I bought the new Outkast CDs last night via iTunes Music Store (currently in heavy rotation). While listening to one on the way to get a haircut earlier today, I realized that metal and hip-hop are polar opposites when it comes to the universal in-car head movement. When you’re in the car, you’re sitting down (hopefully), and your body movement is restricted by the seatbelt you’re wearing (hopefully). So, you’re left only with arms and head; regardless of what the arms do (hopefully not much, as it can be frightening to others), the head’s always going to be doing something if you’re listening to good music.
With metal, it’s heavy, chunky, angry, and only serves to justify or reinforce whatever pissed off feelings you have about the world. It’s all just yelling anyway. The testosterone kicks in eliciting the deep-seated cynicism and angst, and it feels good to release the pressure valve. So what do we do? We do the in-car head bob or mini-bang. The ventral neck muscles are the primary players, bringing the head down (in a chin-to-chest motion), as if in agreement with that song’s lyrics. More energy is expended in bringing the head down forcefully than is spent to raise it in preparation for the next mini-bang. And, it’s the chin-to-chest motion that punctuates the movement, often with a bit of a snap at the end.
With hip-hop, however, the opposite is true. Hip-hop, more times than not, provides lighter fare with regard to subject matter. Plus, it usually features catchier, dance-oriented hooks through an emphasized bassline or some other irresistable device. For sake of being redundant, good hip-hop just makes you want to dance. Being that you’re restrained from doing so, because you’re in the car, you can’t jump around like the idiot you are on an actual dance floor. So, you do the in-car, head-only jump. The dorsal neck muscles hook it up for you, in more of a “chinning up” motion, kind of a softer version of that “what’s up” nod guys give to other guys… only in a repetitive fashion. Being that hip-hop is, pretty much by definition, smoother than metal, there isn’t really a puncutation. It’s more of a fast-up, slow down at the end so as not to snap, and let gravity reset.
Hrm… it might be a good thing that I bought those Outkast CDs. Given the amount of metal I’ve been listening to lately, I’d hate for my neck to become frontally lopsided. “Frontally Lopsided”… a great band name.