Is It OK to Judge Someone Based on Their Taste in Music?

When the trials and tribulations of daily small talk find you, let’s say in a slowly ascending elevator, there’s a call-and-response―an etiquette to follow. Sometimes, in between the animated meditations on the “crazy weather we’re having,” music slips into the mix. One will ask “what type of music do you like?” and time and time again, the de facto response arrives: “I like everything.” The elevator doors open; you walk out and have a nice day. But, hold on, rewind a moment… “everything?” This response is neutral; it is an abstainment, and it’s most certainly untrue. So why is the accepted opinion on music an absence of one?

Music Taste: Too Personal to Discuss in Everyday Settings?

As always, the answer is murky, but let’s dive in anyway and clear things up. First, it helps to consider that we live in a world where diverse opinions are quelled in favor of the resounding majority, if only out of sheer fear of offending someone. This social “tameness” might be the result of a culture swathed in political correctness, or it might just simply be the marriage of conformity to the human condition; regardless, strong or personal opinions on music aren’t included in everyday conversation. That much is clear.

Contrary to this truth, customization based on musical taste has become the main game-plan for music companies. Just yesterday, the new service Beats Music launched, promising accurately curated playlists for each user’s distinct musical taste. Needless to say, it wouldn’t make sense to invest millions into a platform that stresses the uniqueness in personal taste if everyone liked “everything,” now would it? Moreover, Beats competitors Spotify have been pushing social interaction and the sharing of music since they launched. Yet, when I go on to see what my friends are listening to, the vast majority set their playlists and habits to private. Why?

The Best-Selling Albums of 2013

The Best-Selling Albums of 2013

Evidently, music is too personal to completely expose to the judgmental eyes of distant Facebook acquaintances. Perhaps, people don’t want others to form opinions based on their guilty pleasures–be it a love for Katy Perry, or an affinity for obscure Swedish metal–which is understandable. But what about the music that really matters? The sound waves that soundtrack our sadness, our love, and our dreams?

Music is extremely indicative of who a person is deep down because of this profound connection; it offers a window behind all the calculated Instagram updates, and the comfortable barrier of the digital personality we create for ourselves. There’s a truth about all of us that lives in music taste, which makes nobody (aside from the music geeks) want to discuss taste in a personal manner. But maybe that’s exactly what we should be doing. There’s no way to alter what you listen to into an easily digestible personal statement, like a Tweet or a photo. It simply is what it is.

To return to the overarching question: Is it OK to judge someone based on their music taste?–the answer is a resounding yes. That’s like asking if someone should be assessed for their personal beliefs, feelings, and actions…what else is there to evaluate them on? Tread lightly, though. Since music is so intimately ingrained into our lives, whenever your opinion clashes with another’s (let’s face it) people get pissed. Yet, in a culture where indifference and political correctness are the norm, we should embrace one characteristic that actually means something.

I’ll go on record saying I dislike country music with a fiery passion in my core, and in my mind, that’s perfectly fine. We should be able to openly discuss diverse opinions on music, or anything, really. So, go ahead and remove that privacy setting on Spotify, and maybe reconsider responding with “everything” the next time you’re asked about music you like. It’s about time we had an honest discussion about it; perhaps then, we can figure out why One Direction was one of the best selling albums of 2013.

Article by Nicolas White

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