The Music Isn’t Good

I was reminded last night of an incident that occurred when I was in high school that I’d pretty much forgotten about. I was involved in Mock Trial my senior year of high school as part of a class, and as part of that, we went to our state’s Mock Trial competition, which was basically run by the Montgomery chapter of the YMCA. Long story short, we did really well at the tournament–by which I mean the group I was in ended up being in the finals for the trial. While to this day I’m not sure who technically won the tournament, I do know what ended up happening at the end of it all.

The group who ran the tournament had a “character award”, and the group that won said award would be the group that went to nationals. (Note: I think they’ve changed the rules since then.) Well, what to our wondering eyes should appear but a team made up of students representing the Montgomery chapter of the YMCA–who, by the way, were not one of the two final teams. It should be noted, by the way, that when we checked the national website when we returned, we found out that Alabama has consistently ranked close to last in the competition. (Insert joke here.)

The thing was, this rankled me. Not only had me and mine been judged insufficiently honorable despite no behavior to the contrary, but we had been judged so both for cronyish purposes and by people who, as near as  I could tell, had no right to judge us. The reason for this, interestingly enough, occurred at a shindig the fine folks at the YMCA threw for us–which basically consisted of a DJ, speakers, and one of the hotel ballrooms.

Said music was primarily terrible rap music. And by “primarily” I mean “entirely.” And by “terrible rap music” I mean “anyone who practices the lifestyle espoused in the lyrics is morally bankrupt at best.” It also didn’t help that I expected better from a group affiliated with the Young Men’s Christian Association.

I encountered a similar thing to this about two years later, when I talked with one of my co-workers, a junior in high school at the time, who told me at one point that “I don’t get why people think I’m a bad kid because I only listen to gangster rap music” or words to that effect.  I didn’t say anything at the time, largely because I was A. tired and B. because my main thought at the time was “If you don’t understand why this is a problem, I can’t help you right now.”

Now I’ll try to. Essentially, when you listen to a piece of music of your own free will, and do so on a regular basis for your enjoyment, you are, in a sense, endorsing whatever the contents of the lyrics are, because you have deemed the music to be worth your time and money, and are deriving enjoyment from it.

For that matter, the media content you ingest influences your personality, beliefs, and thought processes–for instance, after spending hours listening to gangster rap music due to my co-workers having a taste for the stuff, the sheer filthiness of the music caused my head and my heart to holler much louder than usual. Unlike what many people do, I listened.

Now, not all music is as obviously bad as gangster rap. Some of it simply endorses relatively unbridled hedonism and irresponsibility as opposed to brutal misogyny and excess that puts the Caesars to shame–for examples of the former, see most country music, pop music, rock ‘n roll, and the like.

Now listen: I’m not saying that if you listen to this stuff on a regular basis that you’re going to become some kind of terrible person or embark on a alcohol-fueled sex-driven spate of hedonism. What I am saying is that listening to most of this stuff will not further the goal of becoming the kind of person you want to be, nor leave you neutral, but will actually bring you away from where you want to be as a person, if you’re not into hedonism and wild partying.

All I’m saying is, listen to the lyrics, and ask yourself what you’re learning from them.

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness

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