• Marty Gross

Listen To What You Like, Screw Everyone Else

During this quarantine, I feel like I have had too much time. With the little intrinsic motivation I have and these grueling days of being trapped in the confinements of my home with little to talk about musically, little writing progress has been made. Pretty much, if these walls could talk, they would say I'm a lazy piece of shit. Also, for the past month, I have really reached a writing block. I have been trying my absolute hardest to find something meaningful to write about, but I just couldn’t muster up the courage to do it. But after a long wait, I feel like I have something valuable to share. 

11:26 P.M. Wednesday night. My basement. My brother and I were chilling in the basement after a long night of shredding terrorists with lead in Call of Duty: Warzone with the boys. Before we go to bed, we start playing some music just to relax a bit (I mean, killing virtual terrorists is kind of a difficult job - can’t a soldier have a break once in a while?).  Unsure of what to play, I hit the good ol’ shuffle on my 1,900 song playlist that acts as an archive of songs I have liked over the past four years. My music taste has thankfully evolved since I was fifteen, but when I shuffle the playlist, it’s a real roll of the dice. You never know when some Eminem might come on and I have to hold myself from regurgitating (even though I currently look like him) or Bobby Tarantino plays and I have to defend my old liking for Logic. The second my fingers jabbed the shuffle button, I instantly knew it was a bad roll. The slow building synths of “Hold Your Hand” by Nav blasted me with a sharp wave of disappointment. I remembered that at one point, during his early years, I liked Nav, but eventually thought my musical expertise was too superior for him. So for some reason, instead of hitting skip in disdain, I just let it play out. I just had a spark of weird musical intuition. I thought that there had to be some sort of reason for it to be on the playlist.

But by the beginning of the instrumental, my brother was pleading with me to change it and even I was questioning my gut's music credibility. Needless to say, the instrumental was mediocre and I knew Nav’s lyrical presence was not going to make up for it. But once that intro hit, something in me changed. As Nav graciously serenaded me with, “I help you with all of your problems but you’re becoming one for me, too,” I couldn’t resist the urge to bump my head. Like a muscle spasm, my knuckles were lightly pressed against my forehead as they swayed side to side. Nav’s musical presence had somehow possessed me. I couldn’t even explain why. To this day, I still can’t. No offense to Nav fans, but not only do his vocal performances fall flat, he is a creepy and honestly abysmal lyricist and his instrumentals are subpar at-best.  

So why do I like him? Because anything from his debut-self-titled album Nav to Reckless just bumps. I’m supposed to be somewhat of a music critic, and I can pick apart every single terrible aspect of Nav’s rap game. But even though I know it's “technically” bad, I just like it. As I metacogged, my brain went through fucking circles. I’m trapped in a mental prison of trying to find the truth. I feel like I have a tin foil hat fermented on my head spewing conspiracy theories trying to explain my liking for Nav. 

During my deranged confusion in my basement, it reminded me of a conversation I had with my best friend, Max. Max and I have polar opposite music tastes. Actually, to be quite blunt, there are very few artists that Max and I both enjoy. It’s just the way it is, I guess. During this conversation, we were in the car just cruising and he was telling me how much he enjoys listening to Lil Baby. Thinking that I have the only correct musical opinion because I have a podcast about music and I write about it, I interjected saying,

“How do you like Lil Baby?? First of all, his unoriginal name is Lil Baby! How unoriginal of a rap name is that? It’s like combining the most common rap suffix and prefix together to make a name! His flows are completely one-dimensional, his trap beats are nowhere near the range of his trap forefathers like Young Thug, Future, or Playboi Carti, and his bars are simply not good enough to make up for the lack of quality of the previous two aspects.”

As I felt my blood boil and my heart rate increase rapidly, he calmly rebutted with the simplest and best argumentative response:

“It sounds good and I like it.”


Argument shattered. I could bring up every single point in the book. There is simply nothing I could bring up. I could come up with a goddamn dissertation full of reasons that prove why Lil Baby is not a good rapper and yet, Max would have brushed the comment aside and sustained his opinion. I would even bet you that once I left that car, he would play “Cash” and recite the profound and insightful lyrics like “I want her head, I want her legs, I want a redhead, I want her head, I want her neck, I want her legs...” 

Once I connected my conversation with Max to my liking for Nav, something dawned on me that was so obvious. Music is subjective. It can simply never be objective. Whatever you like, you just like.

What makes music possibly one of the greatest creations in this world is that very fact. It is subjective. You like what you like, and no one can tell you otherwise. It is one of the only argumentative pieces on Earth that you can just rebuttal with, “I like it,” and win the argument. Although you can talk about technicalities or varied aspects of music that are arguable, it simply can’t change your love for it or not.  No one can argue about your love for a song or album or how you feel.        

Music is something no one should be ashamed of. Whether it is completely separating yourself from a sheltered suburban life and listening to Freddie Gibbs, acting like you're whipping up some baking soda in the kitchen, or listening to Rico Nasty to feel like a bad bitch, music is a way for you to escape this reality. Being a music listener, you have the privilege of getting this choice. When people express their favorite musicians or albums on social media apps, especially Twitter, most of the time it is met with angry digital pitchforks and personal attacks. I can’t believe the things people say to each other when someone says they like certain Logic albums. Tweeting wars dosed in profanity and personal insults. It is terrifying for others to just express their opinions about music on social media without getting this extreme backlash. 

But believe me, by saying this message, I am no saint and my personality still falls into these tendencies. I still judge people based upon their music tastes and I still criticize them for it. But, I'm working on not doing that, and I think we all should too. If we can all help work on stopping the judgment, we might be able to better society in doing so.

At this point of my article, I could have gone on many different routes talking about how we should all never criticize other people’s musical opinions and all live in a happy world where everyone loves the same music. But to put it simply, that is a utopia that is stupid and not fun at all. Instead, I think we should listen to what we like. No one should be ashamed of what they listen to. Listen to what you like, and screw everyone else. Music gives us a certain opportunity to relate and express our own personality through the lyrics and instrumentals.  If you want to go listen to 100 gecs but are afraid of people thinking you like robotic mature children’s music, do it. If you want to go play some Tropical Fuck Storm at a party that absolutely no one would know but you would have the time of your life, do it. And finally, if you want to bump some Nav because you like his mind numbing bars and blatant misogyny, just play it. No one should criticize who you listen to, nor criticize you for being you.

The beauty of everyone listening to different music also means that it diversifies us. Every person can pick up different messages from different songs or creative inspiration from different artists. We all become more and more unique when we listen to more and more music. It is honestly a beautiful thing. For myself and many people, music artists and songs can inspire others to wear different clothes or even act differently. When we all listen to diverse and different amounts of music, we diversify our personal expressions as well.

So, maybe instead of looking at someone else’s music taste as simply a music taste, we can interpret their taste as a build of their personality. Once we realize that, we might think completely differently about someone's music taste. Well, that’s all I got. Peace!!