Indie, country, pop. More so than ever, we’re surrounded by an incredible variety of music, and of course different demographics of people listen to each. But an arbitrary study published on consequenceofsound.net, based on SAT scores and college surveys, has somehow determined that “stupid” people listen to pop and hip-hop—Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj Beyoncé—and intellectuals listen to brooding indie and alternative rock, Sufjan Stevens and Radiohead.
But really, this study and studies like it are insulting. I think I’ve met about four people in my life including my parents who really don’t like Beyoncé. I’ve also met plenty of people who scored low on their SATs despite being very intelligent. At the end of the day it only has two results: pretentiously smart people have even more reason to be pretentious since even their musical tastes are validated as superior, and every other normal person in the world gets defensive about their intelligence being compromised from listening to Beyoncé.
I mean let’s just look at Beyoncé for a minute: wife, mother, feminist, advocate for equality—I don’t see anything stupid about any of that. If anything, people should say it’s smart for others to listen to music by someone who wants to do so much good. And even if you want to argue that although she isn’t unintelligent, her fans are, you can go to college parties at Princeton and still hear Beyoncé playing in the background. I just took a road trip with a Cornell Law School graduate and guess who played all 6 hours on the way to Boston? Queen B.
Not to mention that Radiohead, which according to the same study, is listened to by the most intelligent people, is actually pretty much listened to by everyone—intelligent or otherwise. So just because a few MIT students say it’s their favorite doesn’t mean kids at Mercer County Community College wouldn’t say the same. They’ve literally been nominated for 18 GRAMMYS. If that isn’t the peak of mainstream-ness, I honestly don’t know what is.
And of course, the study hinges on grades and scores, which don’t necessarily reflect intelligence (ehem, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn’t do so well in school, as I’m sure you know), but do reflect a family’s income (washingtonpost.com). So rather than saying that Stupid People listen to Beyoncé and Smart People listen to Radiohead, we should say that students who have the money to afford SAT tutors and to go to top tier schools listen to Radiohead whereas students who don’t listen to Beyoncé. Or perhaps, people who like to go to parties listen to upbeat pop and hip-hop, whereas more mellow students prefer mellow indie music. But at the end of the day, everyone can listen to both, and it doesn’t mean a thing.
It’s just math, guys: if ax=ay, then x=y, and if everyoneBeyonce= everyoneRadiohead then Beyonce=Radiohead. Although they are, of course, very different, these artists evoke the same emotions—or, if you don’t like them, they don’t.
So who cares? Listen to whatever you want, study however much you want, score what you will on the SAT. Your intelligence is within your control. The music you listen to doesn’t really say anything about it, and any groundless study that says your music makes you unintelligent is much more stupid than you are. So whatever you’re listening to, just keep jammin’.