It's not everyday you're struck with eternal truth while watching a sitcom, but it does happen. And while watching a rerun of 30 Rock the other day, it happened to me when one character offered to make another a mixtape and asked, "You like Phil Collins?" and was answered, "I have two ears and a heart, don't I?"
At the time I laughed and didn't think about it again, until a few days later when I heard The Phil at bar, and realized I could sing along with these songs that, supposedly, I hated. Later that night I was watching American Psycho and the character Patrick Bateman expounds on the majesty of Phil Collins. And while I do not identify with Bateman at all, I realized the universe was trying to tell me something, and that something was this: Phil Collins is okay by me.
Two ears and a heart, right?
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Let me tell you, the seventeen-year-old version of me would be aghast -- aghast -- at hearing me say that. It would be some seriously scary ghost-of-Christmas-future shit. But he's wrong. The thing is, he hated Phil because for him, his identity was wrapped up in his musical tastes, and his musical tastes/identity had no place for the slick, polished pop perfection of that kind. Not cool. Cool was the angst-ridden desperation of the Cure, the dark theatricality of Bauhaus, obscure and obtuse post-punk, a little bit of classic rock (for depth, mind you) and a splash of thrash, because you can't grow up in the sticks where I did without being able to bang your head to some Metallica now and then.
These days, my identity has very little to do with my taste in music. My taste for music sure - I am a music writer, after all, and as adults our jobs define us more than we'd like to admit, most times. But concern for whether or not I am "cool" is pretty far from my mind -- at least concern about coolness in the face of anyone who would hate on Phil Collins for being Phil Collins.
And it's not just Phil. I also have an appreciation for all sort so "uncool" things. The hair metal anthems from Bon Jovi, Ratt and Poison that were so popular as I was growing up, that used to make me want to punch someone, these days, they're just fun throwaways. I've found a deep and abiding affection for Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" after being Rickrolled a few hundred times. And Willie Nelson? That dude is just awesome.
Letting go of the identity politics wrapped up in music has opened up the doors for me to appreciate more music than ever before. Some of it is genuinely great, some of it is just kind of silly and fun. I still don't watch American Idol, but I've tried and I would if it appealed to me, regardless of its lack of "cool." These days, the package doesn't matter to me, the style is secondary to the substance and purpose and the music is really just about the music, not about what it tells the world about me. So yeah, if you want to put "In the Air Tonight" on my mixtape, I am down with that. After all, I have two ears and a heart, right?