At Song Last: You shouldn’t care about what others think of your music taste

Ryan Song | Daily Trojan

My spring break trip to New York was a great opportunity to explore the city and get out of my comfort zone. In one particular incident, I had the opportunity to step out of said comfort zone through one of my favorite recreational activities: karaoke. Last Monday, my aunt recommended that we go to a place called Radio Star Karaoke, as it’s famous for its live performance setting  and public seating area with other people. Though I was hesitant at first, my aunt reassured me that most people were supportive and that most people were also bad singers, themselves.

When I entered the area, however, I realized that most people were in their late 30s or early 40s, singing songs from the ’60s through the early ’80s. Instantly, my imagined list of modern pop songs disintegrated, as I scrambled through my Spotify to find songs of past decades. When I stumbled upon Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” I immediately picked it without a second thought and unsurprisingly delivered a poor performance. The irony was that no one seemed to care about my inability to sing certain parts. However, this didn’t matter in my mind. Instead, it reaffirmed my notion that I care too much about what other people think of me.

On one hand, this could be understandable. The people you surround yourself with help shape you as a person and care about you. Naturally, you would likely apply some of their feedback to your life. This was not the case for that particular night because I was surrounded by random people who likely didn’t care about me at all.

There are a few components to this situation that all link back to my concerns with others’ perceptions of me. The first was my decision to pick an older song because I feared my audience wouldn’t like modern music. Indeed, I have this tendency to needlessly try to impress people, even if it comes at the cost of appearing to have a huge ego. This stems from the fact that I look at others and feel unimpressive in comparison, and I often respond by overcompensating for this insecurity.

Grace Cillo | Daily Trojan

But the truth is that it’s always better to be yourself. In this case, I should have just selected a modern song I truly loved, as opposed to one I only chose because it seemed more appropriate for the given setting. This mentality backfired, but instead of learning from the situation, I initially became concerned with how others in the room might think of me as a person. My performance of John’s song completely paralyzed me to the point that my aunt’s initial reassurance that no one would care didn’t comfort me.

My takeaway from this was a newfound recognition of my unwillingness to take risks. I inevitably stay away from taking risks if I fear they won’t pay off. In fact, sometimes, this mentality goes so far as to cause me to needlessly think of all of the potential scenarios that could come out of a failed risk.

Older music is so established and the people in the public karaoke area seemed well-versed in it, so I was afraid to challenge the established. Instead, I tried to adapt to it. It can sometimes be a good thing to adapt and not be narrow-minded, but in this case, I picked an older track simply to fit in rather than out of genuine interest.

Instead of being ashamed, I should be proud of my individual passions and interests because of their newness. That’s basically the whole reason I got into modern music: It’s new every day, and arguably hasn’t been discussed, analyzed or as widely enjoyed as older music. Obviously, I still have favorite artists and songs from bygone decades, but I feel the need to temporarily back off from the music of this age when people constantly talk about its greatness. Instead, I like being at the forefront of present-day discourse concerning today’s music. I want to see which songs or artists will hold up in the decades to come.

As the night went on, I eventually built up the courage to play more recent hits, such as Portugal The Man’s “Feel It Still” and Kanye West’s “Heartless,” and sure enough, my performing gradually became easier. Truly, I felt more comfortable singing those songs instead of attempting to try another song from John or other older artists.

Ryan Song is a sophomore majoring in business administration. His column, “At Song Last,” runs every other Thursday.