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Serious Business / Music

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Take my life and take my soul
Put me on the cross for all to see
Put my name around my neck
Let those people throw stones at me
This is serious business: sex and violence and rock and roll
John Mellencamp, "Serious Business"

  • How about just the simple question—— what is music? You hardly have to go far to see people denouncing 'experimental' music as not music at all. It doesn't even need to be as extreme as free jazz or contemporary classical music; people who frequently say this about music they just "don't enjoy" (hip hop being a frequent victim of this—— though more pretentious music fans will toss this at radio pop). Hip-Hop is the most frequent target of this accusation. Unsurprisingly, a large portion of said accusers are either admitted or effectively affirmed racists. The one's who aren't usually have reasons that are almost as absurd.
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  • The voice synthesizing software Vocaloid and its characters. The only thing canon about the Vocaloid universe by Word of God is the character names, designs, and voice banks, but the Fanon is quite firmly rooted, to the point where one thing that was officially canon got retracted because of fan outcry. The software and the fandom it spawned has inspired countless songs, and those songs have inspired a stage play, a musical (inspired by only a single song, mind you), and an anime. The flagship character, Miku Hatsune, is a bona fide Virtual Celebrity, complete with an album reaching # 2 on Japanese charts. She also gave a live concert (as a hologram, backed by live human musicians), and her version of the software has also been installed in a Japanese gynoid.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's version of "Trapped in the Closet," "Trapped In The Drive-Thru", is a ten-minute long song about a husband and wife going to a drive-thru, ordering their food, and paying for it. It includes moments where the wife asks for a chicken sandwich (instead of her usual cheeseburger) and the husband says, "I don't know who you are anymore!" Everything is an Epic moment. At the end, the husband freaks out because they forgot his onions.
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  • R. Kelly's original "Trapped in the Closet" itself, which treats its Soap Opera plot so seriously that it's almost certainly tongue-in-cheek. Whether or not it's intentional, people still appreciate its So Bad, It's Good qualities.
  • Music genres. People will argue to death trying to define a genre or deciding whether or not a piece of music falls under this razor-thin subgenre or that one. Notable examples include:
    • The war over what is punk and what is not punk, beautifully exemplified by this anecdote:
    You ask me, "What is punk?" I kick over a trash can and say, "This is punk." So you kick over a trash can and ask, "This is punk?" and I say, "No, that's a trend."
    • Ironically, the above quote is by Billie Joe Armstrong, frontman of Green Day—the band that gets unfairly maligned more than any other (save for The Offspring) in the punk war.
    • "What is REAL rap music?" Almost anything made after 1999 is seen as popcorn trash. On the opposite side, anything before 1999 is played-out and passe. The turning point was the time when "Gangsta rap", Alternative Rap, Political Rap, Hardcore Hip-Hop and associated genres lost popularity among casual rap listeners, causing a rift in those that followed new genres and those that preferred the old.
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    • Heavy metal. Go to any heavy metal discussion board and there's a good chance that half of the posts are trying to decide whether a band is death metal, thrash, black metalnote , progressive metalcore or all of them at once. The other half will be denying that the band is metal at all.
  • Drum triggers. There are few things that drummers are quite as divided on. On one side, you have drummers who say that they're necessary to be able to hear each hit distinctly at high BPMs and that they also serve as a built-in click track to make it far easier to stay on time, as well as a guaranteed way to get a clear drum sound even in venues with awful sound; on the other side, you have drummers who adamantly refuse to use them in any way, shape, or form and see them as a get-out-of-jail-free card for bad drummers who can't play their own material but want to look like they can and a general cancer that serves as the drumming equivalent of Auto-Tune. Neither side likes the other very much; the pro-trigger side sees the anti-trigger side as a bunch of ivory tower elitists who know nothing of touring and who assume that any drummer who uses triggers is too incompetent to play without them, while the anti-trigger side sees the pro-trigger side as a bunch of YouTube bedroom drummers who want to sound far better than they actually are and who only want to play fast without any regard for subtlety or dynamics. Bring it up in a drumming forum at your own peril.
  • Visual Kei bands or artists covering classic American rock or metal. The Serious Business reaction to this from people who aren't VK fans tends to be homophobic and outright racist. A good example of this can be found on the Youtube upload of the Extasy Summit cover of "Ace of Spades" - the only problem, technically, with it was being tuned up one bar in tempo and the singer's heavy Japanese accent, and the cover was, in effect, a jam band having fun. From the comments from some aggrieved Motörhead fans, though, you would think that everyone involved personally killed Lemmy and pissed on his grave. Never mind that Lemmy himself applauded the cover and that it featured two incredibly talented guitarists, Umemura's accent and race are far bigger issues.
    • Similar happened on at least one upload of Miyavi's cover of "Blow" by Nirvana.
