Adding to the Noise
Last week, the Internet blew up with opinion about "Tattoo," the first single from the first Van Halen studio album in 14 years, their first in twice as long to feature David Lee Roth. Some people liked it, others were disappointed, and everyone seemed to be dissecting the reworking of a song that first appeared on a 1976 demo produced by Kiss bassist Gene Simmons. So, why the hell do we care so much about it?
I don't think anyone scrutinizes music in terms of contributions to society. It's certainly not entitlement, either. More so, I think people do it because music is intrinsic to who they are. It's about wanting to feel connected to the music they hear as a representation of themselves.
Indeed, music – specifically rock 'n' roll – flows from an artist for numerous reasons: angst, rebellion, passion, artistic expression. But that's exactly why many people are so attuned to it, because it's also their very own expression of those same things.
People are so passionate about it, so defensive of and about it, because it's their identity. Music is the crest of a wave of euphoria, a divine uplifting of the soul. It's the voice of understanding when no one else does. It's a single thread of unity to someone who feels out of step with everything else in the world – everything but music and its magic connection to a sense of meaning.
Music is not only the voice of the musician, it's also the voice of the audience. It speaks to them, and for them. And therein lies the reason why people are so critical of music, because it's the flickering spirit of their being that defines them and fulfills them.
I like to think it's not so much wanting to find fault with music, rather than wanting to believe in it, maybe find an affirmation of self in it.
And I agree with the adage, if you don't like it, don't buy it or listen to it. But it's a scary proposition, that the music so integral to one's self-affirmation may no longer be that. It's not scrutiny, or searching for fault, so much as a desperate need to believe. And in discussing it, there's a sense of community, a belonging. Ultimately, by pouring over every minute detail, comparing and contrasting, it's really simple as someone wanting to make that connection to what the music represents within themselves.
People are passionate about music because it sustains us. Without finding a connection, we are lost. We're not pounding our fists on the table to condemn the artist. We're simply pushing to recognize ourselves in their art … any art, be it music, literature or otherwise. We're simply wanting to nourish and preserve our spirit.