Fighting the urge to be critical

I’ve noticed something over the last few months and years – no doubt linked to the rise of social media. It’s bugged me over the years, and also as someone who went away to study art for a few years. I’m finding myself bugged by the ingrained need for people to pull apart art in western countries. It manifests itself to me with popular music. There is a juvenile unspoken urge to tell the world what you like and possibly even more strong an urge to tell people you dislike something.

We see and hear it everywhere and get numb to it. We even learn very quickly to think that it is right and normal behaviour to enthusiastically dislike something.  Be that a sone, a band, an artist, or, quite regularly, a whole genre of music. “I hate blues”, “Band X are just so commercial”, “Singer Y is crap”.

Normal behaviour in early teens perhaps, but it seems to persist. I think it’s because young people learn that, in order to make statements about who they are (in my local school it was ‘I’m into rock) it became very important to say how strongly and clearly you dislike something else (….’I hate mod’).

From time to time I listen to this track by Roy Harper – and its intro makes me smile and think of every time someone moans about a band or artist. Just helps to remind me how we first-world kids got taught to think it’s cool and intelligent to be critical about art. Nothing could be further from the truth in my opinion.

“You can always tell the difference between a rich country and a poor country because in the poor country, the people get together … and sit and listen to the music … and the music reaches strange and glorious and very fast, full heights and the people all dig it, and even the kids dig it and it’s a great scene
but in the rich country it’s different. They all pay, to see somebody who is stuck onto a stage and … the whole ugly commercial act … goes on, in front of you … but most of the time, in a rich country … they’re all bending over each other to tell each other how good you are or how bad you are or how sloppy they thought you were tonight”

Each time I hear that, I remind myself to fight the urge to be snobby about music –  or about art in general. Disliking something takes more effort than going with it and liking it – and it’s an ugly thing.