When bad music comes on the radio, I crank up the volume | David Ferguson

Its a weird compulsion I need to hate terrible ear worms in excruciating detail. But feeling disgust reaffirms that were alive

Sometimes when Im driving in the car and a song that I hate comes on the radio, I turn it up so that I can hate it in detail.

In the car in Texas last week, I heard a song so ghastly that at first I couldnt even process what I was hearing. Surely no one would do this intentionally. It sounded like Adam Levine from Maroon 5s snotty kid brother singing what I thought at first was a nursery rhyme.

And then in a stomach-lurching moment, it all came together. It was the Heart and Soul song that one thing that every shiny-faced brat in your second grade piano class could play and play and play and play. But it had lyrics about doing shots and girls all dolled up and then I realized it was Train.

Train, the most beige band in rock. A group of ostensibly human musicians playing purportedly real instruments who nonetheless manage to make themselves sound like a bunch of microchips in a blinking black box.

I have never forgiven Train for what I believe are possibly the most appalling lyrics in rock that did not appear on a Rush album. From the song Drops of Jupiter comes the following couplet:

Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken/ Your best friend always sticking/ up for you even when I know youre wrong.

I stopped in my tracks in the grocery store the first time I heard those lyrics and cringed so hard I nearly dropped the jar of kalamata olives I was holding. And just as I thought, Well, I will never in my life hear lyrics worse than that! lead singer Patrick Monahan followed it up with:

Freeze dried romance/ five-hour phone conversation/ The best soy latte that you ever had/ and me.

I felt certain this had to be a joke. No one sings about food with that kind of clench-throated earnestness unless they havent eaten for a week. Or, perhaps, unless they are Dana Carvey in the notorious Choppin Broccoli Saturday Night Live sketch.

But back to Trains new horrible single, Play That Song, which I guess record executives figure the public would find irresistible as opposed to deeply grating because of the Heart and Soul melody. Instead it sounds like some kind of horrible genetic accident from the computer music lab, so brutally, bludgeoningly chirpy, anodyne and soulless that its really like punk never happened.

Play that Song is a forcible exercise in the neuroscientific principle that human beings will eventually come to like and enjoy any music that they are repeatedly exposed to, no matter how horrible it is. Which, by the way, is how we ended up with the Black Eyed Peas.

But why is it that we relish awful things? Whats with the perverse urge to pick apart every last detail of a songs badness and revel in angry pleasure at how terrible it is?

I would posit that this is a different phenomenon from, say, a guilty pleasure. I secretly love the Miami-based 80s pop band Expos. When Come Go with Me or Seasons Change comes on the radio, I turn it up because Im getting goosebumps and I want to sing along who cares if nobody at Pitchfork could discern the difference between them and The Mary Jane Girls without a map?

Nor is it like a phenomenon that we call disgustiliciousness at my house, the peculiar allure of, say, corn dogs or 3am White Castle gross but satisfying nostalgia food that should only be indulged in sparingly and in controlled amounts.

No, the feeling I get cranking up a Train song so I can hate its guts is more like the feeling I got that time I lost an entire afternoon to boil-lancing videos on YouTube. Its repulsive and horrible, but I cant look away.

Psychologist and neuroscientist Rachel Herz said in her book <a href=”http://www.rachelherz.com/that-s-disgusting.html” data-link-name=”in” body link” class=”u-underline”>Thats Disgusting that disgust and lust are processed in the same area of the brain. Furthermore, she said, it is rooted in our primal, atavistic fear of pathogens and contamination, so surges of disgust may be an emotional protest of the fear of death, a way to make ourselves feel more alive.

This could go a long way toward explaining why people enjoy torture porn films. Or the music of Lenny Kravitz.

So, while I may joke that Play That Song makes me yearn for death, in fact, the delicious disgust it arouses in me may be my brains perverse way of saying, Im alive! And while Im alive, I may as well torture the poor souls in all the cars nearby.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/19/bad-music-crank-up-the-volume

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