I want to shit on Ed Sheeran. Not in this post. Literally.
Music is an enigmatically influential part of culture. Musical artists compose their pieces and we consume them through the event of Hearing, a magical mode of intake, not only passing information through the ear, directly to the brain and the heart but doing so according to a persuasive sound. The impact of sound on the body is emotional and at times of overwhelming. The construction of a sound, therefore is deliberate and soulfully provoked: This is the way my message moves, through pitch and beat and vibration. Fashionably, the consumption of music is less precious. Not all listeners are thinking about the impact of what they’re listening to. They listen because it’s trendy. They might not even like it. Regardless, they’re being influenced. Kara needs to be on the latest music but, I can’t figure out what she would be listening to.
I hadn’t heard Ed Sheeran’s music until today. In an effort to collect a Cool lot of music for Kara, to give her the hours of listening we all configure with the music we love individually, to give her a sound she can live to, I attempted to understand what music she wants to hear.
I asked a good friend of mind “What are trendy people listening to?” He listens to a lot of curated playlists at work. He works in a bar where lookers come to be looked at, where young people go to be young and where the blooming generation of Know-It-All Trend-Setting Camera-Waving Need-To-Be-Out-On-The-Scene insecure imitations of one another show up just to Be. He watches the Beings who exist not to exist but to be accepted dance, drink and touch each other while the music they want to hear plays, seducing them into believing they are cool. Which music is screaming Cool? Which of it determines the bodies of cool, the nights of cool, which of it satisfies the desperation of the cool, which of it comforts the masses into believing that Cool even exists? “What are trendy people listening to?” I ask my very cool friend.
“Ed Sheeran shit.” That was his only answer.
“Who is Ed Sheeran?”
“The fucking red headed, bearded, fucking hip guy with the least interesting thing to say ever.”
“What does he try to say?”
“I want to love a woman.”
We drank and I asked if we could listen to Ed Sheeran while drinking and he said if I put on Ed Sheeran he will have to stop being my friend.
Ed Sheeran is a walking imitation of my friend. He looks like a number of my friends, actually, or at least people I know who I think are pretty cool without trying, who are way smarter than a lot of material present in the cultural spheres of music, literature, theatre, cinema. A lot of my friends are geniuses. None of them listen to Ed Sheeran. But, stylistically, aesthetically, they seem to match his public appearance. Ed Sheeran is just an imitation of cool but his music isn’t.
Ed Sheeran looks like a really cool musician: Tattoos, beard, American Apparel type nondescript casual clothing, sort of undone and sexy but then the grime of Quiet and Solitude still seems to be smeared around his beard. His best friend is James Blunt. He’s from the UK. I find all this exciting: Ok, I’ve found what is cool, Kara will listen to his entire album, become a fan girl, go to his show, obsess over him, this is it.
I listened to his music and it is really bad. I tried listening as Kara but the music is so bad, the letdown nearly made her cry. There’s really nothing I can say, it’s just so bad. It’s cheesy, shallow, useless, really an offense to great music, music that actually defines music, there is no texture to what he does, it is just a mess of Bad. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please go ahead and listen to Galway Girl so we can both agree. This man is an imposter. He isn’t interesting. I want to shit on him just to help him gain an edge, a shit-dripping edge, traumatic and sad or maybe even truly funny thing to write about so that the people who listen to him, the audience that I WISH I had, the ones who are doing this because it is Cool, can gain exposure to something truthful.
I continued on the hunt for Kara’s music. I used iTunes, typed in Ed Sheeran and listened to the first playlist that appeared: Pop Hits. Some of it was fine but I’m still not convinced that it’s cool. I am still not convinced that Kara would look on iTunes for the trendy music she most wants to know about. I don’t know that Ed Sheeran Shit is the true playlist of the desperately relevant. It’s hard for me to know where she would collect her musical ego but of course it would be an important part of her daily life because music is fashionable. The same way that clothing is meant to be worn and seen, constructing us into images, floating visual signifiers of who we are hoping to be, music is meant to be heard, infiltrating the brain, collecting masses of people into one rhythm, affecting the way they move, the way they sweat and the way they love each other. Music is the audible experience of culture, canonized and treasured for all eternity. It’s incredibly important to me, regardless of how little I know about it, I know I need music, I use it for everything I write, it helps me love better and cry better and all the things good work should do for us. My heart breaks when I think about the masses of people who listen to music just to fit in.
I’ve been to Osheaga, a large summer music festival in Montreal, twice in my life. Both times I went with the same friend. She loves music. She’s also very trendy. I go with her places because I’m a passive person and I go a lot of places that I don’t want to go just because a friend asked me to. The first time I went we were, I think, twenty-two. The crowd at Osheaga is exceptionally young because in Montreal it is legal to drink at age eighteen. The groups are annoying but fascinating from a distance: Everyone is dressed the same, everyone is speaking at a volume that will help them be heard, everyone knows every word to every song, everyone is studied in Cool. They have listened to this music so that they could come here and be the people who know the music, yelling it in crowds and being generalized Young People because it’s probably fun but, most of all, it’s satisfying to Get It. I don’t get it.
I had fun the first time I went to Osheaga but the second time I went I wanted to lie on the ground and die. I was nearly ten years older than most of the people there. I knew a few bands but it’s hell trying to hear them in the crowd of screaming and stoned drunken freshly high school graduated kids. Some of the music really was cool. Nick Cave was there, Jack White was there, Color Copy, a lot of music that I personally really do like listening to but no one was really listening. Everyone was showing off that they knew what it was. The need for music has become unemotional. It’s exactly the way Kara should regard music. She should want to know and at least pretend to enjoy the exact kind of music that will make her feel like she will never be in a room with a song she can’t sing along to or describe her history with or tell everyone very loudly why this artist is so great.
I suppose it makes a difference whether or not music is being listened to in a group. I rarely hang out in groups and maybe that’s why status is never that important to me but for Kara it’s a competitive part of her life and music should be an accessory to her competition. Historically, music has always been a status symbol. It’s no different now but, there’s almost too many different kinds of Cool music. What kind of Cool is Kara? Who are her friends who also listen to this music? It can’t be Ed Sheeran because he’s just too terrible. It has to be something more provocative, deeper, even though her and her friends will obviously consistently miss the point of what they are listening to, it has to be an ironic obsession with something that is more intelligent than she is. I cannot know what it is because I like listening to music that lets me leave the planet, that keeps me away from everyone. Anything that keeps me thinking about how to be more relevant isn’t really going to be something that I care about. Listening for Kara is confusing and intimidating. I might need to find an advisor to help me be cooler. Or, I could just take her to a bunch of young, sweaty music festivals and learn what it’s like to be the young woman who constructed herself so that she could sweat meaningfully beside the people she most wants to be.
If you have any recommendations for what Kara should be listening to, please comment below.
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