to no abilities to play or write music. Their image and sometimes voice are what they use to make money. Not their song writing ability or artistic vision. Many of them have their music written for them. They simply supply their looks or popularity to sell the music. Yes, some of it is catchy. You can dance to it. but most of it is done by computer. Even some of the voices are enhanced by computer. I wish I knew where the video is now, but there is a video where they show how taking a good looking girl, writing a completely teen oreinted, stupid song written by a pop song writer, computer enhanced voice recording (the girl couldn't sing in tune for the life of her), and making it sound "catchy," You get people to like it. These people were even asked about artist who sing "stupid" songs and they were very opinionated against them. Somebody else had to see this video.

    Now, that doesn't mean that if you like some popular music that you have bad taste. Some people only care that music sounds "catchy" or they can dance to it, or whatever. I like artists who write their own music. I like meaningful lyrics that have to be interpreted by the listener. I like emotion not only in the sound, but also the lyrics. I don't like excessive cursing, or songs that artists claim to have significant meaning that are clearly not symbolic of anything, songs about it being hard to be rich, or artist complaining about people who claim it is hard to be rich, songs that act like its cool to abuse drugs, songs that talk about emotional pain but really say nothing about what causes pain, songs that just talk about why they want to have sex with a girl/guy or how much they like girls/guys, songs about how they are so hot/popular/cool/hip/bad/rich/etc. that everyone wants to be them or with them, songs that include the word promiscuous even though many people didn't know what that meant before the stupid song, songs that have no meaning but people don't care and sing them anyway (see Fergie, Gwen Stephani), songs in which artist say their name repetedly.....

    Now, there are exceptions to every rule, but those are a few of my pet peaves with music. I also hate people who act like they know music and tell everyone they have bad taste in music. My taste in music is my taste in music. Nobody has my exact same tastes. Just because you might like popular music doesn't mean you are "unenlightened" or don't understand music. You understand what music is to you. I might tease people about their taste, but in no way would I ever tell you that you are wrong. Music is about enjoyment.

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    Be the ball Roy Tucker's Avatar
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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    Tastes great, less filling.

    I like to mix it up. I like some popular stuff in books, movies, TV, etc. And I like to get all brainy and find some esoteric and hidden gems. Just like I enjoy a good hot dog, a great steak, hot french fries, and Veau Poele a la Matignon.

    The real trick is to get something both popular and excellent, like the aforementioned Jaw and the Harry Potter books. That is license for printing your own money.

    Pay attention to the open sky

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    Mon chou Choo vaticanplum's Avatar
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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission first." - Eleanor Roosevelt
    There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.

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    Score Early, Score Often gonelong's Avatar
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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    Quote Originally Posted by OldRightHander View Post
    There are some who will consider their tastes more refined than others because they stay away from the popular fluff and only partake in the finer offerings.
    Avoid these people, they are ******-bags.

    Enjoy what you enjoy with apology.

    GL

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    Journey rocks! And I'm not sorry.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post
    Journey rocks! And I'm not sorry.
    I'm sorry for you

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    Resident optimist OldRightHander's Avatar
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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    Quote Originally Posted by Roy Tucker View Post
    Tastes great, less filling.

    I like to mix it up. I like some popular stuff in books, movies, TV, etc. And I like to get all brainy and find some esoteric and hidden gems. Just like I enjoy a good hot dog, a great steak, hot french fries, and Veau Poele a la Matignon.

    The real trick is to get something both popular and excellent, like the aforementioned Jaw and the Harry Potter books. That is license for printing your own money.
    I think you just summed it up pretty well. In all truth, I really don't care for most pop music, but I find some of the attitudes toward anyone who does a bit annoying. Occasionally I will hear something that will get my attention. The way I see it, anything that comes out of the pop genre and has some quality to it could almost qualify as one of those hidden gems.

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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    Quote Originally Posted by vaticanplum View Post
    "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission first." - Eleanor Roosevelt
    Good Lord, that was the first thing that popped in my head.

    Anyhow, music is tougher than, say, movies or books because its appeal is so hard-wired. One thing I've noticed is a bias among the high-fidelity set for harmonies or even good vocals. Its not "authentic", if the vocalist is gravelly. For years this worked against the Beach Boys before people started to get past this.

    There are other biases: guitar vs. keyboard, produced vs. garagey, attractive vs. ugly.

    I'm convinced that you could take a lot of music, change the vocals and appeal to a whole different demographic.
    The widow is gathering nettles for her children's dinner; a perfumed seigneur, delicately lounging in the Oeil de Boeuf, hath an alchemy whereby he will extract the third nettle and call it rent. ~ Carlyle

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    2009: Fail Ltlabner's Avatar
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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    Quote Originally Posted by SeeinRed View Post
    There are a lot of artists with little to no abilities to play or write music. Their image and sometimes voice are what they use to make money. Not their song writing ability or artistic vision. Many of them have their music written for them.
    There are plenty of artisits who don't write their own music, and who's voice is their instrument. Elvis, for example, had most of his music written for him, IIRC. He may not be your cup of tea, but I think most people recognize that his ability to entertain people with his voice and style (dispite translating someone elses music) is worthy of appreciation.
    a super volcano of ridonkulous suckitude.

    I simply don't have access to a "cares about RBI" place in my psyche. There is a "mildly curious about OBI%" alcove just before the acid filled lake guarded by robot snipers with lasers which leads to the "cares about RBI" antechamber though. - Nate

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    Quote Originally Posted by SeeinRed View Post
    I'm sorry for you
    Any Way You Want It, SeeinRed.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Resident optimist OldRightHander's Avatar
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    Re: Obscurity, popularity, and taste

    Quote Originally Posted by Ltlabner View Post
    There are plenty of artisits who don't write their own music, and who's voice is their instrument. Elvis, for example, had most of his music written for him, IIRC. He may not be your cup of tea, but I think most people recognize that his ability to entertain people with his voice and style (dispite translating someone elses music) is worthy of appreciation.
    A lot of Classical performers would fall under this category, brilliant musicians performing for the most part something someone else wrote. I think it's important to recognize writing for what it is, a talent that stands on its own. Someone people can write well and not sing a lick and others can sing like angels and can't write. The inability to do one doesn't diminish the talent a person has at the other. There are a few Bob Dylan songs that sounded better recorded by other people.


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