The platonic ideal of popular music appreciation, the plateau rockists wrongly believe themselves to have reached, is to listen without prejudice. To discount the band’s clothes, haircuts, attractiveness or lack thereof, to forget what that annoying critic said about them, to ignore the despised hipsters who think it’s cool to like them. To make your own judgment, free from any influence but the music.
We can’t do that, of course. We can’t even come close. The people who think they have invariably venerate white-boy-with-guitar music from the rock canon, blusteringly ignorant of the inconvenient fact that, to paraphrase a line that’s stayed with me from the letters page of Melody Maker, your favourite band has a haircut too. The rockists are most guilty of this, or at least the most deluded in thinking they’re all about the music, but nobody is an exception. Arcade Fire pissed me off before I’d even heard them because all the wrong people were hailing them as the rock band that would save us all. And though I’ve tried to give their stuff a fair hearing, though I’ve listened to isolated songs and been unimpressed, that could still be because I didn’t want to like them.
I liked Jessie Ware’s 110% a lot, bought the original version of the single with the Big Pun sample and put it in the coveted second spot on a compilation last year, but I still remember the hype last autumn and how it alienated me. I was listening to a lot more radio than I wanted to at the time and man, was she being pushed. I’ve never really liked soul, which I know is pretty unforgivable, so shiny neo-soul was never going to be my thing. My innate prejudices and the marketing juggernaut overturned the natural interest I should have had in her debut album and turned me ugly, into someone who’d snarl about having heard enough of Jessie bloody Ware if anyone asked.
You’ve only got to let your guard down once, though. At some point this summer I was watching a televised festival and Jessie was on doing Wildest Moments and I fell for the song right there and then, the silky, gauzy feel of it and the double-hook of the lead-in to the chorus, “from the outside,” and then the chorus. It expressed something about summer when I was on the prowl for summer songs, maybe not sunny days and parties but something about the transience of the seasons, the moments of nature we always assume there’ll be more of. I couldn’t listen to an album of it but it’s lovely for a song to give in, to let it carry. The A$AP Rocky – and there, in contrast, is someone I’ve tried hard to like and had to conclude I mainly don’t – bits just add texture, an abrasive undercurrent to all the smoothness. The music won through.
Artist: Jessie Ware feat. A$AP Rocky
Title: Wildest Moments
Compilation: Coyote Summer