September 2, 2010 | 10:00am
The hits, they keep-a-comin'.
Seattle's The Stranger
recently conducted a brilliant field test, if you will, which forced four 17-18 year olds to listen to nothing but Bob Dylan
for 3 days. Specifically, the youngsters had to listen to Dylan's exhaustive three disc set Biograph
while they packed for college and hung out with the rest their recent high school graduate friends. The young subjects were asked to rate Dylan on four categories: "Relevance to my life," "The quality of his voice," "Degree to which my parents thing he's important" and "Degree to which I think he's important."
The results were, for lack of a better term, rather candid.
For those not in the know, I do have a thing, if you will, for Bob Dylan. His Christmas album was awful, he has a ridiculous bias from the editors of Rolling Stone and his quirky little ticketless Warfield Show was misguided.
That being said, I'm not an 18 year old who's never heard the dude sing. My lame opinions on Dylan are one thing, but other, fresh opinions on Bob Dylan are something entirely different. Sure, go ahead and say "why should I care about what some 17 year old thinks about Bob Dylan?" If you're a big enough fan -- one who is competently secure in their fandom -- of Bob Dylan, then this shouldn't get to you. Hell, it shouldn't matter at all. Those who like Dylan but have begun to question why exactly that is should take note of The Stranger's interesting study.
Some of the better quotes from the piece are as follows:
A Dylan marathon is a draining thing, and I was not grateful to be engrossed in fairly complicated lyrics when hungering for the visceral emotional relief music can provide.
Listening solely to Bob Dylan over the course of three 90-degree days while packing for college is something like being in solitary confinement next door to a rambling lunatic with a guitar. Some of the strumming is painful, some achieves sentiment, and SOME comes close to sounding like music.
The majority of Bob Dylan's songs remind me of a run-on sentence by Jack Kerouac set to music.
I think that his name will go down in history, because it already has, but that doesn't mean I think he's supremely important.
Dylan's voice can never surpass his whiny, moaning, complaining tone that he has made for himself. He is by no means a great vocalist or even a competent one, but he is able to tell stories.
And that really says it all, at least for me. His name has -- and will continue -- to go down in history, but why should relatively young music fans with their own individual tastes and appropriate music idols/legends have to believe what everyone else does about Bob Fucking Dylan?
This study does range on ad nauseum -- self-inflicted, I might add -- for all things Dylan, but there is something to say about his relevance in the year 2010 that The Stranger very eloquently laid out. Force kids born in 1992 to listen exclusively to Bob Dylan for 72 hours straight and there is bound to be some truth in there. These subjects bravely, I might add, took a risk that ended in them exposing a unique situation with generational gaps in contemporary music.
Just let fucking teenagers listen to whatever the hell they want to. Is it Ke$ha, Drake and Justin Beiber? So what -- that's their generation's music. Stop trying to force Bob Dylan on them. I know that there are 18 year olds out there that love Bob Dylan, and there's nothing wrong with that. I would hope those same kids do so in moderation with some newer music -- music being produced by some of their generation's better talents (and devoid of Autotune).
I cannot argue Bob Dylan's place in the lexicon of popular music. I know I will take some shit for this one, but I feel The Stranger did something wonderfully relevant to the topic of younger music fans dealing with pop music from past generations. If a kid is going to listen to Bob Dylan, it's going to happen -- and that is no one's choice but their own.
You know what the last thing an 18 year old wants to hear? How "great" Bob Dylan is and how they are "missing out" by not having heard his music. It's patronizing, manipulative and it accomplishes absolutely nothing. Discovering new music is an exhilaratingly organic experience, why not just leave it at that?