Into itSo this guy, he's a producer for Nova FM, and he's there with his dancer girlfriend, a Kiwi who doesn't seem to have any lips. (I'm not exaggerating. It's like God just drew two lines instead of using flesh; it has the effect of making her seem vicious, as though she might be on the verge of biting someone.) I am asking the woman what music she likes, because she says she likes alternative music, and I nod politely as she reels off a list of coffee-table "leftfield" stuff like the awful Lenny Kravitz (do not write to the editor; that's utterly nonnegotiable here), Seal, some U2. It's curious how these people, who excoriate formulaic pop (they always mention Britney for some reason) and think it's cool to like Sade, for fuck's sake, love the truly formulaic, push-the-buttons rock that people who don't really like music like. So the guy says, what do you like? And I say, well, here's my iPod. He says aloud a couple of things he notes -- the more mainstream stuff like Coldplay (only a couple of songs but you can't tell that from the artists' list) -- and he fnaars at Nelly Furtado. Dude, I say, Nelly's new album is different; it has the Timbaland magic. Who? says the man who claims to know enough about music to programme a music show. Ah, he says, Ocean Colour Scene.
What the fuck? Let me assure you that no OCS sullies my iPod or is ever likely to, unless they suddenly transform from plodding subFaces rockers into the new Velvet Underground, which, let's face it, is very unlikely. So this guy has looked through my iPod and concluded that I'm into Coldplay, Nelly and Ocean Colour Scene. I can only conclude he had to ignore everything he hadn't heard of.
I am on the verge of a spirited defence of Britney (who is unfairly bundled in with her imitators) when the lipless chick slags Justin Timberlake as the epitome of this formulaic pop.
Now, I'm no fan of Timberlake, and certainly his most recent single was no better than generic urban, but to suggest that he is run-of-the-mill, manufactured pop is ridiculous. His music is clearly not just the cynical mishmash of what will sell that his previous band indulged in. It's generally sophisticated fuck music, carefully crafted, interesting and passably intelligent. (Timberlake could most closely be compared with George Michael, not Britney. This doesn't prevent Timberlake's music from being "turgid shite", as I accurately described it, because George Michael's entire output since Careless whisper could be described in the same way, but no one would claim Michael is not a songwriter, even if a pisspoor one.) Not to know this, simply to dismiss him altogether as a manufactured poppist, shows a lack of any real knowledge of what goes on. (Which is not in itself a terrible thing but ought to preclude you from suggesting you're really "into" music in a way most people aren't.)
Anyway, the guy is feeling nervous. He is used to people's thinking it's really cool that he's a music producer, and he's beginning to worry that I, or the other guy talking to us, a fan of indie, might expose him as a knownothing or as having no taste. He smiles and turns to the woman. I like world music, he is saying. He has found a way to be "cool". You know, he mutters darkly, people slag them off, but I really like Enigma. What? she says. Yes, he says, Enigma.
He has struck pre-emptively. There is no way to make this man feel bad about lack of taste. He has claimed the worst of it up front. Nothing can make him smaller. He sips his beer, triumphant.