OPINION: Music snobs, your privilege is showing

“I am here to tell you that preferring Bon Iver to Britney Spears will not deliver you from the drab sameness of the proletariat,” writes Opinion Editor Jeromiah Taylor.

Every morning, I get dressed, cross the street for coffee, return home, and begin listening to music.

This ritual is non-negotiable.

People who know only a certain version of me are often surprised by the music I most often turn to in times of quiet contentment, direst distress, and greatest joy — the storied canon of pop.

The most denigrated of genres is also my favorite.

Despite its cultural dominance, pop music is so often dismissed as immaterial, shallow, ill-conceived, trite, and overly produced, among other accusations.

For some, commercial success is an immediate disqualifier for the merit or validity of music.

This attitude is not merely harmless preference. It reveals hidden truths about class, gender, and personality.

Pop music, by its definition as popular, is made for the masses — oftentimes by artists who are more representative of the masses than their peers in more lauded genres. An arbitrary dismissal of pop music is rooted in elitism and outmoded delineations of what makes art, art.

David Morgan, scholar of material religion and the sociology of the image, argues that the Western aesthetic ideal of detached art enjoyed via intellectual abstraction is based in a classist self-regard. According to Morgan, the upper classes, who for so long have been the arbiters of taste, consider themselves refined to the point of emotionless objectivity, wherein they enjoy art as removed from their baser experience as human beings.

This bias has been formalized by Kant, Wilde, Schopenhauer, and many other philosophers of the aesthetic.

The result is that any art that engaged the emotive experience, as pop music undoubtedly does with its love ballads, sex-fueled slow jams, and ecstatic dance numbers, is relegated to the status of “kitzch.”

How fortunate that a genre largely dominated by women — often of color — that centers the emotional landscape of common people, is of least artistic value.

Anecdotally, anti-pop sentiments are often thinly veiled anti-woman sentiments filled with misogynist and homophobic subtext.

How often have I been quizzically examined for my dire allegiance to the women of pop, or had my earnest evaluations of said women’s contributions laughed off by self-assured men.

I have found myself sitting across from affluent, straight, white men trying to defend the merit of pop, and the democratic accessibility of mass appeal, only to realize they will never understand because the music is not made for them. They are not us.

Beyond issues of class, gender and philosophy, there lies the fundamental personality trait of contrariness.

I am an analytical person — sometimes to the extreme — and I affirm the crucial importance of media literacy and the practice of deconstructing popular messages.

Yet I must confess that, when given the option, I prefer to enjoy things. Apparently there is a legion of critics who prefer to disenjoy, deconstructing meaning rather than constructing it. A large cultural swath of cynicism pervades every level of society from the academy to the middle school locker room.

For some, I suspect, denigrating what they are expected to like, what has been engineered for mass appeal — things like pop music — is a way of refuting the inherent alienation of capitalism.

There is a broader cultural shift towards the artisanal and customized. Perhaps those who pursue individualized goods are under the impression that such goods will individualize them as people.

I am here to tell you that preferring Bon Iver to Britney Spears (to show my age), will not deliver you from the drab sameness of the proletariat.

I was born working-class and will likely die working-class. My generation will pay our 4% to social security our entire careers and will likely never receive the benefits ourselves. That is, if we are even able to retire.

My life and the life of my progeny will be unimaginably altered by the climate crisis, and we have yet to see whether the dying liberal democratic system will be replaced by a class-conscious socialism or a race-stratified fascism.

In the meantime, I’d really rather appreciate my Pabst Blue Ribbon, Mariah Carey, and other mass-produced soma.

I’d urge you to find your own sublimity in the pulsing synths of ABBA, the gravelly wobble of Cher, and the radio-friendly power vocals of Whitney Houston.

After all, they were made just for you.