First, let’s leave aside the obvious fact that no artform’s quality can nor should be objectively quantified; that subject has been beaten to death. Now then…
I have a habit of hitting Next, Next, Next on my MP3 player depending on my mood; most of the time I’m just not satisfied with whatever it throws at me. On one of my breaks, one song I passed over at that time was Great Hall Awaits A Fallen Brother by Bathory, but when it landed on Mermaid Festa Vol.1 (Kotori Mix) I let it play. Despite remembering the inability to quantify quality, I am confident in stating that there likely is no human being on Earth who, listening to both, could possibly say Great Hall Awaits A Fallen Brother (with its themes of brotherhood, glories and horrors of battle, loss, afterlife…) is worse than Mermaid Festa Vol. 1 — whether we’re speaking of the original or solo’d by one of the µ’s, this one the only out of the entire Love Live! discography IMO where all ten versions are worth keeping around; not even Snow Halation can survive the tedium of the vocals of Nozomi and Nico.
And yet, at that moment I chose to listen to Kotori’s nasally, shrill singing (Aya Uchida sounds so much better in her natural tone) along to a cheerful “seaside dance beat” full of flirty lyrics over the powerful, operatic Quorthon buoying this masterfully-crafted monolith of heavy metal’s supremacy as a musical genre.
Now why is that?
This kind of thing I notice I’m doing more and more, especially at work. But there immediately we have a clue as to what is going on: if I’m on break, I’m usually not the most happy of spawn-campers. I’m a burger-flipper/cashier/busser (depending on the day), and where I work I every so often have to deal with drunks calling me an asshole for giving him his receipt to “are you acting cocky, or is that your personality?” At least that one gave my coworkers the giggles. Anyway, so when I’m on break I’m usually not in the mood for musical filet mignon and would prefer lighter, happier faire. Whether it’s Realove Realife by Sphere, Keelhauled by Alestorm, or Smoky Thrill by Ryuuguu Komachi is a matter of mood or whichever’s shuffled to first.
Though there are other undercurrents at play here.
Great Hall Awaits A Fallen Brother is a heavy song. Heavy metal, yes, but in this case I mean heavy as in emotionally. This song hits hard, right in the stomach and the tear ducts. Especially the latter half when they play that deep bass with Quorthon’s sorrow-fueled “Close your eyes, lay still, no more pain / Washed away, your blood, a gentle rain / The blood shed is blood of mine” well… this, like Heart of Steel by Manowar and The End of Ordinary Sorrow by μ’s, is a “home-alone-only song” because I don’t need my coworkers seeing me choking down the urge to start choking up.
So while I’m at work I don’t need something to get me all worked up, because I’m already worked up trying to keep up with my work! And if I just so happen to not want something cutesy and girly, give me something similarly simple and straightforward like Baphomet by Dark Fortress or Straight From The Slums by Waco Jesus. But wait, aren’t those songs heavy? As in metal, yes, but not really emotional. Sure, they’re LOUD and BRUTAL, but in my case they don’t really elicit a deep, multi-faceted response. They’re just boom-boom, bang-bang, crush-crush. And at times that’s exactly what I need to heal my spirit. At other times I am in the mood for straightforward girly stuff (that triggers a similar “surface-level” emotional response; kind of like it were the same color yet an entirely different object), I’ll go for the likes of Honey Groove by StylipS, Mata Kaze ga Tsuyokunatta by Kalafina, and EX:FUTURIZE by Yoko Hikasa (in ascending order of speed and rhythm).
But there’s one more thing. Another reason I’m, these days, more willing to listen to Love Live! tracks over the legendary Bathory and Judas Priest. Not quality, novelty.
See, mine is a mind which seeks novelty. I cannot stand the same thing day in, day out. The same food, the same routine (which is why I can never stick to one workout program for more than a month), the same anime, the same Alan Watts books (there are only so many ways one can be told “you’re IT!” before you’re “yes, we know, shaddup you gluttonous drunk!”), etc. all eventually would drive me crazy. This is one of the many reasons I’ll never get married: how can any man stand to wake up to the same woman every day for 2 months, let alone 2 or even 20 years? No human being has that much to explore, whether their mind or body! Boring, boring, boring!
I’ve been listening to heavy metal for at least 15 years (most of those years to the exclusion of any other genre except for the vague “OSTs from Silent Hill and Final Fantasy” or something) and it was only in the past 2 or 3 when I began listening to music from anime and J-Pop (here’s how it happened). I first watched Love Live! about half a year ago so I’m still enjoying its vast discography, but I’m starting to not be as enthusiastic as I once was, similar to how I’m not as enthralled by the deliciously-paradoxical cutesy goth metal of Yousei Teikoku as I was so long ago. This is the main reason I began watching idolm@ster last week, so I can have an excuse to start listening to their tracks (it would feel weird otherwise, like playing with Transformers toys without having watched the cartoon*). Hopefully it’s going to be like Love Live! where almost all their good tracks don’t feature in the anime.
Speaking of, the whole J-Pop thing is still kind of fresh and new to me. But who knows if in a few years I’ll get bored of that and get into, I dunno, rap or country. Hell, I’ve listened to the album I Hate Birds by Sam Brass Knuckles a few times with a smile, Fragile Crazy by StylipS and Guilty by Nana Mizuki both kind of sound like rap and/or dance to me, speaking of dance if there are more songs like Daring! by μ’s out there (of over 300 Love Live! songs and counting, it’s my #1) I need them right now, oh and there’s even dubstep in my playlist! As Magia by Kalafina was my “hook” away from metal elitism into J-Pop and anime music, who knows if one of the above will ultimately prove to be one of my hooks into exploring the genres of rap, dance, or dubstep?
So anyway, yeah, I like new things and get bored with even the greats. For one, I can no longer enjoy Iron Man by Black Sabbath, for even the band’s name makes me violently eye-roll nowadays; by the Buddha’s belly, everyone, if you must repeat the same damn bands over and over instead of giving one of over a quarter-million other bands a chance, can’t you at least play any of Sabbath’s other songs?! Into The Void, Fairies Wear Boots, Symptom of the Universe, War Pigs, or here’s an idea: post-Ozzy Sabbath like Heaven and Hell and Seventh Star, ANYTHING BUT IRON MAN AT LEAST FIFTEEN TIMES EVERY NIGHT AT MY JOB!! PLEASE!!!
By the way, this is why my eyes glaze over when anyone calls themselves a metalhead yet only really listen to Metallica, Pantera, Amon Amarth, etc.; or calls themselves an anime nerd when they’ve never watched anything that didn’t play on Toonami and Adult Swim (e.g., Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop, FLCL), or calls themselves a fan of The Elder Scrolls series yet have never even heard of Daggerfall, and so on. If this makes me an elitist and a snob, so be it.
* Yes, I’m comparing both Love Live! and idolm@ster to Transformers (and others like Batman: The Animated Series and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic): the TV show is primarily a 24-minute commercial for music, toys, video games, etc. As SFDebris insightfully states is the secret of success for the Transformers franchise, so too are Love Live! and idolm@ster in the business of creating characters, with distinct personalities and histories you can follow and watch them interact and grow, and that’s why their primary products sell. Haruka Amami, Optimus Prime, and Twilight Sparkle all have the same job: and they accomplish it in only cosmetically-different ways.