Music has changed a lot over the past couple of years. Our culture has come to thrive on what is popular in clubs, with a loud thumping bass. Radio has found comfort in these genres, like pop and rap. Some say music is less daring, which is sometimes hard to disagree with based on what is out there. But for the most part, it is split 50/50. There are plenty of bands out there, mainstream or not, that generally remain complacent and soulless, but at the same time, there are plenty of bands out there that try new things and break boundaries. Though hard to believe, the underground and mainstream exist on the same plane. People forget that at times, but they cannot be considered separate. It is still music all the same, and we attach ourselves to it for the same reasons. It isn’t popularity that makes people like a song, but the palpable feeling of confidence.
Confidence does not come easy in music. What makes us perceive a song as emotionally engaging is a highly complicated development. A lot of it has to do with our preconceived notions that make us feel engrossed in a song, or turn us off from one. For example, why is it that when we hear Rebecca Black’s, “Friday,” we are so quick to assume pretentiousness? Is it because she is young, a bad singer, or the poorly written lyrics? I couldn’t tell you which it is, but it is definitely not the lyrics. Have you ever heard the “Bob Dylan” cover of “Friday?” That version felt so much more real. Words that originally sounded superficial appeared to have depth. It is not only a song’s production that plays a large factor in the honesty of a song, but the demeanor in the vocals. That, more than anything can make or break a song’s “confidence.” This is one of the many reasons that fake emo bands get flak. They are too timid. No one is going to believe anything they say, whereas real emo bands exert their voices and expose their stories sorrowfully. Whether you’re Nicki Minaj, or Henry Rollins, people will believe a sincere voice.
There are some genres, like hardcore and rap, that have so much certainty in themselves that they have become eternal. When you think about it, there is no difference between a hardcore band and a rap group. People both enjoy those genres for the same reasons. Rap and hardcore music both have highly energetic vocals and a strong live presence. This is why these genres get away with monotony. They are dauntless in their endeavors. Although they both take a route of simplicity, and have songs that sound similar, they still manage to get the point across. This proves that confidence can make up for a lacking in certain areas. Although Nicki Minaj has largely bitter lyrics and an obnoxious voice, she still has the spunk to say the things she does. And even though hardcore songs play the same three or four chords repeatedly, the passion in the vocals makes you relate to their words. Much of our perception of confidence in music comes from a band’s boldness to sound different, but hardcore and rap shows that is not always the case. These are genres that can manage to maintain their appeal through tenacity, but still remain complacent.
Uniqueness in one’s sound is an important instrument for popularity, but ultimately it comes down to a brave voice. Confidence is the driving factor of a good song, and has many interpretations. Whether it’s confidence to sound loud, sexy, mean, smart, or lazy, someone will find a way to invest in the music. Depending on our interests, we project these versions of confidence onto ourselves. It is a reflection of the confidence people wish they had. Even though mainstream music isn’t always in good taste, it’s confidence is respected. There is hope in the crossing of musical communities knowing that there is something they all share.