interesting discussion. for once i am caught up with you all so i can toss in my $.02. in order to establish where i am coming from, let me first say that i don't care about (or for) lyrics. perhaps it is because, as mutabor said earlier, english was not my primary language. born and raised in south america i spoke, and thought, in spanish. however, i did go to a bi-lingual K-12 school and then moved to the US immediately after graduating high school. through lack of practice, i have gradually lost my ability to think in spanish and nowadays i have to dig deep for the right words in order to speak it these days. so now i consider english to be my native language.
i always considered singing/voices as just another instrument. as such, i tend to prefer instrumental music above all else. however, this is clearly not very practical as the vast majority of music out there includes singing as does a large portion of my collection. there's no "getting away" from singing. i tend not to pay attention to lyrics until i know i like something very much and this can take years. only then do i get curious and wonder "what are these folks saying?". and it is mostly just curiosity as it is highly likely that i will disagree with what they have to say or simply just not care why? because for me music is about the sound. if the sound doesn't appeal to me i move on.
this brings me to genres. i really don't understand why so many are interested in defending/promoting a whole genre. yes, genres are loose labels used to group together similar music based on specific criteria. however, that criteria still leaves a lot of room for variance from artist to artist and even from album to album from a single artist. the fact that you like a given artist does not guarantee that you will like all the other artists in the genre. this even extends to a specific album in that you will not necessarily like all the albums by a given artist. yes, there's a good chance you will but it is not an automatic given. for example, i am a huge grateful dead fan which would indicate that i am also a fan of 'the san francisco sound', psychedelia, 60's rock, and maybe even folk. the answer is: not really. yes and no. i love floyd. the airplane, not so much. there are more bands in the 'not so much' column than in the 'love' column when it comes to those genres. liking the grateful dead does not make me a fan of those genres any more than a fan of the genres may or may not be expected to also like the grateful dead. or even to like them as much as i do. sorry, that was a bit rambly and convoluted. i hope it makes sense because there's more rambling coming up...
sound is what gets to me. i think ardgedee and/or magick man touched on this earlier as well. which brings me to rap, hip-hop and metal. rap specifically has an attitude, a cadence and a repetitive nature that is an instant turn off for me. nevermind the derivative nature of sampling (i forgot to mention that i value musicianship and originality above all else). even so, when i do listen to the lyrics the subject matter is so far from my reality that i cannot identify with what they are saying. while i may sympathize with the social issues they bring up, i really don't care to come home and listen to it for pleasure. there are a few exceptions, although for the life of me i can't figure out why i like them, such as some michael franti, some woo tang clan songs and a handful of beasty boys songs. there have been others but i cannot say what they are as i only heard them once or in passing at a friend's house or in a movie and, even then, didn't like them enough to hunt them down to find out what they were. hip-hop on the other hand is more interesting to me. particularly the instrumental stuff and especially if it is jazz based (yes, i know someone will ding me on the derivative bit ). again, this does not mean i like all hip-hop. it only means i am more likely to find something appealing in that genre than in in rap. metal is easier to explain and follows a similar path as others in the thread have mentioned. i started listening to music in the 70's and basically grew up with the usual suspects: zeppelin, sabbath, deep purple, etc. hard rock back then, later acid rock and eventually metal. never did get into the harder stuff but my tastes will go so far as to include maiden, metallica and pantera but not priest or anthrax. i do like a track or two from slayer though. i also like other bands with a heavy, metal-ish sound that are not considered metal.
does this make sense? not until you step out of the fenced in area we call a genre. genres, like all labels, are useful in conversation when the need for generalization and/or abstraction arises. however, i don't feel it is very useful as a guide to what you may or may not like.
I want to push back at the notion of genres not being a useful jumping off point for discussion. It gives you a broad idea of what we're talking about, especially if you're not sharing videos. It's no guarantee of work being exactly the same, but it establishes parameters for discussion. I know that I don't like metal, for example. When I type that, there's a whole lot of information that gets conveyed. If someone says, "Hey, there's good Metal!" I won't disagree with them, but I know that the whole structure doesn't work for me. Note that I said, "I don't like metal." Not "Metal sucks."
That's the source of my defense of rap as a genre. People don't have to like it, but I think every genre, every band, even the ones that I don't care for, have their virtues that should be respected.
Except The Grateful Dead.