I have no idea what the most overused adjective in the English language is, but when it comes to music, I guarantee it’s the word eclectic. According to the Webster Dictionary, eclectic means “selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles” which in laymen’s music terms basically means “diverse” or “all over the place.” Since the majority of the conversations I’ve had over the past decade have referenced music in some form or another, I’ve heard all sorts of people use the world eclectic and, over time, have come to realize that almost everyone I know considers themselves to be an eclectic fan when, in actually, the music the majoirty of my friends listen to can somehow traced back to the popular rock-band Phish and/or one of their Halloween cover choices.
For instance, last night I struck up a conversation with a random girl of average musical intelligence at a bar near my apartment. Inevitably, the conversation eventually shifted to music and when I politely asked her what type of music she liked she shrugged and said, “you know pretty music everything, sort of all over the map. I have pretty eclectic tastes.” Now, for many years when I’d hear such a response, I’d follow-up with something to the extent of “so you like Christian country, death metal, baroque classical and hardcore trip-hop,” but the inner lawyer in me realized long ago that without hard evidence an argument holds no water. So, instead, I followed her response by gently asking, “so what are the last three shows you’ve seen” to which she replied, no joke, “Ghostland Observatory, Blonde Redhead and Feist.” Maybe it was the look on my face or my eyes rolling back into my skull, but, either way, she felt the need to quickly prove her eclectic tastes and added, “but I don’t just like indie-rock, I’m into jambands too!”
Indeed, more than their religious views, political affiliations and/or preference in brands of chocolate milk, I’ve found that people are more reluctant to tag themselves as a particular kind of music fan than almost anything else. I’m not really sure what the problem is. In general, I like rock music, specifically classic rock, jambands and indie or, better yet, music that appeals to white, suburban-bred twenty/thirty-something’s who scored between 1000-1500 on their SATS. But, for some reason, it is much cooler to say that I like a bit of everything (even though a careful scan of my iPod quickly reveals that I really only listen to Phish songs written between the years 1992 and 1998, My Morning Jacket, Ryan Adams and Wilco’s Yankee Foxtrot Hotel.)
In think the real problem is that pop music’s most basic genres---rock, country, hip-hop, blues, jazz and electronica---are grouped by style instead of audience. The term "rock music" is too broad, and there is no simple way to describe the type of people who started listening to alt-rock in 7th grade, before briefly flirting with punk, digging into classic-rock, spending time on Phish tour, embracing jambands, discovering roots-music, succumbing to current indie-rock trends and eventually ending up back where they started watching Peal Jam headline Lollapalooza. I mean just because I have Outkast’s “Hey Ya” on my party playlist doesn't mean
I consider myself a hip-hop head and, likewise, playing “Ants Marching” on a jukebox doesn’t mean you dig jambands.
So next time someone asks you what type of music you listen to remember: there is nothing wrong with admitting that your iPod actually features 32 different versions of “Ghost,” and please remind me to save this dissertation for my blog, not the bars. Apparently, calling someone out on their non-eclectic tastes falls somewhere between chopping the check and picking your nose as a great way to end a conversation mid-sentence.