Last week a friend asked me a question that got me thinking about my taste in music a little differently. Knowing that I prefer to listen to metal, she asked me how I felt about the music playing in the cafe where we sat, music that was most definitely not heavy metal. She was curious if the so-not-metal music permeating public spaces annoys me or makes me grind my teeth.
I paused midway through my vegan and gluten-free quinoa chocolate chip cookie* to consider how to respond and came up with an uncertain ‘no.’ It has taken me a little while, but I’ve come up with three reasons for my response.
1. Tuning out the background buzz
I don’t remember getting particularly irritated by the music around me lately. Maybe I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid places that play torturous music, but I think it might be more about tuning background noise out. If the music around me isn’t something I recognize and/or feel strongly about, and it’s not overwhelmingly loud, it tends to blur into the constant buzz of the city. This was the first explanation I thought of for why I don’t get fed up with the music around me more often.
2. Not all good music is metal
When I deliberately choose the music I listen to, I most often listen to heavy metal. But that doesn’t mean I listen to metal exclusively. Growing up, I learned to appreciate Abba, Neil Diamond and Patsy Cline as well as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. As a teen I listened to Ella Fitzgerald and B.B. King as well as Metallica. I played the tuba and trombone while learning to play the guitar.
I retain a sincere, non-ironic fondness for the music I grew attached to in my youth. And even after becoming an unrepentant metalhead, I could still appreciate a good non-metal song and consider it worth hearing again.
My non-metal friends are responsible for introducing me to good songs from other genres. And sometimes I just want to learn about and try to understand the musics that make other people tick.
Teaching classes in popular music made at least some musical diversity an absolute necessity. When you’re trying to teach folks about the whole popular music spectrum, it doesn’t work to just play and talk about heavy metal tracks. And hey, it’s thanks to teaching that I realized I have a weakness for 1960s soul.
3. Long play vs. shuffle
Earlier today I decided to check out a playlist of artists from the 2017 Polaris long list. While listening, I thought of another way to explain my reaction or, more precisely, my non-reaction, to music that’s not usually ‘my thing.’
I made it through most of the Polaris playlist without having to skip ahead, and there were a few songs I actively liked. But I was listening out of curiosity more than enjoyment. The only band I’d go out of my way to hear again is the one I’m already a fan of – Vancouver’s Anciients.
If you ask me to throw on a record or choose a concert to attend, I’ll choose metal music at least nine times out of ten. Especially new music – I rarely actively seek out a new record that isn’t heavy, metal or both, and I usually only pay attention to tour announcements from metal bands I already know.
But really, most music is bearable for the length of the average pop song. As long as the sound or artist switches up every few minutes or so, I’m generally cool. I can listen to all of Stromae’s Racine Carrée but, for the most part, I prefer to keep my non-metal listening on shuffle.
So no, I don’t hate non-metal music. I even like some of it. And I don’t only listen to metal. Just mostly.
* I can’t actually remember the cookie I was eating, but I got it at Redchurch; it was vegan, hearty, had chocolate in it, and was very tasty.