In my opinion, seeming cultured is a shortcut to seeming impressive, and music might be the most accessible form of culture. But, unless you are the guy who somehow knows all the lyrics to Dark Horse or religiously follows every Justin Vernon project, it can be tough.
There is another way. Somewhere between reading Pitchfork (hopefully you don’t know what that is) and playing a pitchfork (is that a thing?).
Here are a couple different strategies to sound like you know about music:
- Actually be pretty into music. I am not this at all. I have a life goal of never going to Coachella. If you are already really into music, great job. Don’t be annoying about it.
- Find a friend who actually knows a lot about music who isn’t annoying about it and ask them for recommendations. If you are trying to spot them in a crowd, they might look like they’d go to Coachella. I ask mine for a recommendation maybe once every week or two and try to remember some of the band names. This way, you might not need to actually listen to music. That’s how I found out about How To Dress Well. Side note, I thought they named their band after me.
- For those of you who aren’t (really) into (non-Top 40) music, and don’t have a friend to steal music power from, I think your last option is to actually listen to some music. Don’t lose hope! It isn’t that bad.
Pick a genre that isn’t Top 40. Bonus points if it’s played on public radio of some kind. Here are some suggestions: gospel, modern folk, k-pop, funk. I went with classical because my mom made me take piano lessons as a kid and I felt like this was stretching those dollars.
Next, pick a subset of it. Get nice and specific. Impressionism sounded fancy, so I went with that.
Pick an artist listed on the wikipedia page. Find him, her, or them on Spotify. Aim to listen to one album a week. Try to enjoy it, I guess.
Now, when a conversation drifts gently towards music, you can sit there quietly looking knowledgeable until you have that perfect opportunity to talk about how Ravel’s Jeux d’eau so perfectly captures the idea of water fountains (or, whatever weird reference you can remember).
Just like that, you know a little about music. Hopefully, just enough to seem impressive, and not too much that you are super annoying about it.
Bonus points: At some point, reference an NPR Tiny Desk concert to sound super in the know.