Carl Wilson on Discovering Obscure Music

From Book Forum:

What does it mean to have good taste? Is the idea of taste relevant anymore? Music critic Carl Wilson reflects on these questions in 2007’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, a “case study” of Céline Dion. The book is part of Continuum’s 33 1/3 series—pocket-sized books about a single album, usually staples of the rock-crit canon.

You talk about how easy it is now to discover obscure music in an afternoon online, whereas it took you years to discover what you liked. You say this “hints tantalizingly at the utopian possibility of an era that could be called post-taste.” Can you expand on what you mean by “post-taste”?

A lot of the twentieth-century taste categories that the book contends with (the ideas of high-brow, middle-brow, and low-brow, the idea of cool and not cool) have been thrown up and scrambled by the fact that people can surf from thing to thing on YouTube and pursue obscure references. The young people that I know now have much more eccentrically put-together sets of interests than the young people I knew when I was in my twenties. Now people don’t tend to fall into straight camps centered around genre loyalty in the way they once did. I think people have lost faith in the sense of there being a coherent alternative culture, where politics and aesthetic gestures are related. So when people collage things together from all kinds of influences, they don’t feel like they’re betraying anything or selling out because there’s no strong oppositional cultural camp to be loyal to. We have to be careful about being overly sweeping when we talk about online listening, because it seems like it’s all an effect of technology, but I think it’s also a reflection of where culture and society are. That pendulum can swing, but we are definitely in what feels like a “post-taste” moment right now.