Why is elitism in music dangerous?


A recent interview with guitarist/singer Brent Hinds (Mastodon/Giraffe Tongue Orchestra) emerged where he stated the following:  ”I don’t really like metal. [I grew up listening to Judas Priest, but] Judas Priest is not metal, people, it’s rock ‘n’ motherfuckin’ roll! Who in their right mind that has a brain in their head thinks that Judas Priest sounds like a metal band?”

It’s safe to say that this interview rubbed quite a few metal heads the wrong way. Hinds received a plethora of responses to his comments. Most ‘Priest’ fans, or even metal fans in general, claiming that he and his band were a sellout band. Their music sucks so he cannot have an opinion on Judas Priest. ‘He’s a ginger hipster junkie so what does he know?!’ etc etc. Even though, please note, he expressly stated that he grew up listening to Judas Priest. Not once was it mentioned that he disliked their music or thought they were bad people. Only that they are not really ”heavy metal” to him.

So the question is not ‘are Judas Priest heavy metal or are they rock ‘n roll?’ but rather ‘does it matter?’ To me, it does not. What’s the point of arguing about where Judas Priest fit in the Rock family tree? If people enjoy listening to their music, they should do so without forcing labels onto them. I am not saying that we should not categorise music, far from it. But not to the extent were it is detrimental to the subcultures we love and this is where elitism comes in. This idea that an opinion on a certain genre of music is the right way and the only way. This constant barrage of rules and laws that we have to follow as people who adorn the label ‘metalhead’. It’s almost as if you are sometimes forced to have a closed mind. You are scorned or frowned upon if you go so far as to enjoy certain songs played on the radio. ”How could you? That’s not real music!”. Yes, it is real music. You just don’t like it. You cannot force someone to like or dislike anything.

This, obviously, is not only limited to the metal scene. It spreads across all genres and I am not saying that everybody is like this. However, you will always find the occasional few elitists who do criticise and spend the majority of their time hating on other artists rather than appreciating the diversity of it all. Even within their own genre. A recent hate for ‘Deathcore’ has emerged and a lot of people do not consider it to be ‘real metal’ as if there is such a thing as real metal. Bands within that sub-genre are criticised for the way they wear their clothes and the way they style their hair by metalheads who frown upon their apparent fake attempt at making metal music. Why? You don’t like it? Don’t listen to it. But it is metal whether you like it or not. Also, don’t you think it’s ironic that you’re criticising people for the way they look when you spend most of the time defending your subculture from the mainstream criticism it gets for it’s subject matter, imagery and sound? Taking different genres and expanding on them is what helps music to survive. It’s what helps bands grow and get better at what they do. It prevents the music we love from becoming stagnant and repetitive.

The biggest gripe I have with all this, and elitism in general, is that it helps to hinder the genre of music you hold so close to your heart. If you only listen to or play one sub-genre or style of music, you will be limiting yourself as well as your creativity. You will just sound like every other death metal band or every other hip-hop artist. How is music supposed to thrive if all we do is hate on other sub groups? As a musician, one can benefit so much and create endlessly if only the musical floodgates are opened. You want to listen to the latest Katy Perry song? Go ahead. It won’t kill you and you actually just might like it. It might even inspire a song of yours one day.

An avid lover of music, food, art and film. Malcolm has been involved in the Maltese metal scene for over a decade, performing as a vocalist in different bands past and present,