Don Henley, drummer/singer/songwriter of the Eagles, one of the most loved and loathed bands ever, plays in Auckland on Thursday. So, it must be asked, are the Eagles good or are they bad? Madeleine Chapman argues the former.
There are very few things in life that make me genuinely mad. But the look of pure condescension and pity that white men over 30 give me whenever I say I like the Eagles is one of them. It’s a look that says, Oh she just doesn’t get it. One day when she’s older and wiser, she’ll understand. There’s a feeling of smugness that inhabits all those who openly hate the Eagles. As if in the case of this one band, opinions are invalid and it’s simply a matter of being right or wrong. It’s right to despise the Eagles. It’s wrong, and frankly embarrassing, to think anything else.
“Look, we all know the Eagles are objectively bad.”
My boss Dr. Duncan Greive, Professor of Bad Music, uttered this profoundly incorrect statement at last week’s editorial meeting. I’d just said that I’d be writing a defense of the Eagles in response to a take-down submission we received [which can be read here – Ed]. Everyone either laughed or groaned as if I said I’d be writing about the benefits of lead paint on kids toys. What a burden for all of them to be associated with someone who enjoys listening to the Eagles occasionally.
Objectively bad is not a thing that exists in almost any creative arena. Objectively good is also hard to pin down. It’s all a matter of opinion. My opinion is that the Eagles have great harmonies and songs that I like. Another of my opinions is that Bruno Mars writes bad lyrics and therefore I don’t like his music. My opinion isn’t better than anyone else’s. But, apparently everyone else’s opinion that the Eagles suck is better than mine.
And before you say that even The Dude from The Big Lebowski hated the Eagles, I already know and I love him for it. Because he said, “I hate the fucken Eagles, man”. He did not say “I hate the fucken Eagles, man, and so should you.” There’s a big difference.
My colleague Simon Wilson, a Man of the Arts, just told me that he and many men his age feel as though the Eagles ruined their childhood. Well, Simon, I will gladly look you in the eye (via this story) and say that if the Eagles were able to ruin your childhood I genuinely don’t know how you’ve managed to stay alive another 50 years.
Sometimes the world just decides to hate someone. There’s no meeting or group chat, it just happens. More often than not, this person hasn’t done anything horrifically bad, at least not in the grand scheme of things, but that’s not the point. It becomes cool to hate these people. Woke, even.
Currently, this group consists of Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, the entire cast and crew of La La Land, and Anne Hathaway. Recent history has seen Sally Field, Creed, and Kid Rock all baptised into this holy order before time gracefully phased them out and into oblivion. The Eagles have managed to remain as leaders of this group for forty years.
Which leads me to believe that half of the people who claim to hate the Eagles today just say so because their too-cool-for-soft-rock-I-only-listened-to-David-Bowie parents hated the Eagles. It’s the same as when a young rugby fan from Wellington hates the Crusaders because that’s who he’s supposed to hate. Or the whole of New Zealand deciding that hating Quade Cooper should still be a thing. There’s no logic besides if even my lame Dad hates them, they must be bad. And that would be totally fine if people weren’t so proud of their hate.
The enduring distaste for a middle-of-the-road band from the ’70s is indicative of the personality-by-hate phenomenon that has stormed in hand in hand with social media. A Twitter timeline is a curated feed of opinions and thoughts that you agree with. Somebody should be able to scroll through your timeline and figure out what you love and what you don’t love based on your tweets and retweets. But I scroll through people’s timelines and all I see is everything they hate. What you hate has become a way to present yourself to the world.
Hi, my name is Mary and I hate loud eaters, coriander, and white people.
But Mary, what do you love?
Some things are good to hate. Hating inequality sometimes leads to activism and change. Hate can be productive. But such strong negativity towards something so trivial as a band or a movie? It’s not cool or woke, it’s a waste of time and energy.
When founding Eagles member Glenn Frey passed away last year, the NY Daily News published an article with the headline “Glenn Frey’s death is sad, but the Eagles were a horrific band.” Nobody deserves that headline.
I love the Eagles because my older brother used to play their albums when I was growing up and we’d all sing along. I love the Eagles because I can’t sing well but listening to their five-part harmonies really makes me wish I could. I love the Eagles because they still sounded good in their sixties when I flew to Melbourne to see them in concert as a 15-year-old. I love the Eagles because who cares, they sing nice songs with no swearing that I can enjoy with my mum. I don’t need to defend my love of the Eagles, as much as people feel the need to attack it. But I do wonder what people get out of spitting hate at them. How about suggesting a band that you do like instead? Define yourself by the things and people you love, not those you hate. Or something deep like that.
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You can choose to never listen to the Eagles again. You can truly believe they were terrible people making boring music in a decade filled with ‘real’ rockers. Whenever you see me in person you can tell me, in great detail, why the Eagles are the worst band in history and why I’m an idiot for enjoying their music. But don’t you have anything better to do with your time?
Read Greg Pritchard’s provocation here.
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