How Many Drugs Does It Take To Make Music Good?

I want to know how much pot you really have to smoke in order to listen to certain music.

Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of music and watching the way bands work. I’ve talked to a lot of musicians and artists like Neon Indian, Maldita Vecindad, Aterciopelados, Maleco Collective and I’ve been to the Latin Alternative Music Conference, Bonnaroo and Pitchfork. So I’ve been studying my music. I may know what I’m talking about, but you may disagree with me. Either way, I don’t really care.

I’ve been going to concerts and listening to a variety of music for years, but you know, there’s always that one artist or song that you listen to and you wonder, “What the hell were these people on when the made this?” Yeah, exactly. And I’m not talking about good stuff either. So I’m going to give you the low down on how you know something is good and delightful to your ears. This is all subjective, so you can apply this advice where you see fit. If you don’t feel music, that’s not your fault, it’s just not your style.

This is how you know it’s good music:

1. You don’t have to be stoned to feel stoned. You know what I mean. You flow with the vibe, you dance around because it’s good music and it gives you the energy that you’re looking for. Smokin’ pot should only enhance the goodness, not make it.

2. The band is rockin’ out (if you’re watching them live). If a band is standing still, it’s a no-go for me. I might as well be listening to your CD at home. Why did I just waste a good hour of my life listening to you? Doesn’t make any sense. But on the other hand, if they’re loving and feeling their music, you’re probably loving and feeling it too.

3. Ok, this one is kind of hard to figure out, but if you do research on the artist you like, you’ll be able to find this information: Does the band listen to music? Does the artist know where their music came from? These are very important questions. If the artist says something like, “Naw, I don’t keep up with music right now,” or something like “Who are they?” when you ask about another band, then they probably have music that sounds like everything else. An artist should know music; it’s their art. It’s their career. They should be able to listen to other artists and have influences because they can make music their own, not make music that sounds like everything else. In order to produce good work, you have to know what others are doing so as not to exactly mimic it. Diversity is the name of the game!

4. There must be something that sets the artist apart from every other artist that you have seen out there. Whether it’s vocals, drums, bass lines, guitar solos, synthesizers, anything! What sets your band apart from the other bands out there? Do you scream to your metal songs on key? Are you audible? Do your bass lines mimic that of blues bass lines but you play… I don’ t know… electronica?! Can you dance to it? Can you sing to it? Does it make you feel a certain way? For instance, I love the song “Is This It?” by the Strokes because of the bass line. Holy, hell. When it comes into the song, it makes you want to groove even though the song is kind of sad and mellow. That’s what I’m talking about.

5. The last way to know if the music you’re listening to is good… Can you explain it? If I can explain music to you, which most of the time I can, it’s not as good as if I say, “I can’t even begin to tell you. You HAVE to listen to it!” The music has to speak for itself. Chico Mann plays dance music. They have synthesizers, keyboards and percussion (acoustic and electronic). I can say, it’s electro-dance music with a little bit of freestyle digs, but that doesn’t explain it at all. You HAVE to listen to it. Or, old classic stuff like The Band, same deal. It’s folky, sometimes bluesy, sometimes rock, but you have to listen to it. Their bass lines are remarkable and the guitar can wail. But you HAVE to listen to it. Look it up.

Now, for the opposite. How you know if music is bad:

1. The song seems like it should have stopped two minutes ago, but it’s still going and it’s beginning to get repetitive. Some bands wish they could jam, but they can’t. All they do is play the same cord, note, even hit the same drum over and over again. That’s not original. Monkeys still do it.

2. You have to smoke more pot than you have in order to think what you’re listening to is remotely good. Or drink another beer in order to find the rhythm that you want to bounce your knee to.

3. While listening to the music, you struggle and strain to find something good about the music at all. So at the end, when someone says, “What did you think?” you don’t spew all over their shoes.

4. Do all the songs sound the same? Is it like the band found a magical equation that they stick to for every piece they put together? Yeah, NEXT!

5. If you can say, “They sound like ____, enough said,” I say you pass and go listen to something that SPEAKS FOR ITSELF.

That’s just my opinion on the whole shebang. There really is nothing to listening to good music. If you like it, you like it. Listening to music is the most subjective thing in the whole world. At least one of the most subjective things. You also have taste in books, analysis of literature and what’s ugly as some pretty subjective things. But for now, take my advice and use these 10 things to find out if you’re listening to good music.

Let me know how it goes.


  1. You ready?


    Taste in music is like your butt-cheeks: Divided.

    If its one thing that Ive said and its a rule that as a musician I live by is that a good musician (or music enthusiast) must like every kind of music. You need to be well rounded. But also we may be a bit harsh on saying that if an artist cant describe where their music came from they should be spanked. Many great artists cant explain to you how they do it or where it comes from it just does.

    I agree with a lot of what you said but I also think that there is no right or wrong way to approach it so long as you give it a chance. Because whether you like it or not that crappy band that you just heard might not do it for you but will for hundreds of other people so mind as well get used to its sound.

    Good blog. Very interesting.

    I love you. miss you, too.

  2. I feel cheated out of ten things about music. One of your notes about knowing bad music was the exact opposite of knowing good music. (pot)

    1. Does the music move you? That’s another way you know it’s good or not. As much as all those other things may or may not apply to what you’re listening to, the fact of the matter is, if you like it, you listen to it.

      Bad music? The complete opposite. If it doesn’t move you, don’t listen to it. There are plenty of other types of music out there for you to lay your ears on. Plus, opening up to new styles can really help broaden your horizons. Don’t be that kind of person that says, “I listen to everything except rap or country,” because the fact of the matter is, you probably don’t.

      I always thought, the broader the horizon in music, the more open-minded the person.

      1. if it doesnt move you dont listen to it??… some people dont know what moves them. they dont know what MOVE means in any sense of the word.

        you have to do your homework to know. listen to it. See what its all about and try to compare and match with other sounds and styles.


  3. “Move” can mean a variety of different things. To move can mean to inspire, to bring out an emotion, to take action, to relax… it can mean a lot of different things. I’m not just talking about Salsa music or anything that makes you literally move.

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