    • Though, a similar incident was averted quite well on the Youtube upload of hide covering The Doors "Light My Fire," if only in a case of what could possibly seen as irresistible force meeting immovable object: the racists and homophobes were shut down almost immediately by both hide fans AND Doors fans embarrassed over their fellow fans' behavior.
  • Rap feuds. Many people giggled about the "west coast/east coast" rivalry until they learned that people were actually getting killed over it. Rivalries have always been a part of the genre's culture for better or for worse. Even during the old school era things were dicey.
  • The Norwegian band TNT's original vocalist Tony Harnell left in 2006 and was replaced by Tony Mills, leading a serious Broken Base among fans. Witness this for yourself by looking at the comments for any TNT video.
  • 'Tis a brave soul who ventures onto the Muse messageboards and asks the wrong question. If you're lucky, you'll be told to get lost. If not, you'll experience the online equivalent of a public flogging.
  • The Beatles' fans provide numerous examples, but John being murdered and George attacked in his home by crazed fans are the ultimate ones.
    • This proves to the whole world what John Lennon was trying to point out with his "more popular than Jesus" quote. It wasn't meant to prop up the Beatles or be anti-religious or blasphemous, but to point out the Serrrrrrrious Importance the media and their fanbase were placing on the "four lads of Liverpool" and every move they made in the eyes of the public. Very likely as a deliberate distraction from discussing the issues of the day and the Unwinnable war of the day. It also gives entertainment journalism its own facade of profundity.
  • Guitar playing, or at least the equipment required. Dropping $20 for a single handmade guitar pick (mass-produced delrin/nylon ones go for about $3/dozen for comparison's sake) isn't unheard of in the pursuit of the perfect guitar tone.
  • The reaction to Kanye West's interruption of Taylor Swift at the VMAs. This might be the only example of the trope that has prompted a sitting American president to weigh in.
    • Not only that but Kanye received death threats after the incident. Just to be clear: he interrupted someone at an award show and didn't even lay a hand on her.
  • Robert Johnson famously claimed to have sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads to gain his skill with the guitar.
  • Korean boy group leader Yunho once drank a poisoned drink made of super glue, not knowing it was sent by an anti-fan, needing to be hospitalized. The letter that came with the drink told him to "watch his mouth". What made it more frightening was that the letter and drinks targeted the rest of the members as well.
  • Even the simple act of listening to music can be taken too far. While having some good audio gear is a nice luxury, meeting hardcore audiophile standards of spending throwing money at handcrafted DAC's, amps designed by Nikola Tesla, headphones blessed by the Pope, and encoding all music at 24bit/192kHz can bring listenng to those old Kinks albums to new heights of paranoia. Oh, and the $1000 cables. (The link is apparently a joke, but you get the idea.) Apparently they can save your life from dimensional rifts. These examples only apply to digital audio. Analogue audio enthusiasts (yes, the British spelling is required) can be even more unmeasurably discriminating. Just remember, man, it's all about the warmer sound. Parodied by xkcd here.
  • Michael Jackson. Since many casual fans (at least in the U.S.) gave up on him from the child abuse allegations of 1993 onwards, those that remained were/are often frighteningly fanatical. After he died on the cusp of a return to the concert stage, and perhaps in part because fans publicly went berserk over it, he became serious Serious Business. Though he was better known as a tabloid freak show than a musician in his final fifteen years, all media treated his death like a big deal — bigger than protests in Iran. Tributes kept pouring in, people rushed to get tickets to his memorial service, MTV played music videos during prime hours for the first time in years, his albums completely sold out, and the United States Senate had a moment of silence to commemorate his death...never in a lifetime has a person's death triggered such huge attention worldwide. Bigger than Princess Diana Pope John Paul II EVERYONE. And now we have websites like Inner Michael which continue to stump for Jackson being one of the greatest human beings of our time.
    • Jon Stewart lampshaded this by showing CNN reporting Jackson's death, while a series of far more serious reports (Natural disasters, murder, foreign politics) scrolled as small texts along the bottom of the screen.
  • The idea is played for laughs in this piece, the chief conceit of which is that by the year 2110, there is an academic discipline devoted to the study of Kesha's music.
  • Many music reviews like to draw a line in the sand over whether or not a popular music artist, piece of music and/or style is (or was) relevant in the "age of punk", "age of grunge" or "age of gangsta rap", regardless of the quality of music, or whether the artist/genre in question even needs to acknowledge those musical movements. This is even in spite of whether the general public themselves take an active interest in whatever the next big musical revolution happens to be.
  • Justin Bieber among his fans and haters. His fans see him as the greatest thing ever, his haters see him as a baby eating puppy killer who is ruining music as we know it.
