In an effort to address a recent comment from Mrs. Wheat, I have decided to post about music snobbery*. *I prefer the term music bourgeoisie, but that is only because I am better than you and know what that means, knowing also that I am misusing it in a ironic manner, but only slightly ironically as to confound and mislead.

Before I justify my actions, let’s play a game. I am an attention-seeking Italian female with some musical talent and ethnic name. Changing my name, I embrace dance/pop music and achieve vast success. I rebel against my Catholic upbringing complete with naked pictures, homosexual confessions and stoking of media coverage of continual shock presentations. I have achieved fame and know how to keep myself in the papers. Can you guess who I am?

Did you guess Madonna or Lady Gaga? Does it matter? Mrs. Wheat likes to remind me that Lady Gaga is art. I guess if making yourself into a caricature of a form already a copy– then yes, she is art. But she is not my kind of art. Her game feels tired. I am surprised that people follow it.

Mae West- ever heard of her?

Music is art. Art in every form and at every level has its devotees. However, I believe there is such a thing as bad art. Does declaring something bad art make me a snob?

I enjoy reading Chuck Klosterman. In his latest book of essays, Eating the Dinosaur, he said that he is “post-taste” in reference to music. I found this odd when I first read it. How can someone be beyond taste? I felt that it must be a personal decision in order not to have to defend his love of Axl Rose to anyone any longer. If he says, “I am beyond comparative merits in music tastes,” he ends arguments. This may be the ultimate example of elitism. “I can’t defend my position, but it is still my position. You are not going to change it. I will not entertain discussion.”

I am not post-taste. In fact, I find myself becoming more interested in one’s taste in music and how those of us are drawn to artists that others totally overlook. I am sure there are many factors for this, but I want to deal at this time on the background aspect.

My own musical journey begins with two experiences—a capella church music and oldies radio. Each Sunday was filled with the shared four-part harmony of congregants at our local church. Many weekends and holidays were spent in the back of the minivan with my parents singing along to the Beatles, the Drifters, the Supremes, et al.

Both of these experiences were music divorced from the context of its creation. I had no idea why we needed to sing church songs with such antiquated language. I liked them, but I wondered why we needed to sing about “over yonder.” I had no idea what the writers and performers of these oldies looked like—black or white, old or young, sometimes male or female. I also had no idea that the Rolling Stones and Elvis were controversial to many who had sung the same church songs just a few years before me. Heck, Elvis was a ceramic sculpture. How could that be avant-garde?

Love Me Tender–because I’m ceramic.

Now I would like to say I developed a love for the music on its own merits–that my appreciation for the music lies in the art of its creators. But then I was imbuing the music with my own experience. Songs became memories. These memories then impact my perception of the art both positively and negatively.

Summer 1984, my family had just moved to Texas and my parents decided to take us swimming. My brother breaks his leg as he slides down into my father trying to catch him in the pool. We get into the car and “Chariots of Fire” is on the radio. So while everyone else thinks about a triumphant race, I think about my brother’s fractured leg.

I don’t think I am alone in musically scored memories. I think that this experience informs our musical tastes in specific and in broad reaching ways. Some of us share various cultural similarities and these cause us to share musical interests. The hilarious Dave Chapelle had a skit about this on his show.

There is one bad word, maybe two in this video. Come on, it’s Chapelle. I didn’t need to tell you that.

Chappelle Show: Dancing for Different Cultures – watch more funny videos

Did you watch it? It’s good, right? I liked the megaphone part the best.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, why I think musical taste is interesting and why my tastes are better than my wife’s.

Driving in the car today with my older son. Rancid’s “Ruby Soho” comes on the radio. You may not remember, but that song starts with a great 90s guitar riff. My son looks at me from the backseat through the rear view mirror and says, “This is a cool song, Dad.” And you know what, he’s right. He has no idea about the 1990s rebirth of punk in mainstream acceptance, but he recognizes a balls-to-the-wall rock song as cool. There has to be something more than just cultural in realizing great musical art; but then again if he was never exposed to this now, what would he think of it 50 years from now? Or will he think this is good music when he is a teenager or will he rebel against me, and therefore music that I consider cool.** **It goes without saying that I am cool. This will not change. It is only my son’s perception of my coolness that is subject to change.

Listen here’s the deal, my poor beloved wife was raised listening to bad 70s soft rock, (Bread, Foreigner, late Chicago when everything was synth) and bad 80s pop music (Need I say more?). So it’s not her fault that music choices are poor. She still likes some great stuff because she went her own way in high school and started listening to good bands.

Music that is formulaic, vanilla, pop transports her to a happy place. It’s her history. And I celebrate that with her. As long as I don’t have to agree with her that it is good art.

Post Script: Mrs. Wheat at this juncture will point to Klosterman’s defense of the genius of ABBA in some misguided way of arguing a point that I just conceded. You know what, I love her so much that I kind of even like ABBA now.

If you change your mind, I’ll be first in line. Honey I’m still free. Take a ch-ch-chance on me.

Man, that is a lot of love.