It amazes me that, in a day where you can literally have every song or album ever made at your fingertips in the tap of a phone screen, 9 out of 10 people still have an absolutely sheep-like approach to the culture they ingest.
It's like everyone's personal universe is absolutely teeming with entire galaxies of the most amazing sights and sounds - all within easy grasp - and yet all they choose to embrace is whatever's closest to them or thrust into their lap. Not that they accept everything that's marketed at them, but that is the only pool they ever choose from.
That would be like buying the Moon's latest record, but turning a blind ear to the offerings of Venus, mars and, yes, even Pluto. Ah, but that would take too much time, or be too much of an effort, right? Cultural explosions are going off left and right but, because you can't be bothered to look or listen, they never happened.
Oh, but if Kanye West even burps into a microphone, you will gladly traipse across the most malware-plagued Satanic Russian pirate site in the known digital universe to check it out, consequences be damned?
If you'd channeled that same effort into thinking Hey, what if Kanye really is an autistic boy-man with no actual musical talent or social skills? and maybe doing a search for someone who might actually be working with the same tools, within the same genre, but coming up with something a little more mind-blowing.
Don't ask me who that is, though. You've got to do that search on your own.
Oh, you can curse me now all you want as long as, completely out of spite and intent on proving me wrong, you begin to dig a little deeper.
What fun is that, you ask?
To a sheep-like mind that is completely unfamiliar with the thought of a song or movie not attached to some forced social experience ("But Mom, all my friends are going to see 'Batman vs. James Bond' at the MegaPlex. If I don't go, I will be socially shunned! Ugh, I hate you!"), I can imagine how scary that might seem, but by taking these first steps on your own, you will begin to actually develop a...
Living, breathing, personal relationship with music, movies, art, or whatever your passion might be.
Before long, you'll be the person playing songs for your friends (because no matter how personal your relationship with music might be, there's no better feeling than when you can share that love with others), you'll lose countless hours to exploring heretofore unknown universes that, amazingly, were there the whole time.
See, the sad thing about getting caught up in the tone-deaf utterances of a complete musical fraud simply because they sucked more cock to get to the top than anyone in the history of mankind is that you lose a day that could have been spent catching up on what awesome music you missed.
Out there right now is an artist whose musical footprint is the exact same shape as that empty space in your heart. Their words, achingly beautiful and vulnerable and unlike anything you've ever heard, hang suspended in the air for what must seem like an eternity just waiting for clearance to land upon a welcoming set of ears and become the artist they were meant to be.
See, no matter how amazing they might be, they need validation. If a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody there to hear it, well, the same applies for musicians, filmmakers, and anyone else putting their creative souls on display.
Thing is, it has never been easier to be that person who finds the most beautiful flowers in places nobody else is looking...yet. See, once someone sees you digging something and takes note of how happy and fulfilled you look, they will want in on that action.
Before long, that special little place that you found will be full of others looking for gold, too.
That's okay, this just means that it's time for you to move on to the next undiscovered territory, for you are (drum roll please) a musical visionary!!
That's right, you are a bad-ass! When others are at a hip music fest trying to look like they're having fun watching Skrillex play musical Pong on his laptop, or bragging on social media about scoring Dave Matthews tickets, you are neck deep in the weeds somewhere, hungrily searching for new hidden treasure.
Thing is, it's not exactly hiding. It's always out in plain sight. In fact, in most cases, it's voice can be heard calling out to the world. Yet most of us can look in its direction a million times and never see it. Until that day when we're truly ready and our eyes have adjusted. Then we can suddenly see other amazing things that were there the whole time, too.
You won't always be alone, though, nor will you even be the first one there in most cases, but you will be there soon enough to enjoy that visceral sensation of being a bad-ass while the rest of the world is off pretending to enjoy the mindless corporate shit show.
What happens when something that used to be so beautiful and unique, yet such a secret to the rest of the world, becomes part of the aforementioned "mindless corporate shit show"?
Yep, it happens. Case in point, Coldplay.
