Pity the music snob. No really, it’s a hard life. No one lets us pick the radio station, our music collection grows exponentially as our taste grows steadily more selective, and every conversation with a ‘normie’ quickly bombs once we dare reveal our affection for semi-obscure alt rock bands from the mid eighties, or even say the name ‘Captain Beefheart’. Oh sure, there are upsides. While everybody else has to make do with being pretty certain that they’ve got good taste, we know it. We’ve got the proof right there; just look at our iTunes library, or even – and you’ll pardon me if I get a little excited here – our record collection. So while your average schlub, unwilling to cultivate a more exclusive music taste, has to make do with whatever music the Top 40 or the club will provide, we will always have our finally tuned, impeccably tasteful and emotionally satisfying collection that makes up the soundtrack of our lives. But we’ve got a little problem. Every now and then our careful ecosystem gets disturbed and we are, through circumstances beyond our control, brought face to face with that thing we’ve devoted every waking hour to avoiding – Modern Popular Music. That’s when even the strongest of my tasteful brethren can fall victim to Snob Rage.

It’s a terrible affliction. Everything starts innocently enough; you and your Snob chum are out and about, maybe driving to the local milk bar to get a couple of malty frosted delights, and you lean over to turn on the stereo. Out comes the sound of the latest Top 40 hit, with the requisite danceable beat and nail-on-chalkboard synths, and a title that must, by law, include a reference to either ‘This Party’ or ‘The Floor’. So you’re humming along and nodding your head, chucking out the odd ‘babe’ or ‘tonight’, when you look across to your now silent passenger. Their face is set in either the beginnings of a grimace or a light sneer. After a moment they will ask; ‘what is this shit?’, or they may instead opt for the simple, timeless ‘ugh’ – do not engage with this. The worst thing you can do at this point is to ask what it is that the Snob finds distasteful, or assert that this is, in fact, a good song, despite what they may believe. DO NOT use the word ‘catchy’ under any circumstances. Failure to observe these precautions will inevitably result in an escalation to full-on Snob Rage. The Snob will begin a 10-15 minute monologue, interrupted intermittently by sullen silence, in which they explain in perfect detail the myriad ways in which this song sucks, how it sounds exactly like every other awful song currently popular, and the underlying societal trends that have brought such songs into existence. This will steadily increase in volume as the Snob begins to mimic elements of the song that they find particularly distasteful, before coming to a head as they make a lunge for the stereo, either to turn it off or switch to a local station run by volunteers with nervous-sounding voices. It’s a nasty scene, one that can quickly put an end to even the strongest friendship. You’ve probably been witness to it before; probably just passed it off as plain old intolerance, with a healthy serving of arrogance. No. We are real people, and we have a problem.

So what’s the cause? From what depths springs this sudden madness? Well, at the risk of sounding like the ending of an episode of The Cosby Show, it all comes down to the fact that we all want to belong. Yes, somewhere deep within the twisted caverns of fury and self-belief that make up the Snob heart there lies the desperate desire to be reassured. Like everybody, we want to be told that yes, there are others like you, who think like you and enjoy the things that you do, and your existence is therefore legitimate. That’s why we get so much pleasure out of sharing our rage through extended rants with fellow Snobs, even if we feel kind of dirty afterwards – it’s just so good to hear the voice of someone who hates that shit as much as I do. The normies are lucky; if they want to feel validated, they’ve just got to turn on a Top 40 station at any given moment and think ‘hey, I love this song!’ as they start to hum along. We have to feed our self-worth with lo-lo-lo-res Youtube videos of Tom Waits being interviewed on Belgian public television that have 6 views and 5 ‘dislikes’. Before you take this as an opportunity to say ‘serves you right for deliberately cultivating a pretentious music taste’, you must understand that we didn’t choose to be like this. Who would want all that rage, and that constant, bone-crushing feeling of absolute superiority? We were born this way (shut up), and we’re just trying to get our musical kicks the best we can.

Don’t get me wrong; we’re not blameless, and Snob Rage will only be eradicated when Snobs come to terms with the responsibility of managing our condition. But you can do a few things to make it a little easier on us, and maybe easier for you too. Next time you’re with a Snob and you’ve got the music playing, try letting them pick the next song or two. You might not like what you hear, and you don’t have to let them hog the dial, but it might just smooth things over a little – I promise you that sneering levels will drop rapidly, with effects lasting for a significant period after the hour-long ambient electronica track they select has finished. And please, please try and cut back on clearly inflammatory statements like ‘I just like music with a catchy melody that I don’t have to think about’. Yes, that is a…valid…opinion, and it’s your right to express it, but it’s just a little insensitive, like telling a pro-lifer that you ‘just want to be able to end the lives of potential human beings’. We attack your music because we feel under attack ourselves, spending every day surrounded by reminders – on TV, billboards and even our beloved internet – that very few people like what we like. No, that doesn’t make our anger justified, but if we all put in a little effort to manage our condition then maybe we can beat Snob Rage, and get on to talking about our shared interest in books, or movies. Just don’t mention Transformers.

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