Taste is subjective, musical taste even more so. But there are some musical sounds that polarise opinion far more than most. These are the noises that act as a barrier to entry; the sounds that may thrill fans, but are worse than fingernails on a blackboard for everyone else.
Fraser McAlpine has compiled a list of irksome instruments and annoying vocalisations that are either a blight upon music, or a wonderful garnish, depending on your point of view.
As with every item on this list, it's not the use of autotune - a production tool aimed at synthetically improving a voice so that it sings in tune - that is a problem in itself, it's the misuse. For every creative example of autotune as a production tool - Neil Brand explores how they made Believe by Cher in the clip above, or there's Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreak - and every singer whