In Too Deep: Why Do We Have Such Bad Taste?
Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
You know what baffles me. That we, as a race of intelligent and sapient beings, all readily admit that Carly Rae Jepsen’s â€œCall Me Maybeâ€ is a bad song. We all accept that. So why on Earth is it so popular? Why do we know that it’s objectively bad and yet love it so much? Why do we have such bad taste?
Carl Wilson, in his article â€œLet’s Talk About Tasteâ€, details how people tend to like music that is dull and unimaginative. He uses the example of Celine Dion, but the example of Carly Rae Jepsen works just as well. We tend to like familiar patterns found within music of the sort like Call Me Maybe. Simple, uninspired lyrics mixed with a familiar beat that doesn’t deviate from the norm. In short everything that we enjoy about Call Me Maybe. But perhaps Call Me Maybe isn’t the best song to look at. Sure it’s bad, but on a functional level at least it mostly works. No, there is one other song that perhaps sums up our distaste for fine taste. A song that quickly swept the internet and became a fountain of memes. And that song is none other than Friday.
Yes, Friday, by Rebecca Black. At the beginning of last year it was one of the most popular songs out there because it was just so bad. The lyrics were stupid. They told the story of a girl’s morning routine about going to school. She repeats the phrase â€œwe we so excitedâ€ about twelve times, Lord knows how many times she repeats the word Friday. The auto-tuning was terrible, making her sound somehow worst then previously imaginable. The music itself was generic pop nonsense that any hack could put together. There is no way someone can look at Friday and say, with a sincerity of heart, that it is objectively good. It is a terrible, terrible song. But was it a terrible song, or a brilliant parody?
You see, the secret about Friday is that we all know that it’s bad, but it’s popular because it’s a satire of everything that is wrong with the pop music genre. We laugh at the stupid lyrics that Friday produces whilst at the same time singing along with â€œHey I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe?â€. A multitude of memes were created by Friday and Rebecca Black, but Call Me Maybe has the exact same thing (replacing the last two lines with â€œI’m your father, so join me maybeâ€ on top of a picture of Darth Vader). Both the lyrics are objectively bad. Likewise the music itself is bland and repetitive, as is much of this that you have been reading. So we know that Call Me Maybe is bad. We know Friday is bad. What has this got to do with anything?
Well it’d explain why that, time and again, really bad things tend to make money. Take Transformers as assassinated (I mean directed) by Michael Bay. They are objectively terrible movies, and yet seem to continually make more money then it is reasonable to believe. Even with every film critic telling people not to see the third movie and with a stinker of a second to drive people away the third film still managed to pull in over 1.1 billion dollars and is currently the fifth highest grossing film of all time. Why is this something that is accepted? Why do we subjectively love objectively bad things?
Well there’s no easy way of answering that question. Science has proved that people can get addicted to pop music because the brain anticipates the patterns in pop music and releases dopamine when we get it right. The same logic can be applied to bad TV shows and movies. We feel smarter recognizing the pattern and knowing what’s going to happen before it does, so bad art appeals to that by being predictable. Another possible answer is that we like it in a hipster, quote unquote â€œironicâ€ way. We know that Call Me Maybe is bad, but we think of it as a â€œguilty pleasureâ€. Now while it’s true that all human beings have guilty pleasures (mine being the 1966 masterpiece â€œBatman: The Movieâ€ starring Adam West as the caped crusader and Burt Ward as his trusty sidekick Robin), can it be said that our guilty pleasures extend enough for it to cause this bad art to propel into the limelight? The third and perhaps most reasonable answer is that human beings, by their very nature, are subjective. We all have opinions about things and more often then not we feel are opinions are more ‘right’ than others. Thus if it is my opinion that Call Me Maybe is a powerful statement about female empowerment then no argument about it’s objective badness would sway me. A fourth and more cynical view is that humans are sheep who mindless follow the leader in what is popular and don’t think of doing anything new for themselves. The most cynical, yes, but with a hint of truth. Things get popular because they get promoted, thus leading to people liking them and promoting them further. Call Me Maybe is only as popular as it is cos other people were encouraged to promote it whilst other people mindlessly followed along with the crowd.
Or our tastes are just generally pretty #%@^.
So there you have it. A look at why our tastes aren’t nearly as good as we’d like to think they are. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.