for Gabe, mostly

I feel like I should articulate what to me makes music “bad” and what makes music “good”. “Good” music is one that invokes an immediate positive response either through the structure, sound, or lyrics provoking a feeling of comfort, sympathy, or nostalgia. I find ZZ Top “good” because it reminds me of listening to classic rock in cars while growing up, and “Sharp Dressed Man” always seemed like it could be about me, in my head. What to me is “bad” music is music that is not fully engaged with itself, unpolished, and provokes no positive reaction — where the creators are either too indulgent, too uninvolved, or overcompensating for one part of their “skill” being lacking by trying to overdo their strengths. Any album that makes you feel bored, detached, and disinterested is a “bad” album. Certain albums that provoke a negative response, though, can be good — an album that makes you feel a depth of sadness or makes you aware of defunct emotions can be deemed “good” if you want to feel sad, or emotionally bankrupt. But what makes music “bad” to me is when the artist obviously is failing at whatever it is they’re trying; to be interesting, to rap, to play the guitar, to scream as loud as they can about god or demons, whatever. Impurities that distort the idea. An album that causes no sympathy and generates no interest or connection, of course, is also inherently “bad”. 

However, there are also “bad” albums that are actually fascinating; their incohesiveness, flaws, and missteps can demonstrate — provided the artist has already commissioned a talented oeuvre — just how functional and intelligent and powerful the artist is when they’re using their gifts. Sometimes a series of bad albums can make a great album even greater, not just because of contrast, but because of context

All musical taste is subjective, of course — as is, ultimately, everything that requires “taste”. Air quotes, sarcasm, loud elitist laughter, roll on snare, curtains drop, the end, amen.