3.24.2011

The 1000+ Word Letter Defending The Barenaked Ladies (And A Response)

Two days ago, I did yet another in what is apparently a series of somewhat reflective posts, talking about my intense personality and how I only have two emotional settings, 1 and 10. I also missed an obvious Spinal Tap reference by not saying my emotional dial goes to 11. I did this because the person who pointed out my whole emotional dial thing never said 11, and the post is based on what he said, and I wanted to stay true to the source material, and blah blah blah.

So, in that post, I threw in a curve ball, shaping it like an apology letter to Barenaked Ladies fans, and then curved it again into yet another scathing attack on the band and their fans. I'm tempted to throw another one in right here. But this post is serious, and I don't want to diminish that.

Sometime that evening (around 8:26 PM EDT, going by the timestamp on her email which is in GMT), I received an email. A very, very long email. And it was from a fairly new reader of my stuff. She was moved to write in response to that long, self-reflective email. Here, with her permission and in its entirety, is that email:

Subject: Re: Ripping on BnL
Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2011 00:26:40 +0000
From: Sarah (name and address redacted)
To: Joe Peacock

Hi Joe,

So I couldn't really read your latest blog post and let it pass me by without making some kind of comment. I'll preface all this by saying straight off that I'm a massive BnL fan. I openly admit this, I'm not ashamed of it and nor would I ever feel I had to be. I've followed them around on tour, been front row every night, stayed afterwards to meet them, been on 3 of the music cruises they headline and have done a whole bunch of other awesome stuff as a result of being one of their fans.

I've seen previous examples of when people have contacted you and you've given a decent reasoned response and not gone on the full out attack, so I hope this will be one of those times too.

Ok, that said, today was interesting as I sat at work, catching up on one of the few blogs I actually bother to keep up with because it's written by a guy that I have a certain amount of respect for (this is you btw) love his writing, love his honesty and bravery and admire the way he's gone after the things he wants to do and even if it's not always ended well, never really let failure hold him back for too long. I own his books and have happily donated money in exchange for some of his art as a way of supporting what he does.

But then he starts ripping on my favourite band (who I also have a lot of respect and love for) in a seemingly unprovoked and unjustified attack on both them and their fans. This leaves me with an awkward feeling.

I already knew you didn't like them, but the force that was written with.........it was kind of like finding out that the guy at work you hang out with on your break, goes home and drowns puppies.

Now don't worry, this isn't gonna turn into a long and rambling attempt to convert you into a BnL fan and show you the error of your ways (ok I might do that a little) it's more to ask the question of why all the hate for them? I get that the whole point of that post was you either don't care about something or you care a lot and display that accordingly. So yeah, if you don't like them, it's gonna come out that way.

But why? Is it that one song? Cos that annoys the crap out of most of their fans too and I would gladly have them miss it off at any show I go and see.

And their fans.......fucking idiots for not being able to find decent music to listen to? Again, is that just aimed at that one song? Is it because it exploded and went mainstream and was everywhere for a while? Is it because they sampled a lyric from another song you actually like? (cos obviously that has NEVER happened before or since)

I'll admit I only started reading your blog recently, so I've started at the beginning and am working my way through (it's an effective way to kill time at work) so maybe I'm yet to get to the post about how one of the band beat on you and slapped you around the head with his dick, thus festering an immense hate for them. If it's coming then I apologise and take it all back.

I'm just looking for some justification, which I accept you have no obligation to give as you're opinion is your own and you entitled to it, but you must have some, right?

I listen to a lot of music and while I'm sure you'd probably hate most of it and likewise I probably wouldn't like most of what you listen to, I reckon there would be some crossover in there somewhere.

There are bands I don't like, there are songs I hate and will go to great lengths to avoid listening to. But I don't think any less of the people that do like it. Music is one of those things, just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it's wrong.

Yes, if it's a bunch of people singing about the joys of dog murdering and paedophilia, then that would be an example of when it clearly is both wrong and unlikeable, but those bands very rarely go mainstream.

I don't know, I guess I just needed to make the point that they are more than just that one song and I'm a fan of them for more than just that song. The list of bands and artists I like and who I've seen play live is long and varied, from the big names like Bowie and Springsteen, to tiny names that nobody has ever heard of. BnL stand strong in that list

I'm 24, I live in England, I have a good job that pays me well and affords me some slacking time whilst still letting me be in charge of people. I spend some of my time online, I spend some of it playing video games, I spend most of it listening to music. I hang out with my friends, I go to concerts. I save some money and use it to go off and have adventure vacations and do stupid stuff. I've been on 3 music cruises around the Caribbean, I've stood completely naked on the top deck of each of those cruise ships with a thousand other people to get a picture taken. I've climbed a waterfall in Jamaica and swam with sting rays. I've been scuba diving, I've been snowboarding and I've been inked.

I'm not a fucking idiot and neither are any of the people I've met that are BnL fans and with whom I've done most of the stuff I just listed.

Ok one or two of them are idiots, but only the ones that get a bit stalky and still think the lead singer is going to run away with them

The last Barenaked Ladies album was awesome, you should check it out, even if you only make it through the first track

...Right. I'm tempted again to throw another curve ball in right here. But no. Again, I want to stay true to the source material. This is real life we're talking about here, with real people with real feelings on real things. So with that direction in mind, here is the nearly-equally-long response I sent to her, again in its entirety. And with my permission. But I think you knew that part.

