You have two options when it comes to listening to a new music artist. They are as follows:
1.) Become their biggest fan. Memorize every album title, EP title, song title, lyric, former and present band members’ full legal names, completely dedicate the rest of your life to enjoying the sweet tunes this band produces.
2.) Be a casual listener who never shares the fact that you like a couple of said music artists’ songs ever.
You cannot be a casual listener in public places. If you like three or four of these artists’ songs and happen to find an old band tee of theirs at Goodwill, do not buy it. For the love of God, do not buy it. Wearing a band tee of an artist for whom you don’t every minuscule fact about is an invitation to an interrogation.
“Oh, you like STRFKR? That’s sick. What’s the name of the elementary school their lead singer’s third cousin goes to? How many bones did their drummer, Josh Hodges, break in his four-wheeling accident when he was 13? Who was their bassist’s celebrity crush from years 2009-2011?”
If you aren’t prepared to answer questions like those, you have to guard the fact that you like some of that band’s music with your life. Don’t put their most popular song on the aux if you’re not the only one in the car. Playing an artist’s most popular song is the equivalent of being a human billboard with “Please grill me about the fact that I like this artist’s most popular song, even though in your opinion it isn’t their best song.”
Here’s the thing: sometimes a band’s most popular song is their best song. It makes sense. It’s clearly the song that has been listened to the most, by the most people, so why wouldn’t it be their best song? I don’t know, but if you ask their number one fan their most popular song is one of their worst. What makes it one of their worst? The fact that other people know about it.
Gatekeeping in music is a strange phenomenon. People find bands and musical artists that they really like and they become territorial over them. They don’t want anyone else’s favorite band to be their favorite band because then they’ll lose what makes them unique, or at least they think they’ll lose what makes them unique. In reality, there is an extremely small chance that they are this band’s absolute number one fan and there’s no chance that they are the only one whose favorite band is this specific artist. Especially when said band has been around for several decades and has won a Grammy.
The Strokes have been around since the ’90s. They recently won a Grammy. They have songs with hundreds of millions of views on YouTube. People know about them and they’ve known about them for years. But for some reason, people on the app TikTok are angry about teens getting into their music.
There have been a few songs from the Strokes blowing up on the app and younger Gen Z is starting to enjoy their music. This is the first time a lot of them have been introduced to their songs because although they are a well-known band, they aren’t as popular on the radio as an Ariana Grande or a Beyoncé.
You would think if you were a longtime fan of a band you would want to see them gaining more popularity from a younger audience so that their legacy would carry on through generations. You would want to share something you love with other people so they can love them too. But too often than not, instead of being happy that other people have discovered your favorite band, people are bitter.
People need to face the hard truth of life: you aren’t as unique as you think you are. Your favorite band is thousands of other people’s favorite band. So lighten up a little and let people enjoy things.
And if you can’t do that, I don’t want to see you nodding along to a Justin Bieber song if you can’t name all of his albums. In order.
Audra McClain is an opinion writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.