Is there good and bad music or is it just a question of opinion? Many people will argue that there is no bad music, and if I don’t like David Guetta, Katy Perry or Maroon 5 for example, it is just a question of taste, and it doesn’t mean anything for these artists’ music which is adored by millions. But can we apply this to any kind of music? Can we say that nobody is really able to objectively judge music, and that criticism is always a matter of opinion, or is there some kind of music which is above opinions and can be declared good whatever I or anybody else think?
Even famous and renowned musicians have called music bad and good, Duke Ellington said that ‘There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind’, and Louis Armstrong said about the same thing: ‘There are two kinds of music, the good, and the bad. I play the good kind’, and you could say they were expressing their opinions except that these two guys knew a little more than the average guy about music.
Music, as any form of art, is an expression, an expression of ideas and feelings, and when it is effective it should shake you up emotionally, it should grab your attention,.. if you are disinterested during a performance and wants to text (I saw hundreds of people just do this during concerts) I would say that this music hasn’t reached its goal and purpose. But does it mean this music was bad, or that these people were not emotionally ready to receive it? In other words, they didn’t get it because they did not have the ability or didn't make the effort to receive it?
A music can only be qualified of good if it accomplishes its purpose, and even if you don’t get classical music or jazz for example, you can’t deny their respective success in this area. Even if you hate Mozart or Beethoven, you have to recognize that these composers have moved generations and generations of human beings, that even many years after their deaths, their music is still played and learned all over the world, and that all critics agree about their influence in the music history. Some musicians are untouchable, whatever your opinion about them, their music is good, period.
It is easy to sort out good from bad for people who died a long time ago because you have the time argument, their art survived years or even centuries, it is a strong argument. The music of Salieri, Mozart’s contemporary, is hardly played, but Mozart’s music is eternal. But how can you apply the same thing for current music? We can go back to the beginning, and base our judgment on how efficient music is at expressing ideas and moving people? But some people are 'moved' by the Black Eye Peas, and I think they are horrible,… I would say that the only thing they really manage to move is people's ass.
We all have different standards to judge music, but if it is overly sentimental or predictable, If it is too easy, too eager to please the majority without 'disturbing' anything in you, can we all agree it is bad music? I guess not exactly, otherwise Celine Dion would have never sold million of albums. So the debate may be endless and pointless, as any music will resonate differently with every person, and even Katy Perry’s music will trigger enough activity in some people’s brain to please them and make them find her music good. As long as ‘something’ happens, even in a superficial way – I wonder what else her music can trigger beside making young girls wearing sexy outfits – this kind of music will be judged good by some people.
So in fact the question is whether musical criticism is always a matter of opinion or can we apply some pseudo-scientific objectivity when we judge music? I would say that it is not a matter of point of view, as some music transcends any opinion. If an artist has composed music that triggers a relationship between you and the work, at this point, there is no place for judgment. However, the relationship has to have substance, reveal a human reality and a true authenticity, and relate to human experience. And if a song can reveal itself with a new layer of interpretation, richness and novelty every time you listen to it, if a song can have a life separated from its creator (especially after his or her death) you definitively have true art.