Recently, Forbes magazine released a list of America's most stressful, and stressed-out, cities. Houston came in third, behind Las Vegas and Los Angeles. We know, we thought it would be higher, too.
Forbes based its calculations on six factors that are either causes or effects of stress, and we're quoting: "High unemployment, long commute times, long work hours, limited access to health care, poor physical health and a lack of exercise." Houstonians, the magazine's Francesca Levy wrote, "work the longest hours of any city we ranked; an average of 41.2 hours per week."
Child's play. Where are these slackers working? Here at Rocks Off, we think Forbes may have overlooked one major stress-causing factor: Being forced to listen to music you don't like. That will drive you up the wall.
Duke Ellington said there are two kinds of music, good and bad. Of course everyone's tastes are subjective, but sooner or later everyone finds themselves in a situation where they have no control over what's coming out of the speakers. We asked several of our regular contributors what that might be, and where such situations are most likely to arise.
As for us, we can honestly say that the only kind of music that stresses us out is no music at all - utter and complete silence. Go figure.
Marc Brubaker: Once upon a recent time, whence I lived in the Montrose, Hot Mom Kroger was my grocery store of choice - that's the one on West Gray, for those of you not up to speed on your Kroger nicknames. [Disco, Combat, Zombie, etc.]
If there's ever been a selection of music that has truly stressed me out, I happened upon it without fail when shopping here while someone was playing live music near the floral section. It's true, and I can recall two separate "artists" that I chanced upon, both playing horrible lounge renditions of classic and modern pop/rock hits.
I've never wanted so badly to finish my grocery shopping as fast as possible. The sheer trite horror of the songs was too much for me to stomach. On more than one occasion I had ridden my scooter to the store and upon seeing the musicians I rejoiced - because I had my iPod and headphones with me to kill the pain.
I'd like to use this post as an official public call - on behalf of all of us - to Kroger to please, please quit booking these people who play songs that are going to result in a cleanup on aisle three after I puke next to the organic milks. All I want is to shop in peace.
On a similarly strange note: My Fiesta in Fifth Ward is frequently playing a smattering of modern indie music that's quite pleasurable, albeit I'm probably the only one in the store who perks up and makes note of a Jenny Lewis tune coming through the speakers.
Jef With One F: The music that most stresses me out is Katy Perry. She is everywhere, like God and death, and her music is the most awful sound heard on this planet since the death rattle of the last Tyrannosaur. Her lyrics reinforce a drunken, reality-show-based lifestyle that is slowly eating away the pre-frontal cortex of every American.
Also, acting the ho-bag because you didn't like mommy and daddy making you go to church is pathetic. She made Snoop Dogg look embarrassed, and I thought I'd see talking polar bears before I saw that.
Brittanie Shey: The music that stresses me out the most is mindless saccharine drivel. The kind of music where it sounds like the writer used a rhyming dictionary to come up with the lyrics. Or worse, groups like the Black Eyed Peas - and yes, I know they're easy whipping boys but there is an obvious reason for that - where every song contains the lyrics repeated 5-6 times because presumably they didn't have the wherewithal to write any more.
This started with "My Humps" (""Git git git you drunk/ Git you love drunk off my humps") but I see they've turned it into a "thing" after hearing "I Gotta Feeling" (tonight's gonna be a good night/ tonight's gonna be a good good night... ad nauseum) and "Meet Me Halfway" ("I spent my time just thinkin thinkin thinkin bout you/ Every single day yes, i'm really missin' missin' you/ And all those things we use to use to use to do").
It's like they couldn't fill the beat with enough words so they just resort to repeating themselves. They're, like, the antithesis of Eminem in turns of well-thought-out lyrical content. I'm kind of a pedant about lyrics, though. I'm always way more attracted to the words in a song that I am to the music.
Unfortunately, music like this is pretty much unescapable on the radio, at the grocery store and in places like The Galleria. I guess it's the equivalent to a trashy romance novel or a McDonald's cheeseburger or an action flick - it gives people something to consume without having to think too hard. But I like to think hard! I like to be challenged creatively and intellectually.
While we're on the subject of grocery stores, I have to say Fiesta has the best grocery-store music in Houston. They play, like, some satellite radio channel with deep cuts from the '50s and '60s. Last time I was there I heard "Pictures of Matchstick Men." I was rocking out in the wine aisle.
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John Seaborn Gray: Music that has been chopped and/or screwed stresses me out. It can actually give me motion sickness. It's slow, boring, unoriginal and pisses me off in every way. Worst of all, a couple of my friends who were stoners in high school loved it. They were either listening to Sublime or DJ Screw every time we hung out, and once they caught on that I actually liked Sublime, they switched to Screw in order to - naturally - screw with me.
And that was how I avoided becoming a pothead in high school.