I abstain from judging music technically - both in terms of lyrics and melody.
It may be because some of the musical pieces that touch me the most are far from complex or technically perfect. It may be because I don't feel knowledgeable enough to judge other people's work. Or it may be because, even if I were, judging music is as much of a taboo to me as judging someone's very own and vulnerable expression of long-hidden feelings.
Let's be honest, if we all liked every tune we heard we wouldn't really be listening. Some chords will trigger emotions in us, others won't.
I would be lying if I said I got into J. Cole's music since the start.
I slowly warmed up to it, because my friends who knew I was into Kendrick Lamar's work also seemed to take for granted I would be J. Cole's fan - so I took the hint and listened to his pieces.
I find myself appreciating rap music depending on one quality, more than anything else: honesty.
Having the attention span of a goldfish (some call it A.D.D., but I like to think it's a personality trait rather than a condition), I have always heard and felt melodies much more than I ever heard words. Even vocals, in a track, initially appeal to me because of what they sound like rather than what they say. I only start to actually listen to their meaning as a consequence of the melody touching a raw nerve, and that's where the magic happens. Because, let's be honest, vulnerability in songwriting will either break your heart or strike you so hard that the adrenaline won't wear off for hours...
The morning J. Cole's new album was released three friends wrote to me to ask if I had listened to it yet. By 9:30 am, that is.
Hang on. People expected me to shout out an opinion about it, and all I could think was I don’t want to necessarily have one. It’s not a piece of garment. It’s how he feels.
I left my place to go to work and played KOD on Spotify. I tried hard not to skip the songs that didn't particularly grip me within the first few seconds, but I (unsuccessfully) tried even harder not to ‘overplay’ the ones that did, without having gone through the whole album first.
I am now appreciating KOD more, even though I am not sure how I'd feel about it if I had to describe it. Which is exactly my point: do we have to have an opinion about all music, just because it’s out there? Is it necessary for us to display a reaction and spread the word about it? Does it make our personas a little more definite in other people’s eyes? Does it establish boundaries not to be crossed? Every time I listen to KOD, it makes a little more sense. Or maybe I listen a little more carefully, I understand it a little better, I spot a few more shades of pain in the pictures it creates.
I won’t lie, only a few songs in it got to my heart straightaway, but that doesn’t make it any less worthy.
I'd like to know what you guys think; how you perceive music, whether you think it’s fair or unfair to judge every little track or big hit under the sun.
Maybe we should just listen, let it affect us (or not) and accept that music is like words; they don’t always need an answer, because listening with the leading intention to say something impedes the listening itself.
Give it a try. No pressure to have an opinion about it. No judgement, nobody watching.
You'll be surprised how that track actually makes you feel.