Welcome to music criticism with a positive spin.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of passing judgment, however light, on the world of popular music, it would probably be a good idea to let you know who I am and where I’m coming from.
My name is Micah, aka, ememon. In this instance, the “aka” stands for “almost known as,” for it’s a blog moniker that hasn’t quite been institutionalized yet.
I am not a musician. I took two entry-level music courses in college and one half-semester of music theory in middle school. I played flute for one school year, in fifth grade.
I make these claims quite unboastfully. My opinions are not supported by any formal educational credentials worth mentioning.
The greater part of my music literacy comes from almost 30 years as a music lover. It began in the summer of 1983 when I was first exposed to secular music (yes, my family for the most part actively shielded me from contemporary pop music until I discovered it on my own). I had to be taken to a babysitter during the day since my mother had taken a job outside the home, and the kids there played cassette tapes recorded off the radio. (Why we listened to these tapes repeatedly instead of listening to live radio is still a mystery.) The first few pop hooks to lodge themselves in my brain were “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant, “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, and “Too Shy” by Kajagoogoo.
After this initial exposure, I was unstoppable. With my perfectionist and inquisitive tendencies, I began racking up an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music which would continue until the early 1990s.
College and adult life whisked me away from the minutiae of watching the Video Soul and MTV Top 20 video countdowns and essentially memorizing each week’s Billboard charts. I kept pace as best as I could, but the past 20 years has seen periods of musical waxing and waning as life often overwhelmed me and music comparatively underwhelmed me. The drive has always been there, and the benevolent pop music critic in me has remained ever-present.
Now, as I reach a new stage in my life, where I feel set up to go back and focus on my passions, I want to re-introduce myself to the minutiae of the musical milieu, which is a manifestation of my love for knowledge and music.
On my other site, ememon.com, you’ll see the birth pains of this blog back in 2011, as I labored to maintain a blog within a blog. To do it right, though, I decided I needed to break it out into its own site.
And that’s what you see in front of you now.
So what’s with the “good” moniker? Music critics are notorious sourpusses with little tolerance for lyrical banalities, sloppy arrangements, and non-virtuosos attempting to strum, play, or vocalize anything. I don’t want to do that. Music is a product of its practitioners and its target audience. Music meets people where they are and is produced essentially the same way whether sponsored by Sony Music or Mom & Pop’s Acoustic Night around the corner. Musicians play their music in order to be heard. What gets produced, and how that product sounds, is reflective of that person, and the fact that it gets amplified and heard by the larger public means that some resonance has been achieved. Praising or condemning music, when seen through this lens, is pointless. The bigger question is what the music speaks to and reveals about us.
Don’t get me wrong–I don’t like everything I hear and I won’t sugarcoat when I don’t like a piece of music. But my goal is to stop short of judgment, to take a step back and ask better questions. Dismissing a song out of hand does nothing but close one’s mind.
I firmly maintain that it’s no more or less true now than it ever was that people don’t appreciate good music. I think it’s much more true that people don’t appreciate each other, therefore leading to labeling music that clearly resonates with millions of people as “garbage.” My goal is to see that connection, even when I myself don’t connect with that music.
I still think music is good, almost by definition, and my next post will delineate, with some specificity, what is good about popular music today.