Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life Paperback – May 17, 2016 by Steven Hyden (Back Bay Books)

Without going chapter by chapter, I think Steven Hyden did a good job of using musical and cultural comparisons as an entry point to discuss how we behave in so many other ways.

For example, Oasis and Blur he uses to say that when he was growing up, you couldn't like both - if you liked Oasis, you must not like Blur. I think that's fair, especially when we're young and we're trying to create our "identity." This is equally applicable to real life - it seems like you can't "like" open carry gun laws and also "like" pro-choice - even though the two have nothing to do with each other, the beliefs are mutually exclusive. Our identities are restricted to a certain beliefs and we behave like they can't overlap.

When he talks about the "culture wars" of songs, he used "Southern Man" and "Sweet Home Alabama" as a good example - he claims (and I'm not sure I buy this) that "Alabama" was written as a joke, almost, not a serious pro-south anthem. But that was in 1975 - in 2016, there's no irony to that song and it's as straightforward as it comes. The culture decided that the song represented a simple statement, regardless of what the artist did or didn't intend.

There's lot of relevant examples, and cogent analysis. I want to try and use this in a college classroom setting as examples of how our relationship with music speaks to and mimics our real-life personalities. It is very 1990s specific, however, and most college students would only be vaguely familiar with many of these artists. So it's a potentially good resource, but maybe not ideal for audiences younger than about 30.

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