The one band that nearly everyone feels OK bashing has inspired a defense from Stump on his blog, not necessarily based on musical quality but rather principle alone. (Seriously, Black Keys drummer, chill it with the Nickelback disses.) Stump’s point is a timely one in the wake of awards season, when social media explodes with snap judgements and declarations of hate. Why are people more interested in defining themselves based on what they dislike about pop culture rather than what they like?
Hate culture is not a new thing, but it feels particularly out of control at this point in time. It’s one thing to let what offends you offend you, whether it’s sexism, racism, homophobia or just plain poor taste in culture. But what about when the thing you hate doesn’t explicitly offend you? Stump raises a good point in regards to Nickelback, noting that “the misogynistic subtext of James Bond movies offend more of my sensibilities than anything Nickelback ever did.”
Stump has certainly been on the receiving end of this phenomenon, particularly toward the end of Fall Out Boy’s initial popularity and the accompanying re-emergence of “emo” in the mainstream. (For the record, classifying FOB as anything but pop-punk is just plain wrong.) “I hate Fall Out Boy” was not an uncommon thing to heard uttered by an adult music fan five years ago. Time heals some wounds, and because FOB didn’t reach Nickelback’s levels of being hated-on for little reason, their recent return from “indefinite hiatus” was met with quite a bit of excitement. (The band will release Save Rock and Roll April 16; lead single “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)” dropped last month seemingly out of nowhere.)
It would be easy for Stump, who one year ago bemoaned pariah status with an essay titled “We Liked You Better Fat,” to make the blog post all about himself and his own sensitivities. He holds back for the most, but it’s clear that he’s writing from the perspective of experience when it comes to not being the cool kids in the high school that is the music community.
“I can’t tell you how many times I (either as part of Fall Out Boy or as a solo artist) have asked another artist to tour together or work together on a song and been shot down on the grounds of ‘Oh you guys are lame,’” Stump writes. “I can’t tell you how many times I (either as part of Fall Out Boy or as a solo artist) have probably unwittingly done the same exact thing to another artist. That’s strange. A simple ‘No,’ would have sufficed. But for some reason, we as human beings have to stamp it into the ground and shout it from the rooftops; ‘Let it be known that I wouldn’t be caught DEAD in a St. Anger t-shirt…just in case you were wondering. And Twilight SUCKS!…probably.’”
Sometimes people says things like, “It’s popular for a reason.” With the exception of Rebecca Black‘s “Friday,” this is an almost entirely true statement in regards to music. In order for something to be popular in the mainstream, a lot of people have to like it. Lots of people had to enjoy “Thrift Shop” to make it a No. 1 hit, yet there are probably more people at this point who choose to broadcast their negative feelings about the song as there are outspoken Macklemore fans. So why does anti-fandom feel so much more palpable than fandom? For one thing, fandom is a very personal and segmented thing. We like to socially broadcast when we like something that not everyone knows about; in other words, we like feeling like a special snowflake when it comes to cultural discovery. It feels almost pointless to declare, “The Beatles are great” or “I like Beyonce,” because you’d be hard-pressed to find a music fan who doesn’t at least respect The Beatles and Beyonce for what they’ve accomplished.
Hatred, on the other hand, is an easy bandwagon to jump on. Being a hater is fun, especially when you have other people who are right there with you, tweeting snarky dispatches that utilize the “#ugh” hashtag. It’s why Anne Hathaway has gone from one of America’s sweethearts to that girl in the eyes of the public over the course of just one awards season. We could all learn a little from one of Stump’s main points: that artists make sacrifices and considerations to practice their art, and thus, deserve a baseline level of respect, or at least not complete disdain. Other people’s tastes, of course, also deserve respect. As Stump points out, we seem to have no trouble doing this in other aspects of culture, namely food. “We don’t go into a grocery store and go ‘Ew! Hey, look at barbecue sauce! Don’t you just friggin’ hate barbecue sauce?’” he writes. “No. Because clearly tons of people love barbecue sauce and if we don’t like it, we will quietly opt out of eating it.”
Sometimes people also say things like, “Everyone’s a critic.” This is also true. Our culture not only accepts it but rewards it. As Stump concludes more eloquently than I, “Maybe next time I’m at the proverbial pop culture grocery store and someone offers me the proverbial barbecue sauce, I’ll politely decline and head to another aisle to purchase something I enjoy.”