Music Snobs Suck

By Rob Patterson

Read on a recent Facebook post: “Aerosmith sucks…. Everything is bad about Aerosmith.” And this from someone who is supposedly “one of the most music loving men you will ever meet… [with] a collection of music that would blow your mind!” according to my friend on whose page those inane statements were made.

I can’t buy that someone who loves music can be so hateful about music. And so wrong.

What that contention actually announces is a highly distasteful musical snobbery of the worst sort. And pig-headed ignorance. Though not quite as bad as the fool who calls himself a music critic and lover of music who said to me: “Ringo Starr is a terrible drummer.” This is also the same fellow who insists that a certain other drummer was “the best country [music] drummer I ever heard.” The drummer I watched closely at a recording session I co-produced, fearing he might not make it through the song and aghast at his lack of a steady tempo and basic abilities at playing a drum kit.

That guy sucked. Anyone who really knows music and especially drumming will tell you that Ringo Starr is damn good. His time is solid. He swings. He plays his kit with musicality. Period.

I’m as critical as a music listener and lover can be, and hardly above some fun snarkiness when it comes to talking about pop and rock music acts. But there’s a limit I usually respect that has to do with whether something is objectively good or bad (and I do believe there are objective standards; that’s another column entirely) and not whether I like it or not, or if it’s something I listen to or not, or even sometimes something I find isn’t enjoyable and even distasteful.

And musical snobbery is to me as distasteful as skinhead Nazi punk music. That doesn’t mean one can’t have rarified tastes. But to dismiss music one doesn’t like as “sucking” is not just ignorant, but reflective of a vile arrogance.

The fact that Aerosmith is the most successful American rock band ever and have sold many million albums and concert tickets over a nearly four-decade career doesn’t automatically say that they don’t suck, but it counts for something, a whole lot in fact.

I don’t own any Aerosmith albums (but could if I had far less limited resources and more room for the music I do own). They’re not what I generally listen to. I saw them at the beginning of their career as an opening act, and even as I was thinking, whoa, that singer seems to think he’s Mick Jagger, they were good: Tight as a band, played well, solidly good songs, and entertaining.

Also saw them in the early ’80s when the band had serious admitted drug problems and had lost two of its key members, and that night, yeah, they sucked. Because it was a terribly sloppy and bad performance. I’ve even seen musical acts that sucked, yet the show was still wonderful, in part because of that. An act’s motives can suck, and/or their image, message, behavior … But if it’s well played with good songs/compositions, the music still doesn’t suck.

Musical snobbery that dismisses music for reasons that have nothing to do with the music is one of the most pernicious aspects of the popular music scene. It has become especially bad within today’s indie rock movement.

It’s never about music. It’s about some perceived sense of coolness, and an attitude that says the person thinks they are better than anyone who likes the music that they claim sucks. It’s arrogance, which always masks insecurity and often ignorance too. It’s also treating music as an accessory that adds to your self-perceived “cool points.” All that kind of stuff disgusts me.

And since this publication is titled Populist, I must point out how it’s the worst sort of anti-populism. It invalidates and also insults the pleasure that others get from that music you may not like. And it is not being musical or truly loving music.

I enjoy a bunch of Aerosmith songs, admire how well crafted, played and produced they are. I’ll never own a Miley Cyrus album — at least those she has made to date — but I won’t say she sucks, as people I know have insisted. I’ve heard enough to know it’s good. It’s also not music meant for a 56-year-old rock music acolyte. Nor should it be.

What truly sucks is musical snobbery. Not having taste or your own tastes, and standards to boot, but dismissing something that’s not badly done and in fact well done for what it is as bad. It’s anti-musical and anti-human. And anyone who would seriously make such an inane statement about music that doesn’t suck is the one who truly sucks, and as far as I’m concerned can’t possibly enjoy and love music with true heart and soul as the best music should be loved.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email

From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2010

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