One night in the year 2000, I was bored with all the music in the house and hopped on the ol' computer to go in search of something new and exhilarating. Technology had just barely reached the point where you could stream radio broadcasts from anywhere on the planet, which is how I came to be listening to Steve Lamacq's BBC radio show.
I had no idea who he was, nor what band was playing that song that took me by the ears. After the song ended, Lamacq (like all DJ's should) informed we listeners that the song they just heard was "Yellow" by Coldplay. he then proceeded to rave about the band like the expert curator that he is, thereby propelling me elsewhere on the web in search of the band's music.
A few days later, an import copy of their single arrived on my doorstep in America.
Not long after that, a copy of their full album Parachutes arrived, too. Anyone who dared enter my car or work space for the next few months got a heaping helping of that record, too.
Weeks later, I saw the album had finally been released in the US. "Oh good," I said to myself. "Maybe they'll tour America and I can go check them out."
The first time I saw them was during their first US tour, medium-sized club, 150 people. The show was decent, but the band had zero stage presence. No biggee, they'll get better, I surmise at the time.
A few days later, I hear "Yellow" on the local modern rock radio station. Whoa, wasn't expecting that. Nothing I tend to like ever seems to get played on a real radio station. Even so, this is cool.
A few weeks after that, my girlfriend, who listens to the most godawful Top 40 station on the way to work, tells me "Oh I heard that song you're always playing on the radio this morning."
No fucking way. Either she was listening to a different station or Coldplay was getting airplay on Top 40 radio.
A few weeks after that, I was in a bar with a jukebox and a soccer mom (I know because she drunkenly called herself a "smokin' hot soccer mom" mere moments before singing every word of "Yellow" to the entire bar just to prove how "with it" she was. Did I mention she played "Yellow" so many times in a row that the bartender was finally forced to yank the plug and reach into the register to refund her money?
I remember that moment like it happened yesterday because it was at this exact moment that my relationship with Coldplay changed forever. Whereas I was more than happy to share them with other like-minded musical "early birds", when the fucking soccer mom contingent latched onto them, there is no stopping them from ruining the whole vibe.
Whatever band Coldplay had been on their way to becoming was smothered in its sleep and in its place was now a corporation-approved band led by a once-idealistic kid who might've forged his own path and become something that others would be talking about 30 years from now, but saw the opportunity to live out every last one of his rock star fantasies and decided to play Bono instead.
I wish I was kidding about the "play Bono" part, but, alas, Coldplay has quite blatantly modeled their career after that of Bono and the boys, right down to working with Brian Eno, who, thankfully, told them their songs were sub-par.
Of course, Chris Martin is not above swiping a page from the Oasis playbook, too, marrying and divorcing his own blonde actress, but U2 is really where he chooses to take his cues.
Since U2 appeared during halftime of the 2002 Super Bowl, you can bet your sweet ass that Chris Martin has had his eyes on that prize as well.
Fourteen years later, here we are. Chris Martin and the boys are set to hit the stage to play in front of a billion people...with freakin' Beyonce. Quite apropos that the last we hear about the band before they do is that David Bowie, rest his soul, thought they were shite and refused to work with them,
I wish I could say this was the first time I have seen this sort of thing happen, but this is the life of a bad-ass. If we are truly a bad-ass, things we once loved before the rest of the world will eventually be discovered by the masses and ultimately rendered unrecognizable.
So why go in search of new music when all the good stuff will eventually find its way into the mainstream, you ask?
Good question. Yes, why not just sit like a squashed bug in your easy chair and wait for everyone worthy of your attention to come to you. Only problem with that is that by the time it winds its way to you, it is but a shell of the glorious thing it used to be.
The advantage to being a "bad-ass", "early bird", or "music snob" is that you get to see such bands when their hunger and ambition are united as one, each pulling their equal weight. By the time any band makes it to the stage of the Super Bowl, well, they are but a cog in the show biz machine. A huge money-making cog at that, but a cog nonetheless.
Don't let that stop you from seeking out your own hidden musical treasure, though. Use it as a reminder that that beauty you hear today will not last forever. Savor every moment as if tomorrow their song might pop up on an episode of "American Idol", or in a TV commercial, and things will never ever the same again.