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Genre Doesn't Matter
"Genre doesn't matter," I mumble to myself as I write those exact same words on the front of the case I just put my newest mix CD in.
For some time, however, I hadn't really believed that myself. Not since I was nine.
When I was growing up, all my mother played was country music, and all my father played was old-school rock and a lot of music from the 70s. Which meant that all the music I listened to was country, old-school rock, and music of all sorts from the 70s.
Though they never exactly restricted me to only listening to their music, my parents didn’t exactly encourage me to branch out, either. Sure, there are some vague memories of mine where I’m sitting on a couch listening to a cassette tape with Disney music on it, but I have no recollection of ever asking for it, so I’ve never been sure if I asked for it, or if my parents just assumed that all little kids liked to listen to Disney music.
For a while, though, I just thought that the music my parents played was what everyone listened to. My older brother and sister never complained about it for as long as I can remember, so I just assumed that when they got together with their friends that was the sort of music they talked about and sometimes sang together.
The radio in our house was always tuned to either some country station or an old school/classic rock station. But when the DJ would come on and say the name of the station and then say what kind of music it played, like most DJs do, I had absolutely no idea what either of those phrases meant. All I knew was that I could always find the beat, I could always dance to whatever was playing, I could sing along almost perfectly to whatever was playing, and I liked every second and every beat of it all.
Genre meant nothing to me, because no one used that word in my house, so it wasn’t in my vocabulary back then.
My older brother gained what we used to refer to as “musical independence” when he was eleven. Basically, he found a station that played all pop on the radio that used to be in our kitchen, and soon that was the only station that radio was ever tuned to.
Pretty soon, he had his own CD player and was beginning to acquire quite a collection of CDs for himself.
At first, I was amazed; all this time I had been missing out on all kinds of different music.
Then, I was mesmerized by the upbeat, catchy rhythms and lyrics I knew didn’t make sense but were easier to remember and sing along to and stuck inside your head and sounded nothing like the music I’d listened to my whole life leading up to this. And then I was shocked.
I was shocked because my parents had hidden these amazing beats and rhythms that made you want to dance like you’ve never danced before from us this whole time. And because every time my brother turned on his now favorite radio station, or put in one of his CDs, my parents would shake their heads and call all pop music crap.
In music class at school, my teacher had taught us about musical tolerance and not to judge one kind of music, genre, she had called it, too harshly based on one or two songs. Well, I was pretty sure my parents had never heard every single pop song there was, so what gave them the right to say what they said about it?
Soon enough, my brother, my senior by four years, was filling my head with all kind of propaganda. “Country music is bad; the only good music is pop music,” and things of the sort. And the really sad part was that I believed every single word he said to me about it.
Something that I’ll always regret.
By the time I was nine and my brother was thirteen, I too had gained my “musical independence,” though I now recognize it for what it truly was: A music rebellion.
By now, we, my brother and I, had expanded our tastes slightly to include pop, hip-hop, and rock.
For five years I turned my back on what I was raised on; for five years genre was everything to me, if I was madly in love with a song but it was anything besides pop, rock or hip-hop, I would never listen to it again. For five long years I denied myself decent music because of one column on iTunes.
For five years, I might as well have been deaf.
Truth be told, I probably would have continued down that road, the Music Rebellion Road, because that was the only way I could rebel against my parents; by turning my back on my musical roots and, in theory, turning my back on them, except I read “Just Listen” by Sarah Dessen.
It’s hard to believe that one book could change how someone views something as simple as music, except that’s exactly something that the book taught me: Music is anything but simple. And, besides, I don’t see it as me changing my views because of it, I see it as me going back to the person I used to be and the person I loved to be.
So now when I go on my play-list on iTunes, there’s no column for genre anymore, because it doesn’t matter. All that matters is whether or not I like it. And I do; I like every second and every beat of all of it. I’m just sorry it took me five years to remember that.
“Genre doesn’t matter.” I repeat for the umpteenth time and then, as an after-thought, I turn the CD case over and copy down the words that changed a huge aspect of my life for me: “Don’t think or judge. Just listen.”
And then, just because I can, I take out all my mix CDs from over the years, pull out the pieces of paper with the track listings on them, throw them out, and write the exact same words on every CD case I own,
“Genre doesn’t matter,” on the front and: “Don’t think or judge. Just listen.” On the back.
And then I smile and sit back as Taylor Swift begins to blast from my stereo.