I was out with some friends the other night, and we stumbled upon a very interesting discussion. I won’t rehash our entire debate right now because I’d rather hear what some of you think on this topic. Basically, one friend was arguing – quite vehemently – that ‘good’ music is objective. There is good music and there is bad music, and they are – or should be – universal. In other words, Nickelback is ‘bad’ music regardless of whether or not someone likes it, or whether or not they are popular. If you like Nickelback, you like ‘bad’ music. End of discussion. It’s pretty darn convenient that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ music lines up perfectly with what he likes and doesn’t like, isn’t it? Almost like he just made up the categories himself… Which led me to defend my position that ‘good’ music is entirely subjective. Of course, because it was specifically focused on Nickelback as the example, I told him we had to pull back for a second… and examine what we mean by ‘good.’ I asked him for an example – he said Foo Fighters. I asked how they were any different than Nickelback. He did NOT like that! But in the entire history of music, Nickelback and Foo Fighters occupy the same extremely narrow space of music we call modern hard rock. The entire discussion felt very derivative after a while, and he never let up for a second that there is some sort of objective ‘good’ for music. In other words, for something to be objectively ‘good’ would mean that in any time, place, and with any peoples, it would be judged as ‘good.’ That there’s some sort of universal category of good music. It’s an age old philosophical debate – some have argued that there are natural, universal laws governing us (Locke, Hobbes, Hegel), and others have argued that there is no transcendent ground of knowledge or morality (Nietzsche). What say you? Is there such a thing as objectively ‘good’ music that is based on something other than personal preferences? Is ‘good’ even the right word? Or is ‘good’ music a subjective experience, infused with the zeitgeist, personal preferences, mood, situation, environment? Can a stronger case be made for the objectivity of 'good' music?