Don’t hate on my music

by Ryo Miyauchi, Assistant Entertainment Editor

This past summer, I watched local musicians play cover songs at an open mic. It was nothing special, unless you’ve never heard anyone sing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” before. But these two guys in particular caught my attention.

Before they started their song, they shared a brief introduction.

“Our next song is a very cool one you probably never heard before,” they said. “It’s by this unknown artist named Carly Rae Jepsen.”

Naturally, the two began to sing a cover of “Call Me Maybe,” the inescapable pop anthem of 2012.

Look, I have no problem with anyone covering “Call Me Maybe.” It’s a fantastic, dorky pop song about crushing to the point it makes you start flubbing words. But the guys’ gestural wink upset me a bit as a CRJ fan. Instead of reading as a sincere tribute, it played out more like a sarcastic nudge. They might as well have said, “Hey everyone, hope you guys think us playing this cheesy pop song is kind of funny.”

When people sarcastically sing praise to music in attempt to cover up their real feelings, they are appreciating it ironically. The treatment is usually reserved for music with either surface-deep or overly cheesy content. You might have had people play hip-hop songs, such as, say, “My N- – – a” by YG, or Taylor Swift singles partly as a joke.

Sometimes this approach is not intended to do harm but instead a way to ease in a perhaps touchy opinion. Everyone wants to give the best first impression and sharing “I’m a Katy Perry fan” in a straightforward manner is not the best way for some. Admittedly, it can be more comfortable to approach the fact with air-quotes and a laugh than risk getting a bad look.

However, a seemingly harmless laugh actually condescends a work within a genre. The need to approach that musician with seriousness decreases over time, and the quality of work gets eventually devalued. In the end, it gets difficult to have a sincere discussion about the music at hand.

Here’s an example. Have you ever asked someone if he or she likes music by Soulja Boy? I think he’s a savvy, talented rapper and producer, and I’m more than happy to discuss his music with you. Sadly, in my experience, most people who reply “yes” tend to carry this jokingly excited tone that sends me mixed signals. They usually handle his music as mere punchlines, sometimes dropping in the word “swag” for laughs. I often wish they would have just flat-out said “No, his music is a joke.”

Chances are, the two open-mic guys didn’t mean to mock “Call Me Maybe.” But on the other hand, why the need for a sarcastic segue? If people genuinely like a song by Carly Rae Jepsen, why do people feel the need to cover their tracks to cushion their opinions from criticism? And if they don’t, why pretend to have any interest for a laugh at the expense of another?

Talking about music is supposed to be fun, not a walk in a minefield. It’s OK if you like something, no matter how embarrassing it seems. I’d argue the best part of music appreciation is mentally wrestling with the music to find out why you love or hate it. The people I respect either know firmly why they like an artist or bluntly admit to not care. I’m not so sure about the ones who can’t get themselves to take it seriously.