The phenomenon of prole-hate in music is a curious beast. Otherwise sensible people, considered members of academia and the middle class, will passionately hate certain types of music. They will overlook all its qualities, disparage its musical appeal and consider it the worst kind of crass commerciality. And it happens over and over again, with surprising frequency, in all sorts of contexts.
Chris at Word The Cat posted about one such hated-but-brilliant genre last week, Romanian manele, and how it's hated by everyone from script kiddies to literature professors. But certainly I've seen similar diatribes against funk carioca, new orleans bounce, UK garage and so on. It's amazing how socially acceptable it can be (certainly chav-hate in the UK completely is). Certainly it can be partly explained by some sort of hegemonistic pushing of the values of the bourgeoisie, but in the end I'm not sure that's the primary motivation. Actually, I think its a lot simpler than that.
One thing that almost all of these kinds of accounts have in common is the bog-down into details about clothing, manners, appearance and other factors that have very little to do with the actual music. I think this gives a clue to what it's actually about - it's a hate of the people rather than the music, and the music gets swept along in it all. And not just any people either: it's almost always the people you don't like or didn't like as a kid in your immediate surroundings. People don't hate "proles" across the globe but close to their own community. Hence the hate for manele which is actually a hate for roma in disguise.
The same sort of argument can be made when it comes to subcultures - is there anything a "proper" hip-hop lover hates more than their immediate "neighbour" in southern hip-hop? People can dismiss loads of music but only get truly livid at the stuff that they encounter near (but not in) their own social surroundings. (A similar thing can be seen with hardcore and punk people against emos. At this point the connection to class gets tenuous indeed...)
I'm certainly not immune myself to this stuff. I can't honestly listen to or appreciate french house or britpop (among other things) because the people in the discos in York were listening to it when I lived there. Nasty fucking music for nasty fucking people! I'm trying to get past these sentiments but it's damned difficult. Maybe the worse you feel about it the more powerful it actually is, look at punk and rock'n'roll...
I think this is partly why I can appreciate writers who are completely outside the music they write about, like Fredrik Strage here in Sweden. He may write for (and I quote) "the ad executives, who want to be hip (but don't actually want to get 'down')" (AH-H) but the fact that he is so distanced from the musics serves to create perhaps a better communication between high and low than if he'd be standing right next to it. I'm not sure if this partly contradicts stuff I've previously said, but there you go.
Update: Gorgeous Bourdieu quote on this subject: "Social identity lies in difference, and difference is asserted against what is closest, which represents the greatest threat."
Essential EP’s #13
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