[Editor’s note: Every Wednesday, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
I’m writing today because you’re such a positive person and I need help dealing with negativity. I’ve been with my boyfriend for two years, but recently I’ve been having a harder and harder time hanging out with him at his house. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I have a problem with him personally, I just have a problem with his music. He’s always been into metal and pretty aggressive stuff, but now his musical taste seems to be getting truly evil. I can’t even describe how some of this music sounds — it’s just really negative vibes. The album artwork and posters and books he has in his room all confirm this. Lots of blood and guts and devils and just evil-looking stuff. I’m not a Goody Two-shoes or anything, but I was raised in a very loving family who taught me that stuff like this really can be bad for your karma, and I really don’t feel comfortable around it. And even more than that, I really don’t want this stuff corrupting my boyfriend and making him change from the loving, positive person he is. I tried removing some of the albums from his room and he freaked out. I tried telling him I wouldn’t come over with that stuff in his house, but that didn’t work either. I don’t want to make him mad, but I do want this negative stuff out of our lives. So, since you’re so focused on positivity, I’m hoping you can give me some advice. How do I rescue my boyfriend and our relationship from these negative influences?
Sick of Negative Vibes
Dear Sick of Negative Vibes,
You know what the biggest negative vibe is in this situation? You. Trying to make your boyfriend give up the music he enjoys — that is true negativity. I understand how you’re feeling, but rather than censoring someone’s experience, I suggest you strive to develop your own spirit and make it large and strong enough to appreciate and interact with all types of emotional concepts, all types of feelings, all types of people, and all types of beliefs — including those that deal with the ideas of darkness, cruelty, death, destruction, anger, hatred, and evil. Desperately trying to hide — or make other people hide — from certain types of feelings is a losing battle. And it’s likely that we’ll experience more hurt and damage in our efforts to avoid that part of the world than we will by developing a heart and mind capable of engaging with the full spectrum of reality, from light to dark, and beyond.
It’s interesting how often people confuse “evil sounding” music with true evil. By its very nature, music is benevolent. Music means well. It’s virtually impossible to bend the will of music toward a truly negative intention. Music can be used to achieve all sorts of things, depending on who wants to use it and for what purpose, but the music itself is pure goodness. Music doesn’t waste its time in dealing with human concepts like “good and evil.” Thankfully, music exists in a realm above and beyond the need for logical ideas and theories. Music is where we can find relief from reason and truly experience “pure feeling.” Music is what feelings sound like — feelings before we analyze and deconstruct them into digestible abstractions like “happy feeling” or “sad feeling.” Music is just pure feeling.
For this reason alone, it’s probably the greatest gift humanity has to work with. And also one of the most mysterious. It would be a total disrespect to lower our conception of music to something as literal as a “mood” or an “emotion” or a “negative” or “positive” idea. Music exists outside of all that. And that’s why it feels the way it feels and doesn’t feel like anything else. No amount of reading or movie-watching or eating or even sex can quite equal the inexpressible pleasure of music for music’s sake. We must always remember this, especially when we begin to doubt the value of music or question its intention. Humans may have intentions, but music doesn’t. Music is humanity with all the bullshit removed. Music is humanity at its best.
So don’t get too caught up in lyrics, or album covers, or what the people playing the music look like. All of that isn’t music. That’s just human stuff — the icing on the cake — the human bits and pieces we throw in for our own purposes. Music isn’t involved in lyrics and imagery and style. Music is melody and rhythm. Besides, even the most sinister words and images cannot break music’s naturally bountiful spirit. And that’s why it can still feel so good to experience music of any variety. That’s why sometimes the angriest music can make you feel the happiest. Because here is a way to interact with those bad feelings in a totally good-feeling way. It’s cathartic. It’s healing. It’s good for the soul.
Music is a safe haven where we get to explore the full range of what it is to be alive — a way we can explore feelings and sensations we can’t describe or have access to any other way. No one listens to “sad sounding” music to feel awful. We listen to it because somehow it actually makes us feel good in a way that nothing else does — it’s a good feeling that’s hard to explain or get any other way. It seems mysterious and contradictory, but intense negativity can sometimes have an uplifting effect, especially when it’s experienced through music.
Besides, songs that try too hard to be “nice and sweet” can come off cloying and ingratiating. We all have our different tastes, and thank goodness we do. After all, if everyone thought the same way and liked the same music, life would be boring. At least almost everyone can agree that we love music in general — and that we actually need music in order to be complete human beings — and with that spirit at heart, we can respect each other’s individual preferences and tastes, and at least relate to the fact that we’re all trying to find good feelings through music one way or another.
So please don’t give your boyfriend a hard time about the music he loves. Just love him and be glad he has music in his life that brings him joy. You can bring him joy too, or you can be a force that takes his joy away. And what would fill the void left by the absence of his music, anyway? It would probably be filled with his resentment for you, and more anger and disharmony than his “evil” music ever brought into your relationship in the first place. Your intentions may feel noble and justified, but they’re only going to cause harm. Too much damage in this world is caused by people trying to “remove” what they don’t like from existence. I hope you put your energy into adding joy to the world. And please don’t ever again try to take away someone’s music.
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