Enjoying music ironically is certainly a unique cultural product of the 21st century. The phenomena of liking “bad music” in a funny way with a group of people who have also subscribed to this particular notion is so hot right now. This is evident in the countless clubs that host 90’s nights, 80’s nights, karaoke, pop music nights, guilty pleasure music nights etc…. What occurs at said events is covers or recordings of music that wasn’t particularly cutting edge at the time it was released and is now remarkably well received.
Currently, the most popular form of ironic music nights is music from the 90’s. Not the arguably timeless music like The Pixies, Sonic Youth or Nirvana but more like Smash Mouth, Third Eyed Blind and Sugar Ray -all of whom were featured on Big Shiny Tunes. The “irony” here is that most people who visit these events are fonder of the former list of examples than the latter. Other events that celebrate musical irony may feature more bubblegum throwbacks such as The Spice Girls or 80’s hair metal such as Bon Jovi. There seems to be a general yet silent understanding that this music is inherently “uncool” but enjoyable in the proper context. Ironic music is also a significant foundation to the art of karaoke. Songs by Journey or Trooper have presumably been performed thousands of times more than songs by Bob Dylan or The Beatles (which is probably for the better)
Enjoying music ironically brings up some unique questions and difficulties…
The first is that this is not at all the definition of irony. A true example of musical irony would be that you spent your whole life disliking country music but then discovered Johnny Cash is your favourite songwriter of all time. The second is that you may not be enjoying this music in a funny and satirical matter whatsoever. If that is the case, participating in one of these ironic music events gets very emotionally and psychologically confusing for yourself and those around you. What if you sincerely do enjoy the entire discography of the Now compilations? There is nothing inherently wrong with that although it seems to only be accepted if it’s a joke that everyone is in on. We openly love campy movies like The Room or Reefer Madness, the same rules should apply to The Venga Boys.It is quite possible we are trying to hide behind the veil of satire in order to appreciate music that isn’t necessarily innovative or hip.This paradigm displays a blatant source of pretentiousness and removes a great deal of fun.I was recently at one of these events and everybody was having a genuinely enjoyable time listening to songs from their respected youth. Everyone knew the words, sang them together and sincerely connected. However, they were hard pressed to admit they actually liked the music. That stated, I would argue this phenomenon isn’t musical irony, it’s nostalgia.
Hearing the chart toppers from our youth is incredibly comforting. Even if we listened to obscure music during our adolescents, hearing popular (albeit kind of shitty) music from a peculiar, hormonal and somehow simpler time is quite refreshing. We manage to know all the words and so do our peers. We manage to remember the equally questionable clothing that went alongside dancing to this banger in your room while singing into the TV remote. Embracing your enjoyment instead of judging it is quite empowering, just go with it.