YOLO, before it became a commonly used and acceptable excuse for stupid things we do—as a lot of us know—came into popularity through Graduation’s 2007 release, when Kanye first said it. But some of us also know that before Kanye gave us a statement we clung to like a bad faith, The Strokes have already suggested it back in 2006 in their single “You Only Live Once.” And didn’t that make a lot of us Strokes fanatics pretty pissed off about it?
That YOLO is a contestable way of living was beside the point; it made us angry that people have been throwing it around proudly when we have known it (and have perhaps lived it) way before all these mainstream-loving people did. Suddenly, YOLO to us has lost its magic. And there, in that feeling of misplaced pride, we have an example of our version of music elitism.
Music elitism has been around for a very long time, but like YOLO, it has been gaining more popularity these past few years with the influx of unknown, obscure bands from all over the internet. We began to define our coolness with how little the bands we like were known.Then suddenly, the ones which have reached a wider audience, or at least people outside the circle with which we identify ourselves, are just now plain shitty.
But don’t we think that to measure the greatness of a piece of music based on its popularity is really just kind of unfair? We are not doing anybody a favor by calling those which are known bad, and then be selfish with the ones that we claim are good. I’m pretty sure the artists and the producers we glorify so much won’t be happy about our selfishness either. This only makes us corrupt people—claiming for ourselves that which does not even belong to us. And if we are so keen as to calling the popular ones bad, then why do we let them continue spreading like wildfire and hiding those which we believe deserve to have more air-time?
My biggest guess as to why music elitism exists in this context is that it makes us feel special knowing that we know good music—the best ones, as some of us may claim—and it only shows how much greater our taste is than everyone else. But allow me to question this entitlement with the notion of what music, especially of the good kind, are supposed to be: shared. So I ask: should we really trust our sense of good judgement?
The issue here, perhaps, is that we are forgetting the powerful potential of what music can do, and supposed to do, for the blinding purpose of satisfying only ourselves. We are so busy enjoying criticizing Justin Bieber and basking in our awesome playlists that we began to completely miss the point.
So let me remind you: Sure we all have the freedom to be critics.
And by all means do. I encourage it, especially that as people who are at a very vulnerable age, it would be good for us to filter which things to take in. As I have to admit that, yes, there are a lot of bad existing albums out there. There is a very huge gap between being a critic and a hater, though, and to judge music by solely basing them on a criterion that discriminates not the artist or the music itself–but the people who enjoy it–may be indicative of really bad taste.
Elitism represents one kind of hindrance we encounter in our never-ending fight for progress. It spurts the growth of people against the direction which music could lead them to. Instead of appreciating the variety and making the most out of it, we keep pushing others downward. Thus, the whole process just becomes counterproductive. This does not just hold true in the elitism we see in soap operas where the Donyas and the Dons prohibit their children from falling in love with poorer people. In a more realistic and less melodramatic situation, we see elitism here as we exhibit our most undeniable contempt towards those who are just different from who we are in terms of how many bands we know.
And honestly? It isn’t very YOLO of us.