I've never quite understood it when people worry about their personal "indie cred." For some people, listening to a pop band that sounds polished and radio-ready is equivalent to selling their soul to Lucifer. But if you think a song really is catchy and really is fun to listen to, there's no reason to feel guilty about it. You shouldn’t have to apologize for anything. Sure, maybe you’re a devout follower of Bright Eyes, but so what if you hear a Paramore song on the radio and think “hey, that actually kinda rocks?” You’ve done nothing wrong. If someone else thinks you’re somehow less legit as a human being now, I don’t know why you’d want to hang out with them in the first place. Their approval means nothing.
Bottom line: I don't believe in guilty pleasures. Just have pleasures. That's what life is all about.
I've Never Tried It, So I Hate It
The opposite situation is just as mystifying to me. With some people, if you say “Hey, you should listen to ‘Red Eyes and Tears’ by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, it’s a bitchin’ song,” they’ll crinkle their nose and say “I’ve never heard them on KROQ, I don’t want to listen to them.” What they don’t seem to realize is that they had never heard of the All-American Rejects a couple years ago, but the band still existed. There’s a LOT of great music that will never be heard on the radio. There are also a LOT of ass-kickin’ tunes that rock the airwaves. And it’s more than OK to listen to them both.
It’s sort of like clothing, and how people dress like hipsters, goths, punks, rockers, or whatever. In order to completely fit in and be accepted into certain walks of life, you have to dress like them. (This doesn’t apply to everyone, of course, but I generalize to make a point.) I can think of nothing more ironic than the cliques that represent rebels or outcasts that won’t embrace you unless you look like they do. No one has dressed a certain way their whole lives. They’re all changing their lifestyles to fit in where they feel like they belong. Personally, I’d rather belong right where I already am.
Or maybe I don’t really belong anywhere. That’s sort of how it’s always been, anyway. I never really fit into a certain group in High School. But I never really cared. I always felt like being in one group would limit my access to the others, that I could never get the full experience of life from a single perspective.
Fit In Less, Stand Out More
But forget the philosophical. I’m talking about music. Listen to what you like, period. Forget all the pretense and preconceptions and just enjoy music for what it is. Remember why you love it in the first place. Only then can you really appreciate everything it has to offer. I like Crowded House. I like Elliott Smith. I like AC/DC. I like Muddy Waters. I like Nickel Creek. I like Pantera. I like Elbow. I like Aerosmith. I don’t care who thinks what about the music I listen to. And I don’t care if what I’m wearing doesn’t always make a strong statement.
The vast majority of people I know are very open, but every once in a while I meet someone who fits one of the above descriptions. Sometimes I don’t fit in as well with them because of my attitude. But I’ve found that fitting in less often means standing out more.