Saturday, September 19, 2015

Like what you like

On this blog, I often share things I like—movies, TV shows, songs, even commercials. Sometimes, I also talk about what I don’t like. This is my space, so I can say what I like. However, away from this blog—including on Facebook—I rarely discuss what I like or don’t. Today, my friend Jason reminded me of why that is.

Jason recently went to the closing night of the Broadway production of the musical, Mamma Mia!, and today he published a post about it.

In addition to talking about the night, he also talked a bit about why the musical meant so much to him, and why he saw it so many times, observing, “From time to time I’ve taken some grief for being a fan of ABBA and the show.”

Now I admit that I didn’t understand why he liked the show as much as he does; I saw the show in Auckland and was rather unimpressed. But quite some time ago, Jason explained to me why he liked it, and I could see why he’d keep going, even if I didn’t share that affection for the show. His blog post adds even more details about why he connects with it so much.

I was also an ABBA fan (and I was one of the friends he mentions in that post), and, like Jason, I also took some grief for liking ABBA. I realised eventually that some of that was self-inflicted: I knew that some people looked down on ABBA (and anyone who liked their music) and so I just kept quiet about liking them.

When I saw other people being ridiculed, too—but online—I came up with Arthur’s Law: “Everything you love, someone else hates; everything you hate, someone else loves. So, relax and like what you like and forget about everyone else.” It’s been very useful.

Several weeks ago, I shared a music video on Facebook, and got comments about how “awful” the song/artist were. I’d shared the song because I like it and it was on my mind at the time. I felt obliged to post a link to my Arthur’s Law post.

I wasn’t angry, nor was I hurt, exactly, but it did bring up memories of being ridiculed for liking songs or artists others didn’t. And it made me resolve—yet again—to try and avoid trashing what someone else likes, and most of the time I’m successful. What other people do and say is up to them, but in this area—as in SO many others—I think people really ought to think a little bit more about how their words make other people feel. This is just probably the easiest area to do that in, it seems to me.

Here’s an interesting thing, though: The “disapproval” of one’s choice in pop music is entirely location-specific, something I only learned when I moved to New Zealand and discovered that here—and in Australia—ABBA had always been big.

ABBA have an extensive discography, including eight studio albums and 73 singles over ten years. But in the USA, only 20 singles were charted (some of the others may not have been released as singles in the USA or the other countries I'll talk about), four of which were top ten, and only one—“Dancing Queen”—went to Number One. Only 10 of the charted singles were Top 20 in the USA.

In New Zealand, 19 singles charted and 12 were top ten, of which six were Number One. All but three of the charted singles were top 20.

Australia had 29 charted ABBA singles, 16 of which were Top Ten, and six were Number One (not all of which were the same as in New Zealand). 19 songs were Top 20 in Australia.

The difference is even more striking with albums: In The USA, seven ABBA albums charted, but none of them were any higher than the Top 20. All 8 studio albums charted in Australia, two went to Number One, all but two were Top 5, and all were Top 20 except their last album, and that one hit 22. All eight albums charted in New Zealand, too, with two going to Number One, five being Top 5, and all but the first two albums reaching the Top 20.

The point of all this trivia is that in the USA, I never talked about liking ABBA to avoid being ridiculed for it. But when I moved to New Zealand, I found myself in a country that embraced the group’s music. To this day, it’s not uncommon for their music to be played at a Kiwi party or to be chosen for karaoke.

This made me realise that likes and dislikes of things in popular culture are entirely relative—even by location. That being the case, why worry about what other people think of our taste in pop culture?

Well, because people can be dicks, for one thing, especially on the Internet. That won’t change any time soon. Oh, well: “Everything you love, someone else hates; everything you hate, someone else loves. So, relax and like what you like and forget about everyone else.”


rogerogreen said...

I wrote about ABBA last year. . It generated a lot of comments - http://www.rogerogreen.com/2014/05/06/q-is-for-quirky-abba/

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Yes, and you didn't get any of the withering comments one could expect in a different context. I'm guessing the international readership of ABC Wednesday may have helped, and times have changed, too, and no less for me: I was a teenager when they began their career.