Unfortunately, I do not have any deeply formative experiences with music. Both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family were completely tone deaf. No one that I can recall was even able to hum a simple melody without it being entirely unrecognizable, sounding like a ceiling fan gone mad. It seems like this utter lack of musical talent was reflected unconsciously in my family’s attitude to music: my parents had no record or CD collections, music never played in the house, and the only time a music video captured the elders’ attention on the television screen was to offer a passing comment about how “dire” and “atrocious” the music on television was.
I, however, was something to the effect of a black sheep in my family. I had no hostile relationship to music. I had my favourite musical groups and artists just like my classmates. I had an eclectic set of tastes, listening to everything from Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream” to GZA’s Liquid Swords album. Unfortunately, because of my family’s attitude towards music, I had no one in the familial context to share my love of music with.
But this does not mean that bonds are not possible. I recall one day sitting in a coffee shop, looking at my iPhone, when an irritating sound came over the speakers. The most atrocious melody, with the most obnoxious lyrics I ever heard blasted forward. Suddenly, I felt like my parents, and I repeated in my head the words I remember from them verbatim: “dire”, “atrocious.” I wanted to get up and leave the coffee shop.
The song itself carried the incessantly terrible refrain “We work hard, we play hard, we work hard, we play hard.” It was so shallow, so superficial and materialistc, an equal celebration of mindless capitalism jobs and senseless partying, that it was something like an anthem for the low culture of neoliberal capitalism. The words sounded like a marketing campaign for the most generic consumer product imaginable as opposed to a piece of music.
The song was so terrible that I had to look who was the artist and it turned out to be a techno DJ named David Guetta and the title of the song was half of the atrocious main refrain “Play Hard.” I differ from my parents in that I have a deep love music. But I also would like to thank David Guetta for showing me how my parents felt about music.