Hyden Goes Klosterman On Us and It Works

Hyden Goes Klosterman On Us and It Works
Reviewer: 2bitmonkey
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Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me:
What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life
304 pages
May 17, 2016
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:

Music critic Steven Hyden explores nineteen music rivalries and what they say about life

I'm not sure how to classify this book, and I'm not sure that the author, Steven Hyden, would either. Hyden is a music journalist. He is not a pop culture writer who makes his living based on music expertise, a la Chuck Klosterman. As a music journalist I have always found him to be ... OK. I disagree with his critiques more often than I agree and I don't generally find the arguments compelling. However, in "Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me", I believe that Hyden may have found his sweet spot. This book is not music journalism, and I think that to even call it a music/philosophy book (as it seems to be pitched) is a stretch. I'd say that this book is half pop culture essays (loosely tied together based on the concept of music rivalries) and half memoir. In other words, it's a straight-up Klosterman. If that's your thing - and I fully admit that it's mine - I highly recommend this funny read.

Don't take my word for it - here's Klosterman's blurb: "Every serious argument about music is ultimately a non-musical manifesto--it's 10 percent about aesthetics, 40 percent about how the respective arguers view the world, and 50 percent about how those arguers view themselves. Steven Hyden lives inside this ratio and argues with himself, which means it's impossible to win. But that's what makes 'Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me' so fascinating: The title is real. He's funny, but he's not joking."

I love that last sentence - He's funny, but he's not joking. Isn't that what Klosterman himself does in nearly all of his work? He takes something that is ultimately trivial in the grand scheme of things (Saved By the Bell, the legacy of Kobe Bryant, etc.) and has an argument with himself whereupon he imports the utmost importance to the subject at hand, all the while making us laugh knowingly that this is all irrelevant. It isn't easy to interest your readers in something that is so irrelevant and make them feel like it is the most important thing they could be thinking out right now without tricking them. We're in on the joke while not realizing it's a joke. That's Klosterman's skill and what has made him such a prolific writer.

Hyden shows that skill here. Whether it be the highest level music rivalry - Beatles vs. Stones - or the lowest - Toby Keith vs. the Dixie Chicks perhaps - it's all just a cultural construct without real "meaning." Hyden knows this. Importantly, he doesn't hide this (except in the chapter about Biggie vs. Tupac, which gets a little too "real"). And yet he proceeds to discuss these rivalries as if they have real meaning and brings the reader into his world. For this reader, it's a fun world to be in. I hope Hyden writes more along these lines going forward.