#101) How not to complain #3: Noah Henry

Dear Mr. Henry,

First things first: I’m on your team. As a musician myself I couldn’t agree more with the basic premise of your recent article on Mandatory, “11 Reasons Music Sucks Now Worse Than Ever”. As someone who has been complaining about virtually everything for longer than you’ve been alive, however, I have a few suggestions.

You see, as enjoyable an activity as complaining is, it’s all the more rewarding when you get some sort of result for your efforts. My goal is to take your inherent love of music and your disdain for today’s climate and help you turn these feelings into something that may inspire action for your readers.


Right off the bat, you claim that “it’s been…proven that repeated exposure to a song makes you like it more.” Where? In my experience, it’s been the exact opposite: 25 years ago I listened to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Hotel California” in complete reverence; now I instantly turn the station when I hear a single sixteenth note. I’d also like to see a link to the Scientific American article you quote at the end of your piece.


There’s no such thing as agenda-free statistics; numbers can always be curated to suit the purpose of the curator. Yours don’t really tell a story. For example, so what that Zeppelin hasn’t had a number one hit and Rihanna has had 13? Apples and oranges. Michael Jordan never threw a touchdown pass; Ghandi was never voted People’s Sexiest Man Alive.


If all you do is get people who already agree with you to continue agreeing with you, you haven’t gained any ground. Yes, “the Billboard 100 is full of idiots, morons and losers.” Yes, “focus groups rule the artist.” Yes, “Everything is safe and easily digestible like baby food.” The indie songwriter reading this on a laptop connected to the internet via the neighbor’s wifi feels you, but your audience will be limited unless you are willing to reach across enemy lines. Most Taylor Swift fans are going to check out of itemized rants about how much she sucks after the first bullet point.


Long all you like for the days of Everclear, Third Eye Blind, the Wallflowers and Sugar Ray and the other bands that represent your good ol’ days of music; to me, they’re really not that different from Fun, Maroon 5 and Coldplay. (Okay, I guess Coldplay really are in a class by themselves when it comes to suck.) Today’s young Turk is tomorrow’s “Kids these days…” guy; in 30 years, graying millenials will wonder what the hell mid 21st century young’ns see in whatever tops the 2045 Billboard Hot 100. It’s hard to control peoples’ opinions. Respecting theirs, however inane they may seem, is the best way to be heard yourself. Sometimes people just need time to outgrow stuff.


Like Lynn Shepherd, the author whose JK Rowling rant backfired, you don’t seem to have a clear result you’d like to see. For example, what are the bands we should be listening to instead of the truffle butter (see what I did) that’s out there? In fact you explicitly bypass the issue, working in a potshot at hipsters in the process (say what you will about them, at least they’re at every crafts fair from Silver Lake to Brooklyn supporting their favorite cajon, ukulele and didgeridoo dubstep trio). Should we boycott Justin Bieber? Burn Adele pictures in effigy? Send our local radio stations vinyl copies of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to play instead of the latest offering from Ke$ha?

I know you mean well; you obviously care about music and I appreciate that. I hope that you’re able to find ways to get your message across that are inspiring, actionable and maybe just a little humorous. (Your opening line about only slitting your wrists three times while listening to the new Selena Gomez album is a good start; you may want to check out Axis of Awesome’s “Four Chords” video for more ideas.) Nothing gets done if someone doesn’t kvetch about it and with a little fine tuning, I believe you will soon be complaining with the best of them.

All the best

David Lockeretz



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