I was at a party semi-recently, and I ran into an ex-girlfriend whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. She stopped by my table to say hello, and asked me to save a dance for her later. I have never been good at keeping my face from reflecting my feelings, and the look I gave her must have been extremely telling. She got a little huffy, as I think she took it as a personal offense; it was as if she thought I was rebuking her instead of the act of dancing. “What, you won’t dance with me?” she asked. My natural response was “What, did you just meet me??”
You see, I don’t dance.
I honestly just don’t see the point. I don’t begrudge people who enjoy it. For a lot of people dancing is just about the best time that they can conceive. It just holds absolutely no interest for me, and never has. I think the main reason has to be dance music itself.
Although I was a late bloomer in regards to getting into music, once I discovered it for myself it was more than just a passing fad or an enjoyable distraction. Music is important to me. But it wasnt always that way. I remember being on the playground in 3rd grade or so when another kid busted out AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”. I looked at the album cover with mild interest, then went off to play kickball. Music was something that didn’t appeal to me yet. According to my ex-stepbrother, I knew all the words to Beth by Kiss when I was three years old. I don’t remember it, but see no reason to doubt it. But he played them all the time; it’s not like I was seeking out Kiss as a toddler. However when my parents divorced, the only music I ever got exposed to was what my mom listened to, and even as a young kid I knew I didn’t care for Barbra Streisand or Julio Iglecias. I owned a couple of cassettes (remember cassettes??), but they were generally given to me by relatives and considered innocuous and safe for children: Billy Joel, Abba, the Beach Boys… I think the “rockiest” album I owned at the time was Styx’s “Kilroy Was Here”.
And then the summer I turned 13 it all changed for me. As much as it shames me to admit it now, the band that changed everything I felt about music was… Motley Crue. My friend Tony came over one afternoon after school, and busted out their second LP (remember LPs???) “Shout at the Devil”. I had never seen anything like it. These guys all had long shaggy hair, and crazy superhero like outfits, and there was a pentagram on the cover. I had been a fan of horror since I was about eight or so, and as such I was ripe for something that seemed so, well, dark. So he puts on the record, and the first track is an effects-laden spoken word intro talking about evil and the perils of mankind and whatnot. (Its been over 20 years, cut me some slack.) Then the first song started there was this nasty, almost tribal beat, and heavily distorted guitars, and screaming vocals. I was instantly smitten. It was like a horror movie expressed in music!
Thus started my downward spiral. I spent the next couple of years picking up everything by Motley Crue, Ratt, Twisted Sister… anything that looked like it would scare my mother. A year or so later I finally discovered Iron Maiden, and that’s when I realized that not only could rock music be more intricate, but that some bands wrote about more than just sex, drugs and Rock ‘n Roll. This was the first time that lyrics started becoming almost as import to me as the music itself.
And then in 1985 there was a bomb threat at my high school, and while everyone was standing around in the parking lot a friend and I decided to ditch. We walked over to the mall, and I went into Sweets and Sounds, the only music store around for miles. My friend pointed to an album that he’d heard a lot of good things about by a band I had never heard of. I took a chance and picked up the album, little knowing that once again my world was about to be rocked (no pun intended). The album was “Master of Puppets” by Metallica.
I can’t adequately describe my reaction to hearing this for the first time. It was the loudest, heaviest, dirtiest, angriest music I had ever heard. At the same time, it was beautifully arranged, and as intricate as any orchestra. And the songs were about drug abuse, and religious hypocrisy, and the folly of war… it was as if I finally found real music about real life. Suddenly no other music was worthy of my attention. Thrash metal was the be all end all as far as I was concerned. It didn’t hurt any that I was now in my mid- to late teens, so this angry aggressive music held massive appeal for me while I was going through my standard teen angst bullshit (thanks Veronica Sawyer).
For a long time I would listen to nothing but speed metal and a little punk. If it wasn’t pissed off and loud, it bored me. I joined a metal band my junior year and was convinced I had found my calling. As soon as I graduated high school I moved out to California (at the time L.A. was THE place for bands to be discovered) and got a job at Tower Records. Obviously the band thing never took off, as I’m not currently a rock star fighting off Hollywood starlets with a pointy stick. Eventually I grew up a little and expanded my musical horizons, and actually took the time to seek out other kinds of music that I enjoyed. I was finally able to appreciate jazz, blues and early soul (before it became cookie cutter R&B pop) and was able to admit that sometimes I enjoyed a song just because it was fun, regardless of lyrics or anger level.
But for the most part I still sought out talented musicianship. It didn’t always have to be the fastest or the loudest anymore, but it had to at least be skilled.
And gentle reader, that at long last brings me back on topic: dance music. The reason I see dancing as so pointless and something I will never enjoy is mainly the music. I think the best reason to dance is that the music itself makes you want to move your body. It actually affects you physically. Dance music just doesn’t do that for me. And the music that does affect me physically, you can’t really dance to. I’ve moshed. I’ve skanked. But I’ve never danced. (Okay, I think I’ve slow danced exactly twice in my life, and I’m 34 years old). I think the music is boring, repetitive and vapid. It seems like the songs that have lyrics are all about love, sex, or dancing itself, and little else. And to me there’s very little musicianship in it. Instead we have samples, and computers, and songs generally not even written by the person performing them. It’s not music, it’s product. It in no way makes me want to move my body, unless it would be to run screaming in the other direction. And don’t even get me started on electronica.
One of the main arguments I get is that if I went dancing, it would be a great way to meet women. The problem there is that even if it were true, it would mean I would meet women who wanted to go dancing. Talk about a vicious circle. Okay, maybe I can see the attraction of basically being allowed to dry hump a total stranger in public, but do it at the supermarket like I do, and do your jail time like a man 😉
Now Ill be the first to admit that I’m a music snob. My friends are all probably sick of how often I bitch that almost every band that has come out in the last two years sounds like someone who came out 20 years ago. There’s so little originality in music today it is depressing. But what can I say? I like what I like. I like people who write their own songs and can actually play their instruments well. I like socially conscious lyrics. And although I really do listen to a wide variety of music now, I still primarily enjoy loud, aggressive stuff the most. I think dance music is boring, and the music I find interesting you can’t dance to. Could you imagine if I went to some hot nightclub and snuck some Tool or Pennywise into the DJ booth? There’d be a riot. Never the twain shall meet, I suppose. Besides, I’m about as white as they come. We’re not supposed to be able to dance anyway, right?