What McDonalds, Bud Light, and Taylor Swift Tell us about Human Nature

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The strange balance of familiarity and contempt

by Xerxes Praetorius Horde

***This blog article was inspired by a suggestion from our fan community – in fact, it practically wrote itself once I had the right angle to introduce it***

I week ago I got to spend 8 agonizing hours in the West Edmonton Mall (Alberta, Canada), famous for its massive indoor amusement park and waterslides. While it is massive, I’m sure there are other places in North America now that are similar in size although in the 80’s it was certainly one of the biggest such places in the world.

In addition to these attractions, there are several dozen places you can eat. Every recognizable name in fast food along with some more interesting independent places and an entire wing of the mall known as “Bourbon Street” containing full-sized restaurants and pubs, some with live entertainment (I have fond memories of New Jacobin Club stumbling from pub to pub on Bourbon Street during an Edmonton stop in the 90’s)

There was what appeared to be a small family owned Mexican food stop, several kebab vendors, a couple vegetarian/vegan restaurants, and some great looking burger places. There was a place in one food court that sold Hawaiian poke (raw or cold fish dishes) and another that specialized in grilled cheese sandwiches.

I happily bought 4 tacos (2 beef, 2 pork) from the authentic looking Mexican food vendor. The corn tortilla shells were hand made, and they had three homemade salsa piquantes you could try. The tacos were garnished with radishes, avocado slivers and pickled vegetables. I was in flavour heaven.

I didn’t need to stand in line to get my food. But there were people who obviously thought that McDonalds was the only safe food in the mall to consume, and the line-up to the counter was actually so long you pretty much had to elbow your way through it to get by it. There was no line up for the Hawaiian fish place, no line up for shawarma, almost no line ups anywhere else.

Why, why, why…. Is there no McDonalds where you live?

Are you from the goddamn moon? Have your taste buds still not matured past those of a 7 year old?

It made me remember our UK tour manager Spike commenting on how much  we liked the English pub food and British ales. He’d observed some American bands on tour refuse to eat anywhere other than the familiar fast food chain restaurants they were used to.

I realized there are two universal truths about human nature when it comes to what we like and what we don’t – and although they are perfect opposites, they are both true.

1. We love that which is familiar

2. Familiarity breeds contempt

Ask any busy North American nightclub what their best selling beer is. They could have two dozen different ales, stouts, and lagers on tap and still they are likely to tell you Bud Light (or something similar) outsells them all.

Likewise, it is a well documented fact that on streaming music platforms (such as Spotify), less than 5% of all the music available accounts for over 90% of all music listened to. That means that no matter HOW MANY brilliant and exciting new bands there are to discover, no matter how well Spotify recommends new artists that you may love (and I think it does a good job!), the average listener  STILL listen to MORE Taylor Swift than anything else.  Taylor is a talented woman,  but make no mistake… there is an army of image consultants, songwriters, stage coaches (a couple of whom we’ve even met) and career managers making SURE that she lives up to the expectations of familiarity.

And for most that familiarity is a comfort… but perhaps for you it breeds contempt. It is certainly true that we tire of seeing the same faces and hearing the same hooks over and over again, so much so that it can bring about a visceral reaction to all that is commonplace  and mundane. Since you are reading my blog,  it is more than likely you probably fall into the latter category. What do you think?

We recently reached out to our fan community about band blog topics they’d like to see.

It was suggested more than once that an interesting thing we could share with our fans  would be which mainstream artists we secretly love.

What artists are the familiar McDonald’s cheeseburger to the New Jacobin Club? What are the secret guilty pleasures of our musical diet? I thought this was a fair question.

Here we go with a few…

Poison Candi grew up listening to this greasy piece of Canadiana –

The Guess Who – The Greatest of (1977)

My bandmates know of my obsessions with this artist, but now you do to. Yes, The Horde REALLY loves Corey Hart, this album in particular (and another fine Canadian artist…)

Corey Hart – Boy in the Box (1985)

Our barbaric and menacing percussionist RatKing revealed this one when asked about favourite mainstream pop artists… although he openly admitted that the strength of the album really was the title track…

Lionel Richie – Dancing on the Ceiling (1986)

The NJC’s cellist Luminous had no problem naming this album right away –

Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005)

Mistress Nagini is a fan of the golden age of disco

ABBA – Voulez-Vous (1979)

The Ruin, our rocksteady bassist claims to love “pretty much every Coldplay album ever” 

And last but not least, both Candi and Nagini admit to secretly enjoying this one..

Spice Girls – Spice World (1997)

Thanks for reading, and thank you to EVERYONE who has emailed us with blog ideas this year – it was a fun article to assemble! Please SHARE & leave a comment, what is YOUR favourite mainstream album or artist? What other ridiculous secrets should we reveal here in future blogs?




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