Subject:Re: Ripping on BnL
Date: Tue, 22 Mar 2011 21:17:14 -0400
From: joe peacock
To: Sarah (name and email redacted, again)

Okay, first I have to say, this is not at all what I expected or am used to seeing from people who disagree with my stance on Barenaked Ladies. Usually, people just start singing their lyrics at me to get back at me. This was kinda deep. Didn't know I could provoke a response like that. Nonetheless, thanks for taking the time to write me.

So, that said: It's definitely an unprovoked attack on the Barenaked Ladies and their fans, just like all my attacks on Barenaked Ladies and their fans. Hating the Barenaked Ladies has been an eight year thread on my blog and in my stories on Mentally Incontinent. So, it's not exactly out of the blue.

But I can't always count on the fact that everyone who reads what I write, reads everything I've ever written. Such is the nature of writing on the internet -- new people find your stuff every day, and the longer you do it, the less likely they'll be interested in digging through years and years worth of archives just to catch up on the in-jokes.

As far as why: It's not just that one song. I just can't stand them. They play well, they play together, they make a unified sound, and they know their instruments and can craft a song. That much is true. But the music they make, makes me want to pull my ears off and coat the holes with putty.

The same is true of Nickelback, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, James Blunt, Maroon 5, Coldplay (except for that first album, which was pretty good), No Doubt, and about 300 other bands. It's the fact that, as with all art, everyone likes and wants different things from the art they choose to consume. Some people like Spiderman, some people like Batman. Some people like both. Some people hate comic books and think they're kids stuff.

When it comes to music, the very first thing I want is something with soul, whether it be from the lyrics or the technical merits of the musician, or just the way the entire song is written and arranged. Something that resonates within me. And nothing that the Barenaked Ladies has written that I've checked out has ever done that. In fact, half of what they write actually irritates me. You know that feeling you feel when you listen to them and you just feel with it; you feel the music coarse through you and you want to sing and close your eyes and let it wrap around you?

I feel that with the music I like. And is there a type of music that just irritates you? Rap, Metal, Country? That's what popular frat rock does to me. It makes me angry to listen to it. There's no real way to explain it any better than that. It's like trying to describe a spiral staircase without using your hands.

And as for why I wrote what I wrote: At some point, I decided that my job on this earth is to provoke. I want to get under your skin and make you question why you like what you like, or defend it, or whatever my arguments do to you. But more than anything, I want you to realize no one -- not me, not your best friend, not your parents or anyone -- has absolutely any sway over you unless you let them.

So what, I hate something you like. What's the net result? Some words were said that you disagree with. Does that change how you feel? Does it makeyou feel stronger or less empassioned? If so, why? What if you never read those words? What if you missed today's blog entry? What changes in your life? Really, what effect did the blog post have on where you stand on the Barenaked Ladies?

There are times I write to educate, and times I write to just poke at people and see what happens. Today was the latter. And longtime readers (and believe me, there are only a few) know by now that when I take swipes like this, it's just me lighting literary firecrackers and watching them go off.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't do it on purpose. Throughout the years, I've very purposely thrown out opinions I knew would divide or provoke people. Not that they're false -- the decision isn't "what can I come up with today to piss people off?" It's "do I voice this opinion I honestly have and watch the fallout, or not?" And when I do decide to do it, I know I'm pushing buttons.

It's the same reason I used to go and delete inactive accounts on my Mentally Incontinent site, or automatically unsubscribe people from my email lists if they didn't respond to the 6-month "do you still want this?" check. I cull my audience of the people who don't want to be a part of it, for one reason or another. It keeps the message clean and lets me know who I'm selling to.

I don't want huge numbers when it comes to sales or subscriptions or whatever metric you want to pick. I want to know that the people I'm reaching want to hear from me.

And if pithy, very-obviously-ridiculous opinions about things as insignificant as bands we like or dislike cause people to leave me, well, that's something I don't really mind. It may sound antithetical and pretty much the opposite of what most writers or authors would want, but again, that's me. It's how I am, for better or for worse.

But at the end of the day, this is all just fun. I'm after reactions, and I always hope those reactions come in the form of laughs. And a lot of people do laugh at things like the Barenaked Ladies running joke. But occasionally, people like you who a) aren't really in on the running jokes and/or b) REALLY care about something I poke at (like BnL, or Sarah Palin, or the Tea Party, or The Big Bang Theory) get caught in the crossfire. I'm saddened that something like that would cause people to leave, but hey, we love the things we love and ultimately, it's your decision.

I actually lost two readers the last time I ripped on The Big Bang Theory. Somehow, my opinion on that show (which is quite low) was enough to cause two people who had been reading my stuff for YEARS to tell me to fuck off.

And off I did fuck. Because when I find out someone is going to toss me over a tv show or a band or something that small, well, I can't be bothered to care.

That's not to say I don't care about you and don't want you as a reader. I sure do. And I hope you don't write me off. But if you do, do trust that I'll be getting over it really, really quickly. And if you don't, I look forward to the next few years of writing and talking to you, as I try to do with all my readers who want to engage in conversation.

The only thing I will add outside of the context of these emails is that Sarah responded, was very thankful for my response, and came to understand my methods and no longer feels that I choke puppies or whatever it was it felt like I was doing when I was hating her favorite band.

I'll also mention that she told me Barenaked Ladies are doing the theme song or a video or something for The Big Bang Theory. I'm glad she gave me a heads-up. That combination of horrible and awful, when they merge, is going to create an event horizon of suckage so powerful that not even light will escape. I'm writing my final words now in preparation for the end of the Earth.