Dear Strangers, Stop Asking This Question

I heart music

This happens to me a lot: I meet new people and they ask me what I do/want do to (I’m at the slash in between) and I tell them that I really love music/want to be a music journalist and they go “oh, what kind of music do you like?” And I’m all, “um well, I like everything? But, uh, indie I guess?” And I feel like it sounds as if I don’t actually have a clue or I’m insincere and I’m saying indie because I’m trying not to sound “mainstream” and be cool. In short, it’s kind of a hellish experience for my awkward paranoid self.

I obviously think of the right thing to say long after the moment has passed, but now that I have the time and am a safe distance from face-to-face human interaction, I think I can express what exactly makes that question problematic for me. I do like everything – some of the album artists I’ve listened to this past week include Mr Little Jeans, James Vincent McMorrow, Courtney Barnett, Kate Nash, Fat Tony, J Dilla, Chromeo, The Beatles and Bonobo; yesterday I had myself a Brit-pop appreciation hour (with Blur, Pulp, Suede and this one song by a band called Space that reminded me of the MTV sing along show “Say What” #whenMTVusedtoplaymusic) and I’d say that two of my all-time favourite songs of all-time are Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train To Georgia” and Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” (even though I don’t agree with the heteronormative marriage ideals pushed in the Romeo & Juliet song it’s just so great to sing).

I can also honestly say that there’s definitely music that just “isn’t me” and I know I’ll probably never go there. Today I read an album review to see if I should give it a listen and I a) learnt the term sludge rock and b) respectfully decided to play something else. And besides, even with terms as niche as sludge rock, there is also a mega-ton of songs that plain, old defy genre categorisation.

But more than that though, the point for me is that I love everything about music. I love that it has actual physical effects on the human body and we don’t quite know why people need music but know that we definitely do. I love the culture from it – the art, the styles, the identities of listeners – and all the human stories that exist around that. I love the important social conversations it can spark. I love its peopleness and connectivity. I fucking love dancing. And that’s why I can’t answer to what kind of music I like because it’s not about just the music. It’s the whole thing. So I guess that right there is the short answer, though I’m not quite sure whether it actually answers the question or not. Anyhow, I think it’s a dumb question to ask in the first place.

P.S. This is my favourite song for today:

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Cover of the Day: Tame Impala ‘Stranger in Moscow’

Here’s the original:

I’m currently reading (and loving) Questlove’s memoir Mo’ Meta Blues and the other day I got to the part where the Roots drummer deals with Michael Jackson’s death and asked the reader where they were when they heard the news. I remember going to bed the night before hearing on the radio that Jackson had gone to hospital and woke up to the news that this was the day the music died. It was also the day of a final journalism exam and I remember someone else saying that we surely couldn’t be expected to write with something like this hanging over our heads.

Anyway, I don’t consider myself as big an MJ fan as much as the real fanatics, but I definitely often feel sad even thinking about him (because every generation from the 70s to the 00s has their Michael Jackson album – I have fond memories of listening to Dangerous on the living room floor on weekend mornings with my brother while paging through the album sleeve and also of watching the video we had for ‘Bad’ over and over again) and today, felt especially moved by Tame Impala’s cover of ‘Stranger in Moscow’. I was like yes! the second I saw the headline announcing their version of this 1996 track on Pitchfork because SiM is one of MJ’s more underrated hits and its got this haunting sadness about it that I knew would translate pretty perfectly with Tame Impala’s dreamy drugged up aesthetic.

All I can say is that the Aussies do the song justice – not taking away the essence of this song written by a man who felt isolated by a world that paid him too much attention – and they also make it sound like something they could have produced themselves, with the trippy guitar effects and woozy waves of whooshing noises and distant, echo-y voice. In short, it made me day and, to quote the band from their Facebook page, “MJ 4 eva”.

Here’s Tame Impala: