I have a problem.
My MP3 playlist contains both Beatles and Stones songs. It contains a large amount of classic rock, signifying cool to the Baby Boomer generation, but also a decent selection of more recent material – enough 1980s pop to warm the cockles of the hearts of those in my own generation as well as the post-ironic hipsters whose favourite bands now all steal from that stuff. There’s a shout-out to racial diversity in the form of music made by such unmistakeably black people as Solomon Burke and Bettye Lavette, and a socially-conscious chord is struck with the prominent inclusion of the latest Neil Young album. My Last.FM graphs show a nearly perfect power distribution, indicating that I have both strong preferences, signifying an ability to make clear, decisive choices, and wide-ranging tastes as evidenced by the length of that long, long tail, signalling a mind that’s open to new ideas. Deep in the bowels of that long tail are indy rock acts such as the Flaming Lips, who you have to like to have any credibility whatsoever. Speaking of flaming, Queen, Rufus Wainwright and, to a lesser extent, Kate Bush, are included to capture the all-important gay demographic. Even the token amount of classical music in there, itself a transparant ploy to hint to cultural traditionalists that I am more refined and serious than I let on, is carefully massaged to create an impression of balance: work by the unescapably brilliant but politically incorrect Richard Wagner is off-set by the inclusion of a symphony by the Jewish-born composer Gustav Mahler.
In a sane world, this would not be a problem. People would recognise that my musical preferences are largely the result of my personal history, mixing in preferences I acquired as a teenager with whatever I came across in adulthood. But we don’t live in a sane world, we live in a world where a person’s iPod playlist is something people like Jacob Weinsberg write blitheringly stupid articles about. Next thing you know, some op-ed writer will pipe up saying I look fetching in a yellow pantsuit.