catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 23 :: 2008.12.19 — 2009.01.02


I don’t listen to Sufjan Stevens

I’m a student at a Christian liberal arts college in the Midwestern U.S.  What kind of music do expect me to like? Take a moment to make a mental list.

Well, in fact, I don’t listen to Sufjan Stevens, nor do I listen to Nickel Creek. I hate Radiohead with abhorrence unmatched by anything in this world, and I really don’t care for Beck, Ben Folds, Neko Case or Jars of Clay either. And don’t even get me started on the “indie” music genre in general.

I know some of you who think you have the typical college student all boxed up have just passed out.  Others of you are burning with rage, desiring to find out where I live so you can tell me off or maybe do me physical harm. But before you attack, let me pick your brain: What do you know about Frankie Beverly and Maze or the Isley Brothers? Do you know the difference between Barry White and Marvin Gaye? Do you really know Stevie Wonder? Have you heard Earth, Wind, and Fire? Or Tony Toni Toné? What about Nas, Cameo, Chaka Khan, Teddy Pendergrass, The Gap Band, Eric Benet, Mint Condition, Maxwell, Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Jon B., Debarge, Lupe Fiasco, Raheem Devaughn, Rahsaan Patterson, The S.O.S. Band, Babyface, Luther Vandross, Brian McKnight, Outkast, Boyz II Men, India Arie, and countless others? Please, answer; and take as much time as you need.

Unless it is perceived as offensive or unless it is catchy enough to garner enough attention by the masses, African American music goes largely ignored. Along with it, the richness and diversity is lost as well, severely limiting popular awareness to Beyoncé, 50 Cent, Kanye, Chris Brown, Rihanna and “Ay Bay Bay” and forcing others to believe that African American music is only about flaunting wealth and women, cursing and killing when there is so much more there.

It’s frustrating when black music is treated as a fad instead of art that people have poured themselves into. Instead, music that is created primarily to make money and has nothing positive or influential to offer us is soaked up and forced upon us in every form of media imaginable. What’s even more frustrating is when people flaunt the obscure bands that they know as if their music should be included in everyone’s musical repertoire without talking to the people around them to learn about expanding their own catalogue. There needs to be more dialogue, more exchange. As technology allows us to interact with people throughout the world and as our nation becomes increasingly diverse and expands culturally, the musical influences and tastes of the majority must cease to be the homogeneous standard.

I don’t claim to know it all, especially about music, but it’s essential to have multi-faceted musical expression and education. Expand your world! We all have something new, fresh and diverse to offer, so be willing to learn new music, different music, diverse music; and be willing to share more of your musical preferences, something more than simply Sufjan Stevens.

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