It’s interesting to have a conversation with anyone about music. To some people all the members of Led Zeppelin were THE rock gods of the 70’s while to another group of people Zep was garbage and The Beatles were THE rock gods (they weren’t) of the same period. This is a never ending mutual disagreement that is inevitable between people. From a cognitive approach, every culture has it’s own system for classifying objects, events, or behavior. In our culture today there is such a huge variety of music, and if you really get down to the nitty gritty the identified genres are nearly infinite. This variety in music has largely risen from the influence of outside cultures on our own, now very diverse, culture.
As I said, every person’s music preference is going to be somewhat different, but for the most part there are different groups who generally have a taste for the same types of music. These people in this group will have been inundated into it via a few particular channels; these channels of exposure are most likely going to be family, peers, or popular media. Once they have been introduced to a particular song or band, they will begin to explore similar types of music. Now you arrive at the subgroup for this type of music, sometimes this can even lead into an actual subculture, in which one develops a certain lifestyle based on or around the music. One good example of this is the “goth” subculture that was prevalent, and still is around to a much lesser extent, a few years ago. This immersion into the music, the lifestyle, and subsequent group/subculture will change the way in which one classifies things, in particular for this topic the music itself.
For example, some of my favorite music to listen to currently is The White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, and the Black Keys. Obviously very different groups but at the same time all have some similarities. All the members of these groups (with the exception of Meg White, the White Stripes drummer who is a poor excuse for a percussionist) are extremely talented musicians, they all have distinct blues and classic rock influences, and have a good variety of different types of new rock music. On the other hand, one of my good friends is all about Nickelback, Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown etc. all of whom I consider to be the rock music equivelant of the Pop Tarts. He argues that because their music is super catchy (because they typically just follow a normal 3 chord progression..), it’s all similar (why is this a good thing again?), and “they’re just badass dudes.” So to my friend, he classifies these bands as good for exactly the reason I classify them as bad. How does this work? Each of us have different associations with what is good music. For me it’s all about the musical talent, it’s about the ability to do things outside of what is normal, it’s about doing what sounds good and not really worrying about what other people think; that is how I classify and organize in my mind what is good music and what isn’t and how I determine whether someone should be considered on the level of “rock god” or, like Nickelback, a Pop Tart.