What is good music? How can one declare that one four-minute track of sound waves is better than another? What makes the Beatles better than Miley Cyrus? It’s always been a mystery to me. I was sitting one day, listening to the classic “Life on Mars” by David Bowie; goosebumps were running up and down my arms, and the lyrics were so insane yet all somehow made perfect sense. This is good music. Yet right after the iconic phone ring at the end of the song, Rihanna pops up in my playlist telling me to not “stop the music.” During one of my summers in Israel, all I listened to was that popular 2007 pop song that changed the moods of many middle school dances. Ever since that trip, every time I hear that “it’s getting late,” I am reminded of the beachy cities and the crazy Israeli drivers. Does this mean that David Bowie and Rihanna hold equal spots in my heart? It’s hard for me to write a clear definition of what good music is as there is no one reason that a song is better than another. “Please Don’t Stop the Music” puts me in a better mood than “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and for no legitimate reason other than nostalgia.
There are two reasons that a song is good. The first being relatively intuitive—it just is. This might sound a little shady but a good listener will be able to recognize when a song deserves to be labeled as “good.” I’m not going to call myself a music expert, but I do believe that I have a certain instinct when it comes to analyzing music. Every song has to be evaluated differently because every song has a different vital aspect that makes it good. For example, “Let it Be” by the Beatles has barely any lyrics yet it is one of the most iconic songs of its time and it’s still being enjoyed by the younger generations. The song is comprised of high quality tunes, smooth and rhythmic. Other songs such as “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals and “Dream On” by Aerosmith are great examples of music that captivates with lyrics.
The second reason is because the song makes you feel a certain way. This is personal because everyone has his own rhythmic sense. Each individual will feel differently when listening to specific songs. Whether you begin to feel excited or whether it makes you want to cry, it will be a good song for you. “Art of War” by We the Kings is one of those songs that makes me want to put on Timberland boots and paint my face with warpaint. To others, it’s another trashy pop/rock band that means nothing to music culture. In my defense, one song that comes up more often than it should in the car is “The Holly Dolly Song.” This concept not only applies to specific songs but genres in general. Listening to classic and folk rock while driving makes me feel like I’m in a movie, while listening to light pop makes me want to put on some sandals and prance in the sun.
Some may call this criteria of music guilty pleasure, but I believe that it’s much deeper than that. Each song on your playlist says something about you. It might say you have a bad taste in music to some, but if the music puts you in a better place, then it’s doing its job. I have some friends with incredible music taste yet each song they show me affects me in no way. As it should be, there are songs that define generations more than others do such as the classic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I wouldn’t say that “Call Me Maybe” defines our generation, but I can almost guarantee that there is not one person in this school that cannot sing at least the main chorus of the song. Good music comes in a variety of ways and defining what makes a song good is impossible.