QUESTION OF THE WEEK: IS ELITISM IN METAL A GOOD THING OR A BAD THING?
Welcome to “Question of the Week,” a (sometimes) weekly debate amongst the MetalSucks staff regarding a recent hot button issue.
This week’s query was suggested by reader Yevgeniy Reznichenko:
IS ELITISM IN METAL A GOOD THING OR A BAD THING?
The MS staff’s answers after the jump.
Seriously? You’re talking to the dude who regularly endorses bands like Graf Orlock, Celeste, and Batillus, AND Sevendust, Avenged Sevenfold, and Iwrestledabearonce. Elitism is bullshit. I know part of the appeal of metal is that it lies outside the mainstream (for the most part), but all elitism does is encourage people to be dishonest about what they enjoy, which is, like, the antithesis of the meaning of life. As Vince says, “There’s no point feeling guilty about pleasure.” Fuck elitism in the ear.
Metalheads are constantly describing themselves as an open-minded bunch while at the same time bad-mouthing micro-genres within the scene of which they don’t approve, which is obviously hypocritical. That said, I think elitism occurs in any music scene and is a natural, unintended progression of music fandom that is neither good nor bad. Step 1) Get into a genre, 2) Explore the depths of said genre in the height of fandom, 3) Become bored with said genre, 4) Become old and cranky about kids these Days. It always happens. In the end, I guess anything that creates a discourse is probably good for the health of the scene and assists in getting folks from Step 1 to Step 2 and beyond.
Bad. But elitism would lose effect if each listener had the confidence to openly enjoy whatever sounds good. I mean, some of my favorite songs are mostly bad and/or irretrievably stupid, like Doritos and sunbathing. And what’s so wrong about loving a great song by a consistently evil artist? Love of a song — or just a facet of one — does not require an endorsement of its creators. In other words, it’s not the song’s fault that it’s sung by a douche. If it were, there’d be no Megadeth fans. Fuck elitism, just jam!
Like elitism in anything, it’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, turning one’s nose up at any metal band more than seven people have heard of is douchebaggery of the highest order. On the other, metal is a vast universe of genres and microgenres and not every band is good. In fact, most bands are horrible, and if you really take metal seriously, you should be able to have a clear distinction between the awful and the wonderful. And while dismissing anything in the mainstream in a kneejerk fashion is equally as ignorant as passing on death metal because you can’t “get past those darn Cookie Monster vocals!”, what’s the point in liking something if you’re just going to skim the surface? Metal is a genre worthy of connoissuership. So while, yes, there most certainly are metal elitists out there, I think most of the time “elitism” is mistaken for “an individual who prefers music composed of more than breakdowns and shredding because they actually give a shit about what they’re listening to.” That’s a class of people of which I don’t mind being considered a part.
My initial reaction is no, it’s not. It’s a touchy subject for me personally because well, as we all know, I have a special spot in my heart for hair metal. Countless people have scoffed at me for not being a ‘real’ metal fan just because I like say, Cinderella. But then, I’m guilty of it too. I’d say metal is itself kind of an elitist genre. Down to it’s barest definition, it’s music for those that are not part of the crowd. So when everyone else horns in on it, we get bent out of shape. Really, as long as someone is sincere about what they listen to and support, there’s no reason to turn your nose up at them.
I wouldn’t say it’s good or bad in such black and white terms; it’s both to some extent. I mean, I really just generally don’t get along with the kind of neckless folk who think Oceano is a prime example of superior musicianship (still <3 you Gary), and I think if I weren’t able to hate those people then I wouldn’t feel very good towards the limitations of the metal community. But on that same note, we shouldn’t go overboard with shunning other genres and people. We can’t go around hating everyone because they like deathcore or power metal or rethrash or whatever! Honestly, people who do that are just going to end up being the loneliest people. I still hate and judge plenty of my fellow metalheads. But I try not to do it solely based on the kind of metal they like, because as metalheads, we are always going to be in the minority. There simply aren’t enough of us for us to be able to reject anyone who isn’t a Whitechapel diehard or an Evoken fanboy. It’s perfectly fine to feel superior to other people, but it absolutely should not lead to legitimate conflict withing the metal community. Last year, I had consecutive fights with several of my close friends regarding the merits of Traced in Air vs. Focus, and some of those friendships were almost destroyed over that period. I never want my elitism to cause that again, and don’t think any of us should be in that situation.
Okay, kiddies, now it’s your turn! Weigh in with your answer to the question of the week below.