Remember when good kid, m.A.A.d city was heralded a classic within about 24 hours of most probably illegally finding it’s way on to our iTunes? (Indeed it is a brilliant album and there is an argument for music actually being free). Myself being a culprit of such a premature claim, which would later be questioned and critiqued, a year later to be precise. It does beg the question however, can we really judge music based on one listen? Let’s take a popular pop song on the radio, or that song you heard whilst shopping at your local high street retailer and thought “this is utter trash”- Like most songs on the radio, no less than a day later the hook is absolutely embedded in your brain. What is that? Why do I keep saying this? We’ve all been there, struggling to understand why our brains are capable of such an atrocity, all the while still trying to work out if this means you actually enjoyed those 3 minutes of horror.. Or perhaps our minds are playing tricks on us? Saying that however, I do have a certain affinity for a cheesy pop song (We all do really).
Yes you've sang along, once at least.
Does that song you immediately proclaimed your love for 12 months rank as highly as it did then? Does it even manage to find a home on your phone? Perhaps it still does, but a fair amount of songs of that nature probably don’t even get a whiff of your time, apart from the occasional appearance on shuffle where you might utter "I used to love this song". Similarly, take a song you listen to now that may not have been your favourite song of the album, it's now probably found itself as one of your most played songs on iTunes (am I right?)
It’s important to note however that while we can ask these questions, taste in music is entirely subjective and no one can tell you categorically if a song is good or bad- however, I'm questioning those "I love this song" moments, minutes after hearing it and really seeing if it can stand the test of time so to speak...
Albums tend to be a different matter as you have a collection of songs to impart judgement upon, however- prematurely crowning an album a classic is a crime we’re all guilty of having committed at some point. With the album listen there tends to be that one song that you repeat until exhaustion before allowing the album to flow, this is assuming that you’re listening to good album of course.
From experience, you might find that the song you thought was your favourite song is now the song you listen to the least. This could be in part due to exhausting the song past it’s absolute limit. Perhaps that’s sometimes why we skip the main singles we've heard over and over again before the album itself was available in full.
Only time will tell if this is still one of my favourite songs of 2014.
Interestingly, notice how you probably give a new song by an established artist more chances to 'wow' you than one by an artist/act recommended to you by a friend. It’s difficult not to let that kind of behaviour permeate through into our listening habits, although to an extent those established artists have probably earned the right to receive that many chances. What about change of scenery? The french alps made James Blake’s - Retrograde sound like one the best things I’d ever heard (still a great piece of work), only for Toro Y Moi’s - Anything In Return to trump it as my album of 2013.
Fun fact: Chaz Bundick releases music under three different monikers, Toro Y Moi being one of them.
How about the songs you hated from the off and still hate to this day? It’s similar to tasting a dish or recipe for the first time and just knowing it isn’t and never will be for you. Surely our impulsive judgement can be somewhat correct? It’s important to notice that a key component of our listening experience is time. From that pop song you hated yesterday to that album you couldn’t live without 12 months ago, time has to be factored in on the change of opinion.
Our taste buds and palates change just as much as we do as people, sometimes becoming a little more generous with what sounds and textures we allow ourselves to absorb. For the most part it’s a blessing rather than a curse, however what is clear is that we’re definitely a generation that hears something, lives with it and then moves on. Whether that’s the correct way to experience music, I’m not quite sure. Perhaps there isn't a correct way at all- Only time will tell, I guess.
-- Words by Vivien Kongolo (@justviv_)