In Nashville, everyone is pretty particular about their music. People here pride themselves on knowing all about the up and coming talents before anyone else.
I mean, this is Music City, and in general, the population has a good ear to spot a hit before most of the nation. With that knack for as-yet-undiscovered, there’s this taboo about other music (or other lifestyle choices in general, honestly) being “too mainstream.” The voice of the hipster nation is something like this: Oh, you listen to Taylor Swift? Whatever, you’re just a bandwagon fan. You like One Direction? Ugh, no. Top 40 radio? It all sounds the same, how can you stand that?
It’s become less about whether you actually enjoy listening to the music, and more about whether you’re hip enough to know the music before it gets popular. I’m serious. It makes me so hesitant to admit loving an artist who might be “too mainstream.” I DEFINITELY can’t let people know that I’ve never listened to a song by (insert unknown hipster band name here) in my life… I would be labeled a Nashville outsider for not knowing the artists who fly under the “widely popular” radar.
But that’s ridiculous. And flawed. And just outright stupid.
Let me walk you through my Thursday night.
I’m driving home from an evening class with the radio on, just scanning through and stopping on whatever sounds good. I pause on a poppy song, and I’m bopping along, just loving it. I mean, I’m really into this song. Doing some dance moves, bobbing my head– I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I pulled out my trusty friend Shazam to see who it was, because, hello, this needs to go on my October playlist, y’all.
“Cool kids” everywhere would cringe if I admitted this openly in one of Nashville’s many mustache-infested, highwater-jeans filled, insanely overpriced coffeehouses… but IT WAS NICK JONAS.
Yes, I was thoroughly enjoying a Nick Jonas tune. My hipster cred is gone.
I change the station when the commercials start, and on comes a song that sounds vaguely familiar. My thoughts: “Is this a cover? Is this an original, and I’ve heard a pop cover of it? Why do I kind of recognize these lyrics?”
The chorus comes on, and it’s actually Ryan Adams’ cover of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.” It’s amazing. It’s vibey. It’s got soul and feeling.
And that’s when it hit me– Ryan Adams is a guy who understands that art is art. Good music is good music. Just because something has “hit the mainstream,” that doesn’t mean it’s not excellent, powerful creative work.
I mean, the guy managed to strip down songs from the reigning queen of pop, and bring them to a completely different audience who never would have TOUCHED her music just because she was labeled as “too mainstream.” He proved that just because Taylor Swift has a whole bunch of “production” in her released music, it doesn’t mean she isn’t talented. At the core, there’s still a universally applicable message that can speak to people’s hearts and life experiences.
Personally, I think she’s a fantastic songwriter, and Ryan Adams took the stereotype that pop music is “all fluff” and “no depth” and busted it wide open. He ripped the label off and exposed good music for exactly what it is– GOOD.
So what’s my point? Labels suck. Stereotypes suck. They limit your thinking in ways you can’t even imagine.
Music is a gift that’s meant to bring us, as humans, JOY. If you feel joy from listening to some unknown band who had three people at their last show, then listen to them all the time. If you feel joy listening to Miley Cyrus, then listen to her all the time. Love your hipster music. Love your top 40 tunes. Don’t let some stupid stigma stop you from experiencing joy.
And really, it goes beyond your taste in music.
If you like wearing flip flops in December, do it. If you like sitting on your patio in your pajamas at 8:30 with a glass of wine and writing snail mail to friends, then do it. If you want to go against the grain and chase down a dream that everyone around you says is impractical and insane, JUST DO IT ANYWAY.
Honestly, I’ve come to realize that we do ourselves a great disservice by placing so much value in what other people think about us. If people reduce you to “so mainstream,” or whatever other insult they choose, then they’re missing the fact that you’re experiencing real joy through your life choices. And y’all, I would choose joy over “pretending to be cool” any day.
None of us are as cool as we might seem. We all have our hipster-cred-killing moments of jamming to Nick Jonas, or going to bed at 8 PM when your friends think you’re ridiculous for not going out with them, or whatever else is deemed “uncool” in your circle. And do you know what I say to that? Who cares what other people think!
So you, the person trying to fit in and always feeling like you come up short– just choose joy. Choose whatever your heart desires. God didn’t create you to cram your personality into a box that the world says is perfect/cool/awesome/desirable. You are who you are because he made you that way, and cramming that into a box is literally counterintuitive to God’s UNIQUE purpose for your life.
And you know what, let’s all just admit that we’re uncool. Every single one of us.
Let’s all quit shaming each other for being unique.
Let’s forget the labels, get out of the box, and choose joy in every form.