I got into an interesting conversation the other day. So, let’s set the scene:
I’m a musician. Not an amazing one, but I think I’m better than someone who knows a couple chords on a guitar ya know? And in high-school I played music with my best friend at the time. We’ve grown apart, but we still sometimes collaborate ya know? So I sent him a text about my thing, feeling embarrassed about my bad vocals I sent him and said something like.
“But I think it’s fun.”
And he responded. “All Music is fun”
We quickly got into a debate about this as I challenged him. But, as a musician, shouldn’t I like music as a whole? Yes. So don’t I think all music is fun? No.
Here’s the problem, fun is a very vague word. It generally means like “Amusement” but it can also mean more vague things than that, like, “Entertaining” or “Enjoyable.” Enjoyable? That’s INCREDIBLY vague.
So, do I think all music is “Enjoyable?” This is harder to access. I don’t think atonal music is general enjoyable in a direct sense. Like, I’m enjoying hearing the music for musical pleasure. However as musician I think it could be enjoyable to think about and take in for intellectual stimulation. So, I think enjoyable can apply…. but I think this is painting the wrong picture. So, that’s my general complaint.
Is all music, fun? Does all music bring amusement?
No, I don’t think so. I think A LOT of the time it does. Music is an easy way to bring fun to the world, it just is. So, most music is done for that. But here’s the thing, there are other better words to describe lots of music.
For instance, music can be cathartic, meaning like psychological relief through the expression of strong emotion. This usually means anger or sadness. So here’s some cathartic songs that I don’t bounce around having “fun” too, but have or still do bring me a level of catharsis that I often needed.
“Dreaming with a Broken Heart” by John Mayer.
He describes something that I genuinely felt all the time at one point in my life. At one point in my life everything seemed to take a turn for the worse. It was really easy to pin this on a break up that just recently happened, but that wasn’t the center of the problems. Either way, I’d fall asleep and be back together with my ex partner at the time. I’d be SOOO happy, then I’d wake up and instantly feel this wave of agony and sadness. John Mayer perfectly (or at least rounded up to) got this idea down in his song.
“Pictures of You” by The Cure
This actually stems from the same time in my life for similar reasons. Even if the lyrics weren’t as perfectly captured as John Mayer’s dreaming with a broken heart, the tone and subject matter really felt so similar to the feelings I had. When I was going through this, I’d be sobbing alone in my basement listening to this song on repeat. Either way, fun was not the experience I was having then.
“Friend” by Coal Chamber
This actually, in my opinion, was a pretty weak song. However, at the time I had someone who was a friend who betrayed me and I’d listen to this song and deal with my anger I felt from the betrayal. Either way, it certainly was CATHARTIC, but not fun.
However, some songs can be cathartic and fun all together. For instance, “Move Along” by the All American Rejects can be very cathartic if you listen to the lyrics. However, the tone of the song doesn’t have a incredibly sad one. It’s actually a little upbeat even. I could see myself jumping around having fun to this song, but also feeling cathartic and maybe a little sad to it.
Now, this isn’t to say that there isn’t subjectivity that plays into this. Some people have darker senses of humor so songs can feel fun that most people might scrunch up their face to in thought to calling it fun, but on the whole this subjectivity plays less into than you’d think.
Another aspect to this is that a song is really multi-dimensional. Saying a song is “Fun” reduces it to a level of simplicity it just doesn’t have. If you pulled apart each track, each verse, each instrument, you’d find parts that are darker, parts that are lighter, parts that are more fun, and parts that are more cathartic. Trying to pin down an entire song with one verb is just an inappropriate goal. However though, songs put together will have a certain tone to them and because of this you might be able to say the general tone of a song is “fun” or “cathartic” or some other verb.
So, now for the thesis I’m trying to make here with this post, using the right word. Even if we can stretch out a word’s vague definition to apply it to every song, track, or piece of recorded sound to be included into the word “fun” it still wouldn’t be painting the right picture. I was having a conversation earlier about people calling their pets their “Children.” Without proper context, if someone just started talking about their “Children” people are instantly going to imagine someone having either adopted or had a kid. This isn’t an inapplicable word, but it is misleading! Just like calling an atonal, experimental, or extremely avantegarde song fun sort of paints the wrong picture here. Other words better describe the music and if you say “This piece of atonal music is fun” someone might get a bit confused about what you’re trying to imply because the connotation of the word fun just doesn’t paint an accurate picture.
So, in retrospect I think people take this tactic to deal with criticisms of the genres. There is nothing wrong with atonal, experimental, or avantegarde music. Sometimes they might even be rightly labeled fun. However if someone is trying to say they’re “not music” or they’re “bad music” use the right ways to argue their points down. Music is the purposeful arrangement of sound and silence, it’s obviously music. Good and bad music may be discussed in terms of quality, but ultimately this tends to be a subjective matter and it’s hard to quantify what “good” music would be or what “bad” music would be because again…. it’s multi-dimensional. Labeling it fun to try and chase off critics of the genres is just a DISHONEST way to try and fight back against this unfair criticisms, so don’t fall into this trap. You only make it easier for them to say it’s bad music because there is a grain of truth to them saying “No it’s not fun” since it’s just not the optimal adjective to describe it.