AI: Don’t Judge a Song by its Mullet

Recently, in a whirlwind romance full of pining and obsession and sighs that last just a little too long, I fell in love. With the Avett Brothers.

I recently found out that they’re playing a concert near me in few weeks, and I jumped on the chance. But when I went to the venue website to check out the details, I saw the opening band and was puzzled.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, favorite country supergroup of everyone in my generation’s lame uncle, is opening for The Avett Brothers, favorite neo-folk band of hip, exciting young people who wear skinny jeans and thick-framed glasses without lenses in them. This was puzzling to me. But then, I put on my skeptic hat, strived to cast off my bias, and listened to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with fresh ears:

They’re really not so different, musically. Through the lens of my new folk-rock Avett boyfriends, they actually sound pretty good. I just never allowed myself to like them because they’re what my father’s generation likes. Oh, and they have mullets, mustaches, and are nowhere near as dreamy as these guys:

Does this happen to you? What things have you turned up your nose at only to realize your bias was preventing you from truly enjoying it?

The ART Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Mad Art Lab community. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Ashley Hamer

Ashley Hamer (aka Smashley) is a saxophonist and writer living in Chicago, where she performs regularly with the funk band FuzZz and jazz ensemble Big Band Boom. She also does standup comedy, sort of, sometimes. Her tenor saxophone's name is Ladybird.

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  1. Disney.

    In my teens I was actively disdainful of their “kids” movies and dumb songs.

    Sometime in university, I realized that most of them were really well made movies with fun songs.

  2. I do this all of the time with music. I’m really damn picky about what I listen to and it’s pretty limiting.
    The funny thing is, I can sing just about any crappy 80’s pop song because that’s what was on the radio when I was growing up. Even though much of it is truly awful, I really enjoy it.

  3. Recently I had raised a skeptical eyebrow at banjo metalcore. I’m here to tell you that I now unabashedly love Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. (Incidentally, I have Scott Sigler to thank for that.)

    Great post! Thanks, Smashley.

  4. In high school I didn’t just not like most of the popular music; I was aesthetically offended by it. I was convinced western art was dying before my eyes, and that all those pop stars (the ones I didn’t like) should be arrested.

    Most of them, when I hear them again now, are kinda nice. Or at least I understand why they were hits. And some of my musical ‘enemies’ from that time I realize are actually geniuses — even if they’re still not my cup of tea.

    But I’m sorry but Ack I’m sorry but Mr. Bojangles drives me nuts! Aaaaahh!

  5. a decent bit of the stoner rock/metal that I like now I actively hated several years now. But I worked with an awesome group of ppl at a now defunct CD store and they all loooooooooved it. Most of the reason I like it I think is bc it makes me nostalgic for those days.

    The Avett Brothers are one of my absolute favorites and they put on a hell of a show. One of the most high-energy performances I’ve seen, and I’ve been to my fair share of punk shows, back in the day. Enjoy!

  6. I’m in the crowd here, in that I hated 80’s pop with all of my combat boot wearing, spiky haired being, but now I find that a lot of it was way better than I gave it credit for. Duran Duran would be a good example of this, I gave them no time whatsoever in the day and now I think that their stuff is really well crafted pop.

    For a more recent example: Mumford and Sons. I saw them on Later with Jools Holland and was really impressed. But on listening to the album I found that it’s full of subtle Christianity. I really struggled with that because I love their energy, arrangements, instrumentation and song writing so much that I also wanted them to hold the same beliefs as I do. This distress is made even more ironic and idiotic in that I have no problem with loving great pieces of religious classical music, Bach’s mass in B minor for example.

    I think it comes down to self-identification. I despised the bands I did in my youth in part because I had chosen to identify with a particular segment of society. The hair, the cloths and the music were all badges of that identity. Which is not to say I didn’t love the music, I chose my peer group in part because their music spoke to what I saw as my concerns and my place in the world.

    This conflict I feel over Mumford and Sons is, I think, a hangover from that use of music as a tool of self-identity. I’d thought I’d gotten over most of that simplistic tribalism, but I guess not.

  7. I actually hadn’t heard of either of these – so thanks for the recs (loved them both).

    For me, I made base assumptions based on popularity (had a knee-jerk reaction against them). So things like nirvana, friends, seinfeld, etc I didn’t get at first.

  8. In the early 90s, while finishing university and afterwards, I worked in a bookstore and I turned my nose up at any book popularized by ANY tv show (0prah book club I am looking at you), and dismissing anything which was “too popular”. Sigh. Anything which gets people to open a book is a good thing, and some of the books are actually really good and entertaining – it took me years to actually read a Harry Potter book because they couldn’t POSSIBLY be any good if so many people were reading them. Oh – and adults can actually read YA and no one will judge you. I am not sure who I thought I was impressing (my similarly snobbish coworkers?), but yeah, I am over it 😉

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