  • Release of the "Public Enemy No. 1" video by Megadeth (starring three chimps in a western setting) in November 2011 was followed by a flood of Facebook comments in the vibe of "Screw this! Chimps in a video? Metal is SERIOUS BUSINESS!"
  • The Loudness War, while it is a legitimately serious issue, can garner some particularly extreme reactions from audiophiles. While most listeners tend to reserve their spite for the more egregious cases (Raw Power, Californication, Vapor Trails, Songs for the Deaf, Comatose, Playing the Angel etc.), there are a lot of people who will freak out if a piece of audio hits full scale more than a handful of times, even if the end result is almost completely indistinguishable from its pre-gain state. If it's too loud, they won't listen, period, and will more than likely delete the album from their computer and/or sell/throw away the CD. One of the first articles about this phenomenon in a 1999 issue of Stereophile magazine had a veteran engineer say that he had "not heard a good sounding CD since 1993" and that "I can't listen... it's the compression that ruins it for me".
  • A few tunes by comedic band Grottomatic may qualify, touching on subjects like an addiction to The Joy of Painting, abstaining from chocolate, the disappearance of a doughnut shop, and trying very hard not to become a Brony.
  • The teenager. Even though a good portion of Generation X (ie. the MTV Generation) has reached its middle ages, and it's recently been statistically demonstrated that middle-aged adults now make up the largest portion of the music buying public, music journalists and the media as a whole will always bring up a band's teen appeal. Even if it's a band like Three Days Grace, whose music is clearly aimed more at a 20-45 year old audience.
  • This is Psychostick's primary, erm, schtick: everyday activities and upsets put to screaming downtuned metal.
  • The heavy metal subgenre of Black Metal is this as a whole. A portion of the fanbase even claims that bands are only worth listening to if the band members themselves are evil people and/or are actual satanists.
    • One example being the band Watain which, in a subgenre that takes Serious Business to absurd heights, are in a whole league of their own, essentially saying that they have no patience for dealing with people who think music should be fun.
  • Analog vs. digital, whether it's the medium used to record, process or create the music. You'll find even the mere mention on any gearhead forum that somebody used virtual modeling software to emulate a vintage musical instrument, microphone, guitar amplifier or recording console (even one that was digital to begin with) met with groans over authenticity, accuracy or warmth, in spite of the fact that vintage gear is aging, unreliable, hard to find and equally unaffordable, and there are many advantages to using digital for many applications, and in spite of the fact that the software now available is scarily accurate and expressive as of 2013.
  • An in-universe example with The Who's "Pinball Wizard".
    Even at my favorite table
    He can beat my best
    His disciples lead him in
    And he just does the rest
    He's got crazy flipper fingers
    Never seen him fall
  • Another is the hilariously tongue-in-cheek Pearl Jam song "Olympic Platinum".
    The gold's just not good enough
    And i don't even think of the bronze
    I'm living my life for Olympic platinum
  • John Coltrane has been canonized by the African Orthodox Church.
  • Shows by Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett.
  • Imagine Dragons treats League of Legends like this in "Warriors". Since the song never refers to League of Legends by name, listeners could apply it to any competitive activity.
    Farewell, I've gone to take my throne above
    But don't weep for me
    'Cause this will be
    The labor of my love
  • Happy Flowers are a Hardcore Punk / Noise Rock band who mainly write songs from the perspective of pre-school children: Sometimes they play legitimately traumatizing situations for Dark Comedy, the rest of the time the humor is more in hearing grown men throwing a tantrum over dropping an ice cream cone or begging their parents for a BB gun, set to sludgy, angry-sounding guitar riffs.
  • Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden. Each year, the Swedish State Television holds a six-episode national contest in six different cities (who struggle to host the event). It does not only crown Sweden's contestant, but also decides who is in, or out of, the Swedish music industry (which is the world's most successful second to the US and UK), and fills the tabloids and morning papers for six weeks. Viewer ratings are comparable to international sport events and Royal weddings. Not to mention the Eurovision Song Contest itself, which is a quasi-national holiday in Sweden.
  • The reaction to this parody of a gangster rap song (and its tropes) by TV comedian Jan Böhmermann. It went so far that editorials in major newspapers denounced Böhmermann as classist, racist and making fun of poor and immigrant Germans. On the other hand Kollegah (one of the proponents of the genre in question) said it was Actually Pretty Funny and said the whole thing was way overblown.
  • Frank Loesser wrote "Baby It's Cold Outside" to perform with his wife Lynn Garland at parties, making them the hit of the town. In 1949, Leosser sold the song to be used in Neptune's Daughter, which ultimately won it an Oscar for best song. Garland was furious at her husband for selling "their song," saying she felt as betrayed as if he'd slept with another woman. The couple eventually divorced in 1957.


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