Voice of the Outsider: Popular Music

by Jessica Pahutski – Staff Editor

Unlike most teens, I couldn’t give less of a hoot about the pop music scene of the New Tens. Most songs sound the same to me, just with a different person recording it and slight rearrangements in key. I can count the number of current singers I don’t dislike on one hand and still have fingers left over. When it comes to the Billboard Hot 100, being able to name the first few songs to ever hit number one is pretty much the best I can do without needing to look something up. For those who don’t know, the Hot 100 started keeping track of song popularity in August 1958. Virtually all my knowledge of who’s on top of the charts today drops off completely after 2013, with rare exceptions. All of this has been going on for as long as I can remember.
I grew up on classical music and video game soundtracks, with some 60’s rock sprinkled in here and there. The only “modern” songs I heard were on the bus to and from school, and I hated pretty much all of them. The noise and words were like getting continuously elbowed by someone in three-minute intervals. Every day for four long years I was exposed to what was popular to most people around my age. However, there were a couple I could at least try to get through without internally heaving. Those few kept me going if I was unable to distract myself in other ways. Adding on to that, the “Moral Guardian” part of me sharply refused to give the more edgy acts any positive acknowledgement.
This cycle repeated right through middle school (when I’d fake playing the songs in pep band) up until fourth quarter of freshman year. Sometime that May, I stumbled upon a genre that fit: jazz. The backdrop of many a Roaring 20’s or Great Depression film clicked with me in a way I never really knew before. In a matter of weeks, old favorites like Rachmaninoff, Kondo and Totaka became a distant second priority to newcomers such as Fitzgerald, Selvin and Kasagi. YouTube channels like Pax41 and MusicProf78 were (and still are) frequent destinations, to the point that I was informed of the passing of at least one popular singer from the early 50’s by the latter. This craze would last until midway into summer vacation, where pre-Beatlemania rock and roll caught my eye in a similar manner.
After two years of 20’s, 30’s and 50’s tunes, things both newer and even older caught my attention: ragtime, Jonathan Coulton, and Leslie Fish. The turn of the century became just as cool to me as Internet-based rock and filk would soon after. With rag, I generally avoid the less politically-correct stuff or listen to the instrumentals. The well-enunciated voices of singers like Billy Murray and legendary rhythms of composers such as Scott Joplin, combined with the previous jazz, rock and folk obsessions, have created my own personal music scene that works. I don’t need to be “hip” and “with it” when it comes to music; I just listen to what I like.

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