J. Searle Music

Bringing the future of music into view

The Dirty Shame of Guilty Pleasures

I grew up listening to Janet Jackson and Chicago.  I loved Disney films and dancing.  Somewhere along the line, I grew to believe that loving the things that I did just wasn’t enough.  Or maybe it was that I felt that I could no longer love the things I once did now that I was involved in grooming a sense of an “adult” identity.  I knew that others definitely felt the same sense of shame.  People would come to school looking and sounding completely different as if a new wardrobe was the magic eraser of our childhood.  I gave away old tapes; my Madonna, Boys II Men, and even Shaquille O’Neal’s album Diesel.  I hated that I loved Bette Midler and that I knew all the words to “Miss Otis Regrets.” 

My library was replaced by William S. Burroughs, Nirvana, and just about anything dark and angry.  That was the “real” art!  Tormented people, drug abuse, and destruction.  Real art wasn’t The Little Mermaid or break dancing to MC Hammer, because without suffering, where is the art?  It took a long time for me to devolve back into the state of mind I was in as a child.  Open to interpretations and expressions of what art could be.  An eye and love for seeing quality work rather than work that reflected only what I wanted to see in myself. 

I had never learned Stairway to Heaven.  Wayne’s World explicitly told me that it was uncool to learn that song.  So when I was asked to teach it by a young guitar student … I said yes.  It struck me as ridiculous then that I had never learned it, and even more so that I enjoyed it.  Within a month I had 4 students ask me to learn that song.  I ended up putting together an arrangement for a recital so they could play the whole thing verbatim.  It was a lot of fun.  I taught anything and everything from that point on; Keisha, Miley Cyrus, Nickleback, Daughtry, Brad Paisley, etc. etc.  I didn’t care as long as they felt inspired to learn.  Who was I to determine “good taste” or “artistic legitimacy?” 

Teaching gave me a very clear perspective into the love and quality that was put into music that wasn’t “my thing.”  I learned some cool things that were taken for granted because it was teenybopper pop along with production tricks that are definitely thrilling.  It gave me new eyes, a deeper appreciation of art I had never seen before because I was too caught up in aesthetics that only spoke to a narrow margin of ideals.  What had I been missing for so long?

When the Conquistadors came to the Americas they saw godless savages.  Mere primitives.  The only worthy, only true god was a white Jesus.  The only values with worth were their own.  How many skilled artisans, scientists, and healers were killed off?  The knowledge we have all lost that took centuries to understand have been wiped away because some civilizations were convinced that their values, their art and language, their gods and people were worth committing genocide over to maintain a sense of empire … a sense that they were the best. 

Dramatic, but related.  Within the arts, as in life, there is a tendency to denigrate each other so much as to not be able to see the quality and the concepts in the craftsmanship involved in making the art.  We roll our eyes at Britney Spears disqualifying her as just a pretty face or Mumford & Sons as overly earnest hipster banjo drivel.  Classical is seen as snobby and dictatorial and Jazz as pretentious technical masturbation.  Rock ‘n’ roll is for stoners who can’t seem to master their instrument & Country is for the red-necks getting drunk in back of a pick up truck strumming 3 chords and wailing about a dead dog.  I’ve heard it all from all types of tribes touting their own proclivities above others.  Once in awhile an admittance of a “guilty pleasure” is uttered.  What is there to feel guilty about? 

Since I’ve stepped back and allowed my biological response to pleasing things, whether it is audio or visual, rule my value of worth the more I enjoy life.  I learn faster.  My relationships are better.  I can see more love and passion in the world.  I am less likely to dismiss aesthetic choices and ideas due to bias’ that come from my world view.  There is a lot of greatness out there and some of them have been created by not the greatest of people during some horrific times.  How many times have we become Caesar and burned down the library of Alexandria in our own world?  Once we reject something because we don’t see it worth our consideration, we strip from it unforeseen knowledge that could be invaluable.  There just might be more to love and to learn in the world than you may allow yourself to see.