Embracing My Unavoidable, and Often Embarrassing, Love of Crappy Music

Embarrassing music taste

Hi, My name is Celine, and… deep breath… I like crappy music. I know all the words to Avril Lavigne’s early masterpieces. Linkin Park can still get me riled into a fully blown punk rage, and — this might be the worst part — I’ve always pretended to hate Nickelback but I used to listen to “Photograph” secretly on my iPod. And I kinda think Green Day is one of the greatest rock bands of our time.

I spent last summer seeing concerts with my best friend Audrey.

Since we graduated college, we’ve found that one of the most loved, and life-affirming ways, to keep cultivating our friendship is concert going. Audrey, the proactive one, is awesome at finding good, well-priced concerts, as well as pushing me to see old favorite bands, Brand New being one of them.

That’s how over the last year, I’ve found myself seeing Elle King, the Violent Femmes, Panic! at the Disco, Blink 182, AFI, the All American Rejects, and, with my other dear friend Lyra, Brand New. In December, Audrey and I are seeing Jimmy Eat World.

Elle King was a phenomenal concert. The Violent Femmes are an objectively great band, so obviously that’s not embarrassing. But for a while, I was a little embarrassed to say that the absolute best concert I went to was Brand New, followed closely by Panic! at the Disco, largely because I’ve had so many people poke fun at my love of these bands. I’ve found myself writing off the fun I had at these concerts with statements like, “Yeah, it was awesome, since I basically have a twelve year old’s taste in music.”

Brand New Concert Crappy Music
What’s up with the idea of embarrassing music taste?

In a world where “guilty pleasures” are a thing, I feel certain that almost everyone has experienced some shame over the things they genuinely enjoy. I straight-up sobbed at Brand New because I was so happy to be seeing them — so why did I feel the impulse to tone down my excitement when people asked me about it the next day?

If I’m so invested in whiny, kinda lame music, does that make me whiny and kinda lame?

Having something you’re passionate about — like music, movies, hobbies, and other activities that we engage in because it makes our lives more meaningful — can be an awkward balancing act socially. For a lot of people, interests and passions are a big defining part of who we are. We want to share those passions and feelings with others, to share both our music and our selves with them.

I’ve been listening to Brand New since I was 12; it’s become a definitive part of how I see myself. So when someone asked me recently if I think I’m a little old to listen to “whiny emo music,” I found myself feeling a little offended and a lot embarrassed. (And, okay, I’ll admit that I felt misunderstood and angsty, which really just circled back around to wanting to listen to Brand New.)

If I’m so invested in whiny, kinda lame music, does that make me whiny and kinda lame?

Do my other traditionally-besmirched music interests broadcast to the world that my taste kinda sucks? The answer to that is… well, yeah, probably. But I’ve decided that I’m willing to acknowledge my human flaws and goofiness if it means being able to fully embrace both who I am and what brings me joy. After years of having “guilty pleasures,” something important has finally sunk into my brain: a pleasure should only make you feel guilty if it hurts someone. Anything else is just a pleasure.

Our pleasures are what make our lives colorful.

I believe that things like music and other hobbies elevate our lives from simply existing to truly living…

I believe that things like music and other hobbies elevate our lives from simply existing to truly living, because things that evoke beauty and joy in a person’s heart do nothing for a person’s physical survival, and yet, damn near every one of us has relied at some point on music or another source of beauty to find our lives survivable. The moments that our hearts feel so full of joy, love, rage, or any other human emotion that they could burst are the moments that preserve the feeling that life holds something to strive for.

When I sobbed at the Brand New concert, it was because I felt my heart swell almost painfully in exactly that life-affirming way. Surrounded by other people who love the same overly-emotional, angsty music as I do, I felt myself awash in love and unity in human trials, tribulations, and musically-inspired joy.

I have a theory that the music critics, some of your schoolmates, and your cranky uncle call juvenile, melodramatic, or just straight up crappy tends to be music that evokes such strong and honest emotion that it realistically cannot be relatable to everyone. Artists like One Direction, Brand New, and Lady Gaga have little in common stylistically, but are alike in that they inspire powerful emotions in fans who yearn to connect with that feeling.

At the end of the day, life is pretty much just a bunch of emotions all strung up together.

Even with developments in medicine drawing our lifetimes out longer each year, our time here is limited. I choose to sprinkle my life with passionate, fulfilling emotion by embracing music and other arts that give me a genuine emotional thrill. Frankly, I don’t have time to keep pretending not to think Jimmy Eat World is one of the sickest rock bands of all time — I’m too busy jamming to their music to care whether someone disagrees.

So the next time someone makes fun of you and your zealous admiration of a band that may come off a little goofy to others, it’s okay to accept that maybe they’re kinda right. But that should never stop you from cranking up the volume anyway.