About 18 months ago, I went to an Interpol gig. The audience was predominantly male, and a couple of guys there commented to me that Interpol wasn’t particularly ‘girly’ music. ‘Girly’ music, apparently, means James Blunt.
Now, music is an integral part of The Syndrome Diaries, my current work-in-progress. The main characters’ lives are heavily coloured by music in various ways, and references to songs appear through the novel as an important element of scene-setting and to provide shared culture to reinforce relationships.
The novel is probably best described as mainstream women’s fiction, yet when I’ve read passages out to writers’ groups, there’s been an instant, strong response from the men to the music references (which are more Interpol than James Blunt).
Some informal research in a music psychology class I was co-teaching demonstrated how difficult it can be to ascribe lists of favourite pieces of music to one sex or the other. Another of my research projects suggested that middle-aged women are often partial to heavy metal music when they work out at the gym, yet they probably wouldn’t be considered the target market for that style.
So, is there really such a thing as ‘girls’ music’ and ‘boys’ music’? And, if so, should I compel my heroine to listen to James Blunt? She’s really more an Interpol kind of person. Do I risk alienating readers with the wrong music?