Music: why age DOES matter

“I’m a McFly fan.”

That is usually one of my opening statements to people (along with the general formalities of course, name, age, etc.) I don’t admit this out of shame, or to cause shock, or really to receive any reaction at all. I simply state it out of fact therefore allowing room for the usual sarcastic comments, annoyed grumblings and/or look of guffawed horror to take place right then and there. I suppose, in much the same way that a former criminal might admit his past crimes to a potential new friend to avoid having to hold a sticky conversation later, I admit to my greatest misdeed right away and let whatever ripples that may cause happen immediately.

Because the fact is: it is not okay to be 21 and like McFly!

Actually it’s not okay to like McFly at any age over 12… 13, at a push. The fact that I’m a girl also adds to the severity of my crime, however though the topic of the well established sexism that exists within the music industry might well bleed into this article at some point, I would like to ponder mainly on the subject of age.

Earlier this evening I was browsing YouTube when I stumbled across a live acoustic version of the delightful Hey, Soul Sister by Train. After watching the video I naturally started reading through the comments below, generally they were the usual repetitive, nonsensical phrases, ‘this songs awsum!!!!!!’, ‘hes fit’, ‘I luv you’, etc. However I was jarred by one comment in particular, which seemed to imply that anyone who didn’t profess to love the band and the video were Justin Bieber fans, the implication being that all fans of the Beeb are prepubescent girls and so, by extension, their opinion doesn’t count.

Now, whilst I’ll freely admit that I find certain Bieber songs catchier than the common cold, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan of his. I don’t fancy him, I have no real desire to see him live in concert, and if he stopped making music tomorrow it makes no odds to me or my life. Why then, did that comment bother me? Because why the heck couldn’t I be a Bieber fan and continue, quite aptly, to criticise a bad acoustic rendition of a song? If that’s my opinion surely its valid regardless of who else I profess to follow in fandom, or what age I am?

Apparently not, as I’m told time and again by the people who shamelessly cast judgement on my own fan allegiance: “McFly are a little girls band. I should be mature enough by now to see past their looks and realise that their music is just awful!”

But where does this assumption come from?

In 2007 Frank Kogan wrote an article for the Las Vegas Weekly called What’s Wrong With Pretty Girls: Is it that they love the Backstreet Boys? In it he highlights that the hatred towards boybands, is very much derived from a hatred the general public has towards their fangirls. This is following general assumption that girls lack the ability to grasp and appreciate ‘real’ music, but rather fall simply for the image of the ‘pretty boys’ onstage.

Though Kogan was referring to one particular band (Backstreet Boys), sufficient to say that any band/act tarred with the ‘boyband label’ is bound to be looked down upon in the same way – with their fans baring the brunt of the hatred. It is then clear to see why it is such a crime for someone of my age to like a boyband such as McFly. Under this assumption, any affection I have for them is surely derived simply from lust and lust alone, and this is something I should really have learnt to control by my age!

The problem with this assumption (par from the obvious, eg. it’s complete cack!) is two-fold.
1. I am a genuine fan of McFly’s music – as well as One Direction, JLS, Backstreet Boys, and several other similar acts.
2. I don’t fancy them, any of them!

There is little doubt that McFly are (to use my mothers words) ‘not hard on the eye’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to book a church and buy a white dress. The same goes for any other ‘boyband’ I might show fandom to. Bearing all that in mind, surely I can like them now. Do I not have a right?

The short answer is no.

According to the powers that be, I’m simply too old and that’s all there is to it.

So, what kind of music can someone of my age like then? The Ministry Of Sound and weekly Top 10 will serve as my guide on this one: the NOW CDs lost their credibility some time ago and MTV has broken off into far too many genre variations to deal with. Best stick to what’s simple, eh?

Through the Ministry, the popular songs I’m presented with include electronic synths, thumping beats and artists who sport names with so many exclamation marks and punctual errors it’s enough to give, even the most grammatically inept, a headache!

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with these acts, per say, its just that they don’t really appeal to me. I think I’d rather just stick with McFly to be honest.
But just for arguments sake lets say I did yield to the pressure and start listening to music put aside for my age group, does that mean I have to start listening to Neil Diamond and Conway Twitty too? Cause actually I do have a soft spot for Sweet Caroline.

Eh, no.

Apparently this musical age group distinction works two ways. Whilst I cant like McFly, Justin Bieber or One Direction (as they’re too young for me) I also cant like Toto, Conway Twitty or Bing Crosby. Why? Because they’re too old for me!

Okay, now I’m confused, who the heck’s making up these rules anyway?!
Apparently as I was born in the 90’s I automatically won the right to like all the music from that era but I just missed the 80’s, which is a real shame because there were some cracking good songs then too, and of course the 70’s are out of bounds. Strangely enough, the 60’s seems to be a bit of a free for all, what with artists such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys still in full demand. The 50’s are none of my concern, however, and most music pre-1950 is deemed classical and so is out of my reach culturally.

Although, saying all that, there are some songs that apparently fall under the radar for this. Queens, Bohemian Rhapsody is a timeless piece, that also goes for Bill Withers, Ain’t No Sunshine and even Black Laces, Agadoo, has its moments.

Taking this into account it would seem that, to beat the trappings of music ageism, a song has to be either nonsensical and buoyant, deep and soulful or just plain irritating.

Of course you can choose to be aloof and ignore all these rules, however, according to the powers that be, this will make you an ‘uncool’ person – a rebel without a cause. Which, in a society that demands a level of popularity and conformity to just function among it, is not a threat to be sniffed at.

Fortunately enough, however, there appears to come a time when it no longer matters who or what you like musically, as suddenly you reach an age where, whether your fandom lies with Justin Bieber, Neil Diamond or JAY Z your taste in music is seen as obsolete. I’m speaking of course of old age, or is that middle age? The actual point at which this happens is hard to define, apparently there’s an 80-year-old granny who DJs in a trendy club down south nowadays, so perhaps the boundaries are variable? Either way, if old age means I don’t have to feel guilty when listening to my favourite tracks anymore, I say bring it on!

Interestingly enough however, as McFly’s latest album includes synths, expletives and a few tongue-in-cheek lyrics it’s okay for a person of my age to like it… kind of. That in mind, all Bieber should need is a few more synths and some choice words in his songs to make him generally acceptable: am I right?

Originally posted to tumblr in 2011

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