I Listened to 1,000 Albums in 2015 and All I Got Was This Stupid Think Piece
Well, folks, it’s all said and done, locked and loaded, kitted and caboodled. As of December 31st, 2015, I have officially listened to 1,000 releases from this year of our Lord MMXV. What started as a fun, semi-joking idea for a year-end goal turned into an all-consuming labor (of occasional love) that ended up really taking a toll on yours truly. A man not entirely a stranger to the allures of addictive behavior, music for me in 2015 became a constantly gnawing hunger I felt compelled to assuage. Here are some of the things I learned while on the perilous path of my journey.
Like this, but drunk and alone at my mother’s kitchen table
Never consume art for the sake of consuming art – As renowned wordsmith Frank Semyon once said,
Let me ask you: was there really any point to divesting 20 minutes of my time to EXIT ANYWHERE 翻訳しないでください by Suncoast Parkway, a Florida-themed, amateur vaporwave act?
No, but the sick part is that I was goddamned excited when I came across it because it was easily consumable and would count towards achieving my goal faster. Do you think I can truthfully discuss with you any specific details of electroacoustic act Three Legged Race’s ROPE COMMERCIAL VOL. 2?
Hell no! But it went into my ear holes at one point and manifested itself as another entry on my list. At the end of the day am I proud that I’m one of three people that listened to Yung Diss’s PRINC3SS?
Not in the slightest, but it fell into my lap and it was a less committed listen than something with a fan base behind it, like the new Janet Jackson or Madonna. Especially amongst online communities, prestige is doled out to the biggest and baddest players, the ones who literally devote their lives to consuming media and can list off obscure, foreign titles like an international Rolodex. Stick with what you love, and love it properly. In hindsight, I would have given it all up to listen to 100 releases with the proper time and care that they deserve. For you see . . .
Everything begins to be the same, and you will feel indifferent to what you once loved – When you’re on a schedule of six to eight full releases a day, do you know just how many sounds you consume? Somewhere around the 800 mark, I realized that I no longer enjoyed music. Life was a stark, gray landscape of 16-minute drum beats, freak folk, and scary men whispering into microphones, none of which I particularly enjoyed, but all of which would ostensibly rocket me into the upper spheres of music listenership. I was no longer responding emotionally to what I was hearing and often became anxious and sweaty, longing for the days where I could comfortably sit in silence without experiencing FOMO if I didn’t catch the new tape of Azerbaijani black metal.
Listening to 1,000 albums finally taught me the fact that moderation truly is key. Remember getting drunk off of two beers during freshman year of high school? 1,000 beers later, the joy is gone and you probably need nearly 10 times that number to be riding high. Remember when the gates of Heaven opened up the first time you beat the bishop or polished the pearl? 1,000 trips downtown later, and you’re probably sad, lonely, and possibly damaged from the extent to which you’ve giggled your jiblets. Remember the first time art really touched you, whether it be music, film, or hand-puppet dinner theater? 1,000 experiences later, just think about how statistically unlikely it is that the next thing you consume will recreate that feeling.
And on that note . . .
It’s really not that much fun not liking what other people like – People like things. People want you to like the things that they like. This is a fundamental basis for most social interaction. Although passionately arguing your opinions and beliefs is often an enriching experience, it’s just not beneficial to anyone to seclude yourself from human connection by continually telling people that their opinions are incorrect. Look, it’s not your fault; you’ve made the strange and dangerous life decision to pursue unprecedented depths of largely irrelevant knowledge. But it’s not their fault either. When you listen to 1,000 albums from one year, do you think there’s any chance in Hell your number one album is going to be Tame Motherfucking Impala??? Hell no, but when someone comes up to you excited to talk about music and wants to talk about CURRENTS, only to receive a dismissive wave of the hand and a “2.5/5,” who is it really benefiting?
Not these people, that’s for sure
Other than perhaps a small hit of self-righteous satisfaction, all you’ve done is belittle someone’s opinions, making them less likely to consider whatever album you might recommend as an alternative. Furthermore, future tastemakers of the world, I’ll tell you a little secret; do this enough and people will stop asking for your opinions, which is all you really want at the end of the day anyway. Being the weird music kid pigeonholes you into social exchanges where people presume they will already hate what you have to recommend, equating you to a trained monkey that will clap his Khmer pop cassette cymbals when called upon as a fun party trick.
And that’s because . . .
Nobody cares that you consume a lot of media – Now, look, none of this is to suggest that you should be willfully ignorant. If you’re involved in a particular media profession or fandom, it goes without saying that you need to experience a wide and varied amount of content for educational purposes. By saying not to listen to 1,000 albums in one year, I’m still at least internally throwing shade at those who called it a day after CARACAL, PURPOSE, and 25. There is a bright and beautiful world out there that you have to dig a bit to find. BUT, the sad truth of the matter is that when the shit really hits the fan, nobody is going to care about the media you consume. Looking back at this experience with the rosy 20/20 vision of hindsight, I realized that the best case scenario for this situation was either getting street cred from people I will never meet in real life, or the dark, beautiful stranger that I would run into on the street that I could have a 30 second conversation about Hieroglyphic Being & J.I.T.U. Ahn-Sahm-Buhl’s WE ARE NOT THE FIRST with.
But as you can guess, that never happened, and in reality, it amounted to me coming off as an obsessive-compulsive, pretentious douche-fritter at parties. Which isn’t necessarily incorrect, but it showed the fundamental flaw in the system. People that are not in your small, anxious circle of masturbatory consumers have nothing to say to you and don’t want to apply for an access pass. Because really, what would they say? All they’re going to ask is what your favorite album was, and when it’s not something they heard, goodnight Irene. What happens is that your quest to listen to 1,000 albums becomes a key part of your identity. Sure, maybe some people will like your triumphant Facebook status because you haven’t shut up about it for the entire year, but think about how fucking stupid this entire thing is if all you want is people to somehow validate the novelty of the act. Other people are out there falling in love, working hard, and changing the world, while you wait for the clock to rundown on The Inward Circles’ BELATED MOVEMENTS FOR AN UNSANCTIONED EXHUMATION AUGUST 1st 1984 so that you can get on to the next one.
So, in conclusion, all this has taught me to . . .
Shut the fuck up and enjoy yourself – Yes, when you’re an angry teenager it’s fun to walk around with the keys to pretension safely tucked away on your iPod, and yes, we’ve all enjoyed occasionally shaming someone who clearly demonstrates that they have no idea what they’re talking about, but these are shallow, short-term pleasures. The cold, hard truth of the matter is that you’re the odd one out. When you’re on a bus to a sorority formal and everyone loses their minds when “Let It Go” comes on, leaving you to sit and caustically tweet instead of joining in, are they really the losers? When you’re at a party and “Jumpman” comes on, is the ticket to the superiority train really worth the price of admission of standing in the corner and glaring at the “plebs” and “normies” being happy? Is telling someone that they have shit taste the preferable alternative to at least taking their opinions out for a spin? This year has really made me question whether “selling out” might just be a strategic “buying in.” I’ve never felt as happy bobbing my head to Lil Ugly Mane as the people dancing to Drake. I’ve never seen minimalist drone affect a crowd the way Taylor Swift does. Funeral doom metal will never bring joy to as many people as Selena Gomez.
Severely summarizing musicologist Christopher Small’s definition of musicking,
essentially, every time we consume a piece of media or art, there is much more happening than purely the relationship between the consumer and the consumed. The relationships between us, us and society, and us and the spiritual are all brought into play when we engage with a piece of art. Choose to engage in such a way that seeks to benefit as many of these relationships as possible.