Mob mentality clouding our judgement

So far today, I have been uninspired by every new track I’ve listened to. Hype Machine, soundcloud, twitter – nothing. A lot of the new music I find is based on the suggestions of people who I trust have a good taste in music, yet even bands who these people rave about have failed to excite my ears. I was already feeling contemplative, and so all of this got me thinking: do these taste makers of mine really like this average music I’m hearing, or are they under some kind of spell? Sure, people’s taste in music differ massively – I can hear how these bands are ok and producing above par material, but was it enough to stop me in my tracks like it was my fellow music enthusiasts? Absolutely not (in my opinion). No, what I think is the problem, is people are influenced by mob mentality when it comes down to forming an opinion.

What do I mean? WELL…

Being a Londoner these days, the best way I can explain mob mentality is using some of the day-to-day stupidity that happens on the underground. For example: you have just got off a train and are heading out of the station. You get to the entrance/exit, and ahead you see 3 massive doors. On the far left, people are coming in to the station. On the far right, is a massive queue to leave it. WHAT I SEE SO OFTEN is people blindingly joining the queue on the right rather than consider that the doors in the middle are in use; and what do you know, they are. This also happens at turnstiles where 3 out of 5 have a massive queue, whilst the other 2 remain completely unused, although functioning perfectly fine. Why does this happen?

The reason I offer to you is that we as humans hate standing out from a crowd – hate going against what other people say, or are doing – so even if we think we know better at times, we stick to following the crowd because that’s just how it works. We see a queue, WE SEE that there are two turnstiles open to the right, but we assume that because people are here because…well…who knows… so that’s what we must do.

How does this relate to music?

What happens far too much in this industry is that something is said, or an opinion is formed, and it STICKS. It really sticks. And this is bad for both the musician who will find it impossible to shake this opinion that he/she will carry around with him forever, and it is also bad for us, the listener, in that we will never listen to their music objectively again. Their fate has been decided, and that is that. Take for example the bad boy of pop, Mr Justin Bieber. The World hates him. His music is the worst thing that has ever come out of a human’s mouth and he is nothing but a teenage heart throb (apparently). But I challenge you that Justin is actually a decent (ish) musician.

Name five of his songs.

Chances are you can’t. And the fact you don’t know them probably doesn’t come down to the fact that “Why would I want to listen to that crap”, but its more likely that you have never actually listened to him. The problem for Bieber is that people judged him on his first song “Baby”, and fairly rightly so, but if you actually listen to his latest material objectively, SURE it’s RnB that’s written to get him into girl’s pants, SURE it’s clichéd and idolises him beyond compare, but the music…isn’t that bad. His new material is not my kind of music, but its definitely getting closer to being listenable. Have a listen

Miley Cyrus is another one of these artists who was condemned right from the offset of forever being a naked, atrocious female role model, but listen to Wrecking Ball, and that is a damn good song!

This too can be used when talking about amateur musicians. Once a band has a few reviews which are all positive or at least moderately positive, that’s it: they’re a good band. “How could anyone criticise their music? Just look at all their reviews”. But that, right there is the issue. We let other people’s reviews influence our reviews, which COMPLETELY defeats the point of them. I see too many blogs that are marketing for a band rather than a REVIEW of it. By its very name, a review is an appraisal of music, NOT pointing out why its good or why you like it. A review must point out the pros AND the cons; otherwise it’s a “This is my favourite band in whole world” post, and not a review.

And this is dangerous for the musician. Bands must not be allowed to think that a review will only give out positive feedback. They do not exist to tell them why they are good: they are there to provide FEEDBACK, which is actually far more useful if you’re a musician. I got asked to do a review the other day, and when I had something negative to say about the music, the musician got angry and asked me why I reviewed his music if I didn’t like it. THAT is the problem right there ladies and gentlemen: amateur bands EXPECT to be idolised ladies and gentlemen. They wont accept that there are any flaws with their music.

This is wrong.

I am of the belief that negative, or in nicer terms “constructive” feedback, is the most useful feedback to give. How are you/we to grow as people or musicians if we are never shown what we can better? If you only ever get 100% positive feedback, you will keep doing things the way they are despite their obvious flaws because people are too kind (or influenced) to say what you really need to hear.

After a long rant ladies and gentlemen, my point is this:

Your opinion is yours. If you have analysed and reviewed it objectively (with sufficient knowledge to be able to do so) then no one can tell you that you are wrong. Don’t go judging people based on their reputation: it is up to you to decide what you think. Sure, celebs like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus don’t do themselves a great deal of good acting like idiots and pulling off stupid pranks, but listen to them as if they were anybody else, and then you will be doing them, and yourself a great favour.