The Apolitical Playlist


For a long time I’ve been incredibly self-conscious, and very private, about the music I listen to because of people I’ve encountered who based so much of their everyday judgement on music. Try being in a relationship with a sanctimonious music snob. Often they’re just on high-and-mighty power trips and want somebody to just agree with everything they say (and bow down to kiss their feet). Other times people are so invested in their music tastes that they won’t have much else to talk about or relate to without that conversation. Having met many people from both sides, I find it better to retreat and not talk about things at all.

It takes just a couple of vulnerable moments coinciding with this type of person to develop the social phobia of sharing music tastes that has shaped my life. There are running semi-jokes with family members who have no idea what music I have ever liked or listened to. When a conversation among a close group of friends organically turns to the subject of music I go mum and wait until the subject changes to something else. When hanging out in other people’s territory I go with the flow and don’t complain. In neutral territory I make no comments on the ambiance chosen by the venue in question.

But what do I do when I’m the host? What can I do that won’t be commented on there to my face, and what I can convince myself people won’t make fun of behind my back when they leave?

I’ve tuned out of popular music for nearly a decade now. I don’t listen to the radio for a number of reasons (primarily because I don’t drive a car and that seems to be the only place where radio still matters) and music specialty channels on TV stopped playing music videos years ago. The benefit of those was that I could passively be exposed to these new things. Other mediums like iTunes and YouTube where things are posted and you can go look for exposure to certain music and go by recommendations similar to your taste require active initiative: I’m responsible for what I choose to listen to. At least when I ignore music I can play the, well, ignorance card. When all I hear is played outside of my own choosing I am at least vaguely familiar with what songs are out there. But we’re in a different world – a world where music snobs have at their fingertips everything they need to be incredibly selective and refine their list of appreciated artists, but where the timid are in jeopardy of faux pas galore, in case anyone ever gets onto their computer to look in their music folder, or even their cache. Erase your history. You may start an ongoing feud because you watched one Carly Rae Jespen video online.


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