Confusion Corner: Judging people on the content of their playlists
February 18, 2011
The majority of the people you meet at college will likely be met at parties. Additionally, few things reveal more about your true nature than the music you listen to. So, what does the music you play at your parties say about you? A lot of things, my dear sweet Griffins — more than you realize. As an aural anthropologist, let me elucidate what others glean from your choice of party music.
The predominant genre of music at any party you’ve ever been to is what I affectionately call “frat rap.” It is mindless, pulsing — and usually about sex. Now, I have no problem with pulsing mindless sex. I have the opposite of a problem with that. But when you turn down the music, yell to the room, “Oh man, you guys ready for this?” and then turn on Jason Derulo, we have a problem. You have just told every one in the room, “Don’t bother asking me my major, because it’s partying.” You have effectively excluded yourself from any future intelligent discussion, and from then on, beer pong will be your only recreational sport. Unless you’re a hipster playing it ironically — and God help you if you are — that’s probably just fine with you. So, pound back another Big Flats lager from Walgreens, crank up the B.O.B, and wear that high school lax pinny with pride. You, sir, are in your element.
Another common choice at parties is “bro music.” While etymologically similar to “frat rap,” “bro music” has no intention of sexually attracting a partner. Instead, it turns the mood to weepy crooning. Heavy on the acoustic guitar and lyrically concerned with lost love, dogs and dollars, “bro music” often includes Sublime, Hootie and the Blowfish, and; of course, Dispatch. Don’t get me wrong: There are times when all you want to do is stand arm in arm with another bro (and “bro” is a unisex term; girls can be bros) and sing obnoxiously about someone else’s sorrow like it’s your own. But if you do this at a party and your name is not Biz Markie, you’re kind of a douche. I’ve seen “bro music” effectively used to clear out parties at the end of the night, but nothing says “I’ve never known heartbreak, but I’ve heard it sucks” like belting out “Wagon Wheel” at 2 a.m. Did you really make it down the coast in seventeen hours? Really? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Equally insufferable is the patron who plays “socially conscious hip-hop.” This is one of the most fruitful of all music genres, but it has no place at parties. There’s a reason “Where’s the Love” by the Black Eyed Peas lost its spot on the Top 100 chart. You can kill a festive mood very quickly with lyrics about poverty, social injustice and discrimination. No one is impressed by how deep you are. No one is listening to the words when the bass is being pumped out at deafening decibels. Furthermore, no one is impressed when you mouth the words to yourself in the corner, leaning on your closet, drinking your Natty. In this same category, I lump hipster. I don’t care if no one has heard the band you’re playing; maybe it’s because that band actually sucks. “They’re a Dutch band whose lead singer totally became a Dominican monk because he was so disillusioned with capitalist society.” That’s a cool story and some indie critic might be fascinated. I could not, in any conceivable reality, care less.
A final group is those who play humorous spoof songs. “I’m on a Boat” is the primary offender here. Presenting something clever that someone else created does not make you funny. It makes the Lonely Island funny, but it makes you juvenile. I also include the “Kappa Rap” in this category (or anything else popular on YouTube). I have nothing but love for the charming women of Kappa Kappa Gamma, but I swear if I hear that song again I’m going to commit a war crime.
I do not wish to discourage you from delving into any of these delightful styles — just make sure you’re aware of the impression they give to others. Your taste may attract judgemental ears. Before you condemn the obnoxious guy next door for blasting Justin Bieber at his pregame, question whether or not your all-Ke$ha playlist is any better. Answer: It’s not.
__Jason Rogers is a Confusion Corner columnist who makes sure to think twice before playing “Wagon Wheel”.__