The whole idea of New Years Resolutions is admittedly a bit silly- every person should be striving to change and grow all of the time, so trying to compile all of your hopes for the year into a list on January 1st doesn't necessarily set us off into a successful direction.
With that being said, there are changes the music-listening community can strive to make to foster a healthier environment for everyone involved. We've compiled a list of how to be a great music fan in 2017!
5. Revisit music you didn't like 5 years ago.
Whether you notice or not, your music taste is constantly changing. As much as every Aphex Twin or Marcel Dettmann fan wants to act like they've always enjoyed underground music (we all have that friend), can we all just admit that there was a time (at the very least in our youth) where we all may have enjoyed a little Avril Lavigne? It's all part of the growth process and it's okay to admit your shitty musical history.
In 2017, go find an album you may not have enjoyed or overlooked in the past, or look at artists that may not be active anymore and explore their discography. Maybe your favorite artist has cited a couple of influences and you never quite understood why. It might be time to revisit these musicians and try to understand. You'll honestly be surprised by what you find!
With that being said, your favorite producer is also doing this, and just know that musicians are learning to grow and make music in different ways all of the time; you may not be on the same path forever. Know that they are growing while you are, and be open to their changes!
4. Learn about the history of music... and listen to music outside of Western genres!
Music can feel extremely throwaway, but how and why we are the way we are is an important part of understanding music. Even if you hated history class back in school, try picking up a book or watch a documentary about the history of music. Netflix recently uploaded the documentary series Hip Hop Evolution for rap and hip hop fans, or you can always check out Can't Stop Won't Stop, a great book from Jeff Chang. If you're more into electronic music, try out The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America by Michaelangelo Matos. Movies like Human Traffic, although not entirely just about music, bring forth a lot of light on some 90's/early 2000's electronic history. The Netflix Music subgenre page alone is a great place to start for those bored nights in.
Also, in learning about history, take time to listen to music outside of the Western world. If you have any friends from abroad, ask them to make a playlist for you of their biggest musical artists. Take a stab at learning about music from India, Japan, Korea, Brazil... If you don't have friends all around the world, a site like Radiooooo might be a good place to start!
3. Take time to learn how complex music can be.
If you're a passionate music fan, this one is a biggie. I'll be honest, it's incredibly easy to judge a track or a mix and point out where the imperfections are, but my writing career took a whole other turn when I bought some DJ equipment and tried out Logic and Ableton for the first time. I understood something more about music that I couldn't understand just as a listener. I became less critical, and my writing took on a more constructive tone. While my talents won't reach professional status anytime soon, I learned a lot about songwriting and became that much better as a music writer when I took a stab at learning things from the other perspective.
Of course, not everyone will have access to DJ-equipment or production software, but it doesn't have to be just that. Pick up a pen and write some lyrics and take a chance at singing or rapping. Even going to karaoke with friends helped me realize how difficult singing was once I had to take the lead on it. Understanding the creation process of a song brings that much more appreciation to the art.
2. Commit to listening to an album in its entirety without shuffling. (Also, don't read a review before you've formed your own opinion!)
This goes back to how fast-moving music is these days. Singles reign the chart and albums are quickly dissected for its parts, rather than as a whole. Take time to listen to albums in full, and no shuffling or skipping! It's a form of respect to the artist who created the record and for yourself, because this is your time to listen to music and do nothing else. Think of it like going to the cinema - no texting, no nothing. Sit down with a good pillow to relax your back and dive in.
Also, stop reading reviews before you check out the album for yourself. It's been proven just how powerful words can be. It's okay to have an unpopular opinion, and don't ever let anyone tell you how you're supposed to feel about art. Some of my favorite albums of all time are considered relatively average on Pitchfork's scale, so don't worry about it, just enjoy what you want and dive into it as much as possible. Reviews are there to be a conversation between two listeners, not to be a standard for how everyone is supposed to feel about something.
1. Listen to music objectively.
This one is the most important because in this digital age we see more of an artist's personality ever. Artists like Kanye West have a hard time staying out of the spotlight for reasons other than their music, and it can make listening to a project like The Life of Pablo difficult to get through without a million different thoughts about the artist himself getting in the way.
Art should be separate from the fame and the noise that the person involved might bring into their personal life. Try thinking of each album as separate from the person while you're consuming their music. We owe it to the artist to try to understand their work as an artistic endeavor, and not just as an extension of the creator. If West's outlandish behavior has stopped you from appreciating the amazing work DJ DS and Metro Boomin (among so many others) brought to the production side, you've certainly missed out. On the other hand, West's lack of creativity in his own lyrics should be mentioned just as much... but of course, don't listen to what I have to say about this!
Drama sells in the entertainment business, but you yourself might miss out by bringing it into the art, and for 2017, try and focus on the work alone. It'll make our community that much better when we can look at work more objectively. It's damn hard, but it can truly be worth it.