I’ve been thinking alot lately about the music ‘cool’ factor. What makes one artist ‘legit’ and another a ‘sellout’; one artist a ‘serious’ musician, another a ‘phony’? Why are people sometimes embarrassed about their music tastes? Fiona Apple’s “Tidal” was a masterpiece, but so was “Saturday Night Fever” and Celine Dion’s recording of “My Hear Will Go On.” Cat Stevens is a great songwriter, but so are Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond. So why are they treated so differently? As a practicing musician for many years I came to really appreciate what it takes to write a good song. From the ‘simple’ pop diddy, to the intricate rock opera. I have a deep respect for anyone who is able capture some kind of sound that resonates with an audience, however small. It’s incredibly difficult, and while some songs just don’t appeal to me, I’ll never knock the effort. And if an artist can sell millions of records, that’s nothing but goodness as far as I’m concerned.
I read a great article a few months back written by Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty (GQ Magazine, June 2005). He and his bandmates have apparently become something of a lightning rod for critics. It’s a very personal, honest article and a must read for anyone who cares about music. He talks about the bewilderment of being shunned in social settings and being the subject of constant ridicule in the general media, all because for some reason he’s found himself on the wrong side of cool:
“It’s not easy being in Matchbox Twenty. That’s the part of life that most people don’t know anything about – that when you turn on the TV and there’s someone making fun of people, they could be making fun of you. Whenever that happens I grip my seat and get that familiar dread, that ‘oh shit am I going to be part of that’ dread…”
The vulnerability of his response to being called a ‘watered down sellout’ reads in stark contrast to the vitriol directed towards him by so many people, none of whom had even met him: “I just write the kind of music I want to hear on my car stereo.”
I sometimes wonder what would happen if all music was published anonymously… Maybe with Pandora we can start a new trend of ignoring artist labels and shining the spotlight back on the music.


  1. Jim Morrison
    January 16, 2006 at 5:51am
    Pandora is one of the most brilliant discoverys I've made for quite a while. The quality of the software is unmatched - I've been listening for about 2 hours now and have only come across 3 or 4 songs that I didn't like. I think that the focus of the software is exactly right and frees people from the parts of music production that don't really matter allowing them to concentrate onthe music. I'm also quite surprised at the range of and artists that I'd never heard before. I usually think of myself as having looked into the areas of music that I like quite thoroughly but more than 75% of what is offered is totally new to me. Clear two hours of your day and sit down with Pandora - you won't want to disconnect ever again.
  2. Jay Sky
    January 17, 2006 at 9:47am
    As a producer, I can safely say that anything Rob Thomas churns out is gold. Making music is not easy. In fact, to write solid tunes, one must not only know the sound they're after, but they must also be in touch with their own feelings. Personally, I don't like Matchbox 20, never have. But it's not because the music is poorly written or mass produced. It's because the emotion it conveys is "I'm a horny teenager punk" which is fine! It's not me but music is not all about writing for your audience. When people say music speaks to them, they're really saying that the emotion the soundwaves coming from the speakers conveys is along the lines of what they're feeling at that moment. So if you're sad, a great blues track really hits the spot, or if you're pissed a nice Rammstein or Fear Factory will do. It's all subjective and it's all about the interpretation of the music. If you don't like Rob Thomas because you look at everyone else and see that they think he's uncool, then you are the uncool one. How does the music "move" you? That's the question.
  3. Link
    January 17, 2006 at 1:25pm
    I too would like to offer kudos for your work. It is quite simply, brilliant! It's very refreshing to listen to what I like rather than what the most popular DJ deems is best. Sattelite came close but nothing compared to this! The human race is becoming nothing better than sheep. Following blindly that which their shepherd deems acceptable. We need a few more wolves to restore strength to the herd and promote thinking for themselves.
  4. Tim Westergren
    January 17, 2006 at 3:58pm
    Here, Here, Jay. I'm stealing that last line: "If you don't like Rob Thomas because you look at everyone else and see that they think he's uncool, then you are the uncool one" At one point we even debated whether the songs should be anonymous (at least initially), just to give the artists a fresh listen each time... Thanks for the comment. Cheers. Tim (Founder)
  5. Poshlust
    January 18, 2006 at 9:54pm
    awwww....this article made me feel all warm and fuzzy i've loved matchbox twenty since fourth grade and i'm sick of people thinking they know better than me just cuz they have a pair of dickies and an indie hair cut that they can't even pull off. its nice and all that you have a scholarly grasp of the official hipster's list of acceptable bands to listen to, but that doesn't mean you know shit about music and, incedently, modest mouse continues to rock, sudden (justified) popularity be damned.
  6. Ben Palombo
    January 28, 2006 at 12:26am
    Intrigued by the title of this blog, I investigated further. I had no idea who Matchbox 20 were, but I recognised Rob Thomas from his collaberations with Carlos Santana, someone else who - it could be said -sold out to commercialism, but nevertheless has made a massive contribution to music over several decades, an opinion I have that is often the butt of many jokes among friends. So I visited The Matchbox Twenty web site, and its not really what I like to listen to, but I have heard many bands like this and I can appreciate the skill and talent involved when producing this style of music. I never take down music that I don't like, it's all a matter of personal opinion and taste. Wouldn't it be a terrible world if we all liked the same things, sooo boring. Anyway, I'm sure Mr Thomas will get over it, and continue to please his many fans. I agree with Tim Westergren. Popularity be damned! Listen to what makes you happy. About Pandora... A friend told me about you guys last week, and i've not stopped listening since! I put you to the test yesterday by searching for a duo caled The DIning Rooms from Milan, Italy. 'Sorry we can't find anything from the Dining Rooms but we'll check it out'. Next day three songs from Dining Rooms. Superb! This is a fantastic idea, and I love the way it is not genre dependent.
  7. sharon
    January 30, 2006 at 10:11am
    What a delightful, well-written piece by Tim...the last paragraph sounds like an anthem for Pandora...i suddenly felt like running his thought up a flag pole and getting everyone to salute! Sharon
  8. Max
    January 30, 2006 at 12:49pm
    Oh if only I'd have thought of this awesome idea. What you a doing is really great. Thankyou
  9. Matt
    February 01, 2006 at 9:19pm
    I feel like a caveman that just discovered fire. I've been listening since yesterday and I can't stop. Finally I'm not bopped around from the Linkin Park pit to the Jewel lounge to the John Mayer cafe. There are actually scores of musicians out there playing incredible music and they aren't being pimped by a corporation! Imagine that. And now a piece of technology is able to comb my musical taste buds and play songs I didn't even know I liked. Oh the irony. Do you need investors?????
  10. fire
    May 09, 2006 at 8:09am
    I never take down music that I don't like, it's all a matter of personal opinion and taste. Wouldn't it be a terrible world if we all liked the same things, sooo boring. Anyway, I'm sure Mr Thomas will get over it, and continue to please his many fans.

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