Confessions of a wannabe: I often have awful taste in music

For most of my life I’ve wanted to be a musicgeek. A musicgeek like guys are musicgeeks, memorizing record labels and producers and studio musicians like they’re some sort of baseball stats. I wanted to know how this influenced that and how that is derivative of the other thing. Wanting to know all that stuff and taking the time to learn all that stuff are two different things. Somehow my desire to be a musicgeek never trumped the fact that I find a lot of writing about music utterly boring (aside: I’m reading Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music and things may change).

Whenever anyone, usually a dude, has complimented me on my taste in music I would laugh and say, “I have awful taste in music.” Then they would say, “no, no, really. . .” and then list all the music they like that I also like. Sometimes, depending on my level of attraction to the complimentary dude, I would reel out some of my more egregious lapses in taste. For instance, “I truly love with all my heart three songs by the Spin Doctors.” Nothing levels a musicgeek like that admission. They will stare at you with open-mouthed horror. It’s hilarious, you should try it sometime.

As my Re-Evaluating Personal Artifacts project rolls on I’ve discovered that I have impeccable taste in literature and have for quite some time. I’ve re-read four of the ten to tweleve books I’d include in my personal canon and have yet to eject one.

You could also say I’ve discovered that I have not grown a lick since I was seventeen and am hopelessly stuck in the swamp that is my personal taste and incapable of any sort of personal pop cultural maturation. I used up all my good taste on books leaving me incredibly vulnerable to some really awful, decisions when it comes to music (see: Spin Doctors).

I still love those three Spin Doctors songs. I don’t know if I’d put them in my Personal Artifacts basket, well I’d probably include “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues” but only because I played that damn song so many times at The Cam as a young journalism student that the bartender would actually pay me to not play it.

Now, I fully realize that those Spin Doctor songs are not good. They are the worst kind of bland jammy electric guitar pap, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t like jammy electric guitar at all. Also, lyrically? They’re kind of cliche. Rhyming pockets with rockets and then launching into a sort so scat thing. Unforgivable. And yet my love goes on.

You know where my love dares not go anymore? Jewel and Alanis Morissette.

The soundtrack of my life the summer of 1995 was probably heavily made up of Jewel, Alanis Morissette, and Soul Aslyum’s “Let Your Dim Light Shine.” This astounds me. I have no idea how my twenty-three-year-old ears could handle endless repeats of Jewel and Alanis. Practically FORTY-year-old me cannot even make it through the entire “Pieces of You” album.

It is awful. I’m not even sure if I can put into words the awfulness of this music. I blame a lot of it on the song that gives the album it’s name, “Pieces of You.” It’s a bunch of faux-earnest pop-psychology bullshit that induces very much eye-rolling. In fact, a lot of the album strikes me as incredibly faux. The drama and emotion feel put on, trumped up for the sake of appearing deep and emotional. This is ironic, considering how much of the mid-90s was all about being genuine or seeking out something that was.

Speaking of irony, Oh Alanis.

I loved “Jagged Little Pill.” A lot. A lot. A lot. A lot. I should have listened to my friend Goetz who would protest whenever I slipped this one into the CD player we kept at The Spectator office. “I don’t know why you love this so much,” he would say.

The reason I loved it so much? “Jagged Little Pill” felt like it was saying something about what it meant to be a young woman in the 90s. It was easy and accessible in a way that was safe. It felt angry without actually being angry. Anger is scary and downright terrifying when you grow up with a dad who had an explosive, violent temper. When I fell in love with “Jagged Little Pill” I wasn’t ready to confront the anger of my own childhood and the injustice of being a woman in a patriarchal society.

Alanis was a nice gateway drug into that. Without Alanis, I don’t think I’d ever have been open to really hear Liz Phair. For that I’m quite grateful for her. However, I can no longer tolerate “Jagged Little Pill” for more than 90 seconds.

Ruling: Jewel and Alanis are out of the canon.

(Visited 46 times, 1 visits today)


  1. NBFB 24.Feb.12 at 11:53 am

    There’s no such thing as “awful” taste in music (or any other art form). There are only differing tastes.

    p.s. if your immediate response is, “only people with awful taste in music say that,” then you have proved my point.

    1. Jodi 27.Feb.12 at 8:26 am

      @NBFB, I don’t agree. Following your logic couldn’t it be then said that there’s no way to judge good or bad music, art, TV, etc. Just because someone created it doesn’t mean it is good.

      1. NBFB 27.Feb.12 at 12:06 pm

        @Jodi, There is no way to judge music, etc. as good or bad. If you like it, it’s good.

        Any formal judgments/awards are subjective. Beyonce won 6 grammys a couple years ago (setting a record). So that automatically means that Beyonce’s music is the best ever?

  2. Doug 25.Feb.12 at 12:23 am

    I saw the Spin Doctors on the tour where Columbia threw them together with Soul Asylum and Screaming Trees. I was there for both of those openers (I was the only one), but as I recall the headliners at least managed an entertaining show. There are worse things.

    The beauty of being in ones 40’s: Not being the least bit concerned with whether what one liked in one’s 20’s met with the prevailing music opinions of then or now. And taking heart in having wised up about Jewel.

    Everyone starts out drinking crappy beer, and without that gateway we’d never get to actually good beer. Sometimes music is the same. And it doesn’t give you “music gut.”

    1. Jodi 27.Feb.12 at 8:28 am

      @Doug, I was actually lucky in that I came of drinking age in Wisconsin surrounded by very discerning Wisconsinite beer snobs. I didn’t often drink crappy beer. Unless it was Point, which was like seventy-five cents a glass during Happy Hour at The Joynt and tasted like Barbie Dolls.

    1. Jodi 27.Feb.12 at 8:27 am

      @hotrod, Oh yeah, this coming from some who who has recently decided that U2 is not, in fact, the worst thing ever.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.