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Music: What You Hear vs. What You See
Picture this: you're standing in the middle of a huge crowd, getting ready to listen to some great bands at a festival like Bamboozle, Warped Tour, or Woodstock. You have your money safe in your front pants pocket, your cell phone is set to vibrate in case anyone calls you, and you have a prime view of the stage about twenty yards in front of you. You know the name of the band you're about to see but you've never seen them live. It doesn't matter; you're ready for anything tonight.
The lights on the stage go on and the band struts to their places. It's a typical layout: one drummer, one bassist, two guitarists, and one vocalist. You squint your eyes to look closer. They all look the same with their tight skinny jeans, Converse sneakers, V-neck shirts, and side-swept bangs. The only difference is their hair color and height. Already sensing this act to be a failure of the highest degree, you turn your back and walk to another stage to find something more amusing to watch.
When there are over 100 bands performing at any given festival, it's a given that the fans will be running around like headless chickens trying to catch as much of the music as they can. This being said, it's no wonder that many people at these venues will end up judging a band the moment they set foot on the stage. Scene kid haircut? Next. Piercings and tattoos and liberty spikes? No thanks. Beer gut and greasy hair? Nah.
If what we want to see doesn't appear onstage, we move on to the next band. If what we see isn't appealing to the eyes first, we continue on our merry way. Sometimes we don't even wait to hear the band play.
Another way we judge musicians nowadays if whether they are attractive or not. This seems silly and childish, yes, but it's also true. Let's take a woman in her early twenties named Victoria. Let's say Victoria hears a song on the radio that she really likes. She listens to the DJ, who announces the name of the song and the band who plays it. Victoria rushes to the nearest computer and logs onto MySpace or Google or any other search engine. She types in the information, clicks "enter," and is greeted by a picture of four beautiful young men, all around the same age as her. They're tall, tan, handsome, and overall good-looking. Their smiles alone captivate her. Thus, Victoria has found a new favorite band.
Would the situation be the same if the men in the band were in their forties and had balding scalps? Probably not.
One could make the argument that this shift of attention from the music to the pretty faces behind it is technology's fault. "Oh wonderful," you grumble, "one more thing to blame on technology." But in this case, it could be true.
Back in the days were iPods, computers, and Internet as a whole was a thing of man's wildest fantasy, there were just records and tapes (and eventually CDs). Unless there was a photograph of the band on the album cover somewhere, the people behind the music were faceless and nameless. Perhaps things were better that way. Music was music back then; it was pure and genuine and focused on the craft, not on the makers.
This of course isn't to say that technology is a horrible, horrible thing and that we should all be ashamed for downloading the newest album on iTunes. In fact, technology has also transformed music in a good way, allowing more people to reach out and listen to some amazing, undiscovered artists via websites like MySpace and even YouTube. The fact remains, however, that most people use technology to dig deeper and search for an artist's looks, background, personality, etc. Sometimes they even go so far as to copy an artist's clothing style as exemplified by the website Hayley Fashion which covers the various fashion styles of Hayley Williams, lead singer of Paramore.
The true purpose of music - reaching out to people, sending a message, letting people enjoy the songs they hear - has been tainted by the rise of technology like this. People have been getting too caught up in an artist's looks and not what they're actually playing.
The next time you're at a concert and you see some pretty-boy musician walk into the limelight, don't be so quick to judge. Stand there a moment and listen to him. You might hear something you like. Maybe this kid has a beautiful, lilting voice. Maybe his lyrics really touch you. Maybe his acoustic guitar-playing brings tears to your eyes. Whatever the reason, if you choose to walk out as soon as you look at him and dislike what you see, you might be missing out on something very momentous.
Or next time, when you see three guys in leather jackets and mohawks leap onto the stage. Who knows? Maybe one of the guitarists has amazing, fast-moving fingers that leave you speechless. Maybe the drumbeat pounds so hard, your heartbeat hammers along to the rhythm.
Don't be so quick to judge. Listen to the music and take it for what it is: an art.