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Does rock music have to be deep to be considered meaningful?

Remember, one of the earliest memories I had of the supposedly satanic messages in Led Zeppelin involved my cousin taking my dad’s old turntable and playing a Led Zeppelin album backwards.  Not only did it screw up a perfectly awesome piece of vinyl, it also managed to do not much of anything.  He failed to deliver on his claim that if you play Stairway To Heaven backwards at the right speed, it would say “All hail Satan!”.

I bring up this very funny story because it highlights the old idea that rock music has to be somehow deep, multi-layered, complex or otherwise have to be treated as some sort of mystery to be considered meaningful.  The implication behind this thinking is that rock music, when played straightforward and listened to like you would listen to anything, is essentially too shallow.  This might be true for the vast majority of the music out there, but you have to understand that it all really boils down to personal meaning.  I’m not even going to play the game that many rock critics play wherein they say, “This album is really significant and earth-shattering; everything else is trash.  I’m not even going to go there.  Instead, I would flip the script and claim that everything is gold.  There’s no such thing as trash in music.

Now you may be asking yourself, “Is this guy even serious? Are you kidding me?”  Sure, I can understand Pink Floyd’s song Wish You Were Here as something deep, insightful and heavy as far as explorations of the human connections and human emotional depth are concerned, but to say that the same applied to Zeppelin would have been a joke.

Well, it turns out that the same tortured search for deeper meaning still remains with us today. Rock critics just can’t seem to content themselves with plain meanings or obvious interpretations. Instead, just like nerdy high school geeks playing Zeppelin records backwards for some Luciferian message, they believe a lot of their credibility stem from their ability to discern deep meanings. Amusing at first, but eventually annoying.

The good news is that music doesn’t have to mean more than its surface text for it to truly have impact. You see, music is not like business news where you need to get into the guts of the info to truly see if it can push your financial bottom line forward or not. Instead, it is an emotional echo chamber. You interact with the data and it resonates. Or not. That’s all there is to it despite the many deep layers professionally paid fabulists who call themselves rock critics try to make out. People can and do understand on an emotional level. Music is emotion.

To try and torture this situation past this point really would be to fall prey to why such a market for deep rock analysis exists. On the one hand, some fans are looking for ‘deeper’ content. On the other, there is a large market made up of professional musical journalists trying to bank on their credibility.