NPR logo Baby on Board

Baby on Board

Each of us has a deal-breaker when it comes to songs, albums, or musicians. It's an aspect we cannot forgive, a line that cannot be crossed. Maybe it's a sound we abhor in a certain context-a children's choir or horn section, for instance, intruding on an otherwise perfectly austere album in the name of maturity and sophistication. Or maybe it's a band that gives your favorite song to a burger or clothing or car company. Songs in commercials are the arranged marriages of the music business, with the fans as the naive bride or groom, forced to pair that which they hold dear with something they have yet to meet. Occasionally, it's a pleasant surprise and the coupling is a success, but most often it ends in heartbreak.

For myself, the line in the sand is neither of the aforementioned. My deal-breaker is preciousness: when the music is a tiny, baby bird that needs us to be nurturing and respectful, otherwise it can't spread its wings. I like quiet music, folk music, solo artists—it's not a matter of volume or numbers, but it is a matter of art being able to stand on its own two feet. I don't think music needs to be coddled, no matter how delicate or soft it sounds. When a band or singer makes me go "awwww," as I would at the sight of a newborn child, then that is a band that needs a pacifier not an amplifier. Other indicators of preciousness include, but are not limited to: matching old-timey outfits; mumbling, soft-spoken stage banter that trails off and is quickly followed by a cutesy smile, which for some reason garners huge cheers from the audience; being so nervous on stage that someone in the crowd has to yell "you can do it!" or "we love you" (exception made here for child performers); asking people to lie down on the floor for the next song; and any audience sing-along or participation so complicated that it needs to be explained BEFORE the song starts. When I am at an overly precious show, I am often filled with contrarian, immature urges: suddenly banging a gong, stepping on a whoopee cushion, or knocking some vegans together to start a mosh pit. I think what bothers me the most about preciousness is that it takes good form and reduces it to good manners, and turns performance into charade. I have no trouble taking music seriously or considering it special, but I don't need to be instructed about why it is.

I'd love to know what your deal-breakers are? And did preciousness exist before the 90's?

Well, it's Friday and my first week as a blogger is officially over. I'm a little sad I didn't get invited to the weekly NPR night at Chili's, but I'll get over it.

Have a good weekend.