What’s the point of a music critic? In my case, I’m sure of what it isn’t: it’s not to obnoxiously claim “FIRST!” on an obscure basement act nor is it to boorishly write off work because it’s “just not for me.” Like my favorite writers, I’m dedicated to music writing and criticism because I love getting dirty with the art — diving in headfirst, thinking not just bigger picture but also how powerful a single three-minute song can be. (Oh, and I enjoy the six-figure paychecks and beautiful groupies, obviously.)
First and foremost, I’m a fan and as long I can remember, I’ve loved telling friends about my latest obsessions, hoping they’ll like it, too (and if not, at least engaging with me in why they don’t). Using that rush as my motivation, today marks the launch of my new music blog for b free daily, Louder Now. Expect frequent updates with my thoughts on the latest songs and videos that I consider worth wrestling with. And in an Internet world that revolves around reblogs and aggregated content, I’ll be creating original content such as artist interviews, reviews, think-pieces and more. Above all, I hope it’s clear that I have no interest in cool points (there are plenty of bloggers for that), but I’m wholly interested in honesty. I will not post anything I don’t like or consider worth discussing.
Before I start posting, you should know more about me. (Another blog rule: I won’t maintain an aura of mystery because, y’know, that’s lame.) Loosely based on my favorite “Chappelle’s Show” skit, here are five videos that represent my constantly changing taste in music over the past 24 years. (I turn 25 in June, so please start brainstorming gift and/or party ideas.) As I post more, you’ll notice my tastes range from dirty-Timbs rap to the most saccharine pop to Vampire Weekend, with plenty in between. These videos could offer a reason why:
WES AT AGE 5: Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth"
We all remember the very first song we fell in love with, and this is mine. My parents had a huge vinyl collection and I distinctly remember the three of us playing records while my dad watched NASCAR and my mom ironed clothes. “For What It’s Worth” was the first song that made me fall in love with melody.
WES AT AGE 7: Snoop Doggy Dogg, “Gin & Juice”
Like many well-natured, well-sheltered suburban kids, I was drawn to hip-hop. Snoop’s “Gin & Juice” video automatically transports me to my most impressionable days, when I was still shocked over women fist-fighting, wooden tables snapping during dominos and Dr. Dre showing off a sleeve of condoms. I was so intrigued that I started talking with my hands like my favorite MCs delivered lines. My parents were concerned enough to call the cable company to block MTV for a year.
WES AT AGE 15: Saves the Day, “I'm Sorry I'm Leaving/The Choke” Live
My dad’s side of the family lives in Louisville, Ky., and I spent many summer vacations there. My uncle always took me to one of the country’s best record shops, Ear X-Tacy, and let me go on mini-sprees. Going into my sophomore year of high school, I entered my emo/pop-punk stage (click here for evidence – I played in a Jimmy Eat World-meets-Mineral band called hola dulce) and fell in love with the golden eras of Vagrant, Equal Vision and Drive-Thru Records. My New Jersey pride brought me to Saves the Day, the first band I proudly (and confidently) declared as my favorite. Blame it on small-town ennui, but these why-doesn’t-she-like-me bitchfests rang extra true during my high school years. I still love these songs.
WES AT AGE 18: Lil Wayne, “Tha Mobb”
I loved college (no Asher) and part of the reason was music spreading dorm-to-dorm faster than STDs. This was when Napster was king and friends were discovering BitTorrent. During my first semester, a friend on my floor downloaded Lil Wayne’s just-leaked Tha Carter II. To me, Wayne had always been the “Bling Bling” Cash Money rapper responsible for fun party songs and little else. But once I listened to Tha Carter II’s opening track, “Tha Mobb,” I knew it was time to stop sleeping. Thousands of tracks and several concerts later, Weezy is hands down my favorite artist today, and this is where it started. Thanks, Squirrel! (Gotta love college nicknames.)
WES AT AGE 24: Adele, “Someone Like You” (Live at 2011 BRIT Awards)
The hardest video to choose was the one to represent now. So why not choose the performance I’ve loved most recently? The year is young, but we’ve been blessed with remarkable releases and singles. (I try to keep a running tally here.) The performance that has moved me most comes from Adele, the British singer with vocals most divas would murder for. Her sophomore album, 21, is accomplished more because of her tasteful, skillful vocal arrangements than the songs themselves, but when it all clicks, the results are shattering. It’s no wonder she choked up after this performance at the BRIT Awards. This is a great representation of what I’m always looking for in music – songs that connect with my ears and my heart.
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