Howdy! Well it has been a little while since I last wrote. Borderlands 2, FTL, and Mists of Pandaria have all been taking a bit of my day away. I’ve admittedly fallen off the pony but I can, apparently, drink coffee again and that means the brain is awake!
But, you might say, its midnight! Your brain should be off! Oh lord, I know, I agree! But it isn’t and so let me throw some theory down on you. I’m about to drop it like a neutron star, which is quite dense, so I would suggest keeping your distance unless you are superman or something.
Not too far though! I don’t know how good your vision is and if you back away too far this will look like a bunch of specs on a wall. Technically I suppose it is. Really these words are only given meaning because we are here to observe them, words are otherwise meaningless.
And meaning is the source of my topic tonight, I would like to argue (and I will in not so many words) that music, at least popular music, suggests that there is no real unique experience in the human condition. In Reddit this is often noted when the comment the reader wanted to post or the question on their mind ends up always being the number one comment on the thread. People ramble off how they haven’t a unique thought or experience and other users console them “It’s alright, Reddit does this to everyone.”
As I get older I am finding that I am relating to popular music less and less, I still enjoy it but the actual message is lost on me. The main reason behind this is that popular music is targeting almost exclusively teens. Why teens? Something about those hormones makes them a fantastic target for products, be you tobacco, music, clothing, or video games. Everyone wants a piece of that teen pie. How do you reach these teens though? The best way to get a product or a person to be accepted is to present them through a message of familiarity, this is known as pandering and every shitty public figure you’ve ever met was taught this.
The US has a population somewhere between 300 and 330 million the last I checked, I assume I might be lowballing at this time. You might think that creating a single song that will really take off with a large chunk of this population would be incredibly difficult, I mean that’s a lot of different random variants! Each one of them is genetically unique and it could be argued that they are each unique little snowflakes.
But really, what is a snowflake at the end of the day beyond some frozen water molecules on a mote of dust? They all melt the same and for the most part react exactly the same to outward stimuli. Humans aren’t much different in that respect, you can figure out just how generic an experience is by how popular a song discussing that topic becomes.
This is the center of my theory, that music not only reveals just how generic our life experiences are but it can reveal which of those experiences are the most common. If you want to figure out just how common your life experiences are go back and find every song that you ever felt was written just for you. Take those songs to a website that catalogues their popularity on the pop charts of your nation (I’m speaking for the US since this has been my experience and geological location). Did that song stay at number 1 for tens of weeks? That experience is incredibly generic, but if that song fizzled you might be onto something that is less common.
In terms of song quality I’m not so sure that is a modifier here, for the most part all songs are built along the same generic rule set. If you really boil it down modern music and perhaps music historically is incredibly lazy, on the whole, you can find some note able exceptions but I imagine most everyone is using the same tropes, the same cord combinations, and in terms of spoken music you’ll find the same topics.
And that is how you figure out which human experiences are not only generic for your generation or your population but which experiences are generic on the timescale of human history. What songs appear timeless, what topics crop up every decade and “storm the leaderboards”. These are the things that we all experience and the topics that we define ourselves by.
Is it really that weird though? Did anyone really not notice that remarkable coincidence that band after band was writing music that spoke directly to their heart? Honestly, I don’t think so, I think everyone notices this and we just choose to not acknowledge it. Who would want to? I mean, I want to, just because I find it interesting and I couldn’t give two turtle turds about some remarkable uniqueness I may have feigned into existence.
The recent success of Gotye’s “Somebody I used to know” is what inspired this notion most recently, I forget the other song that played right after it but both of them are incredibly popular at this time and they both were on the topic of breakups and relationship troubles. I then thought back to the most popular songs of nearly every popular singer or band when I was a teen and noted that, on the whole, their most popular songs were either about relationship troubles or relationship hope.
Oh how I used to sing off key to those jingles and how I felt in some way enriched by them. But these days that’s just not my life, I hear these songs and I enjoy them for the sound they produce but the actual message is lost on me. Really the only music that hits him for me anymore is music that speaks on the grand scale, either through huge ranges of wavelengths or fantastic lyrics (the literal meaning of fantastic).
So that’s that, I believe that popular music is a nice real world reminder of just how few unique experiences we have. There is something like 1.6% difference in DNA between us and chimps, but within that difference you see the difference between flinging ones poo and landing on the moon. Similarly the earnest differences between any two human beings on average is likely incredibly small, the vast majority of all our life experiences are nauseatingly mirrored. For the most part you are just seeing the same small collection of variety that is generated through that miniscule % of relatively uncommon experiences that people experience.
All the different “genres” of people that you experience in your life are the results of the miniscule uncommon experiences available to each human being. On the whole we are all remarkably similar, which is to be expected because we are on the same planet, in the same era, with the same sensory organs.
Take the message whichever direction you like, be marveled by how you’ve turned out from those few minute unique experiences you’ve undertaken or be disappointed by just how little in your life is earnestly your own. I imagine it falls upon the culture, the US has a current culture of centrism (borderline narcissism) but other cultures that are more centered around the whole instead of the individual probably already “get” this idea.
And if it wasn’t stressed enough this only works with music that touched you, songs you merely enjoy because of their sound may or may not produce this same conclusion. Obviously the room for error is pretty massive but that didn’t stop me from boldly stating it unlikely to be false.
Hmmm, I should have had some pictures in this. That was a mistake. I guess we’ll slip a snowflake in here for some nice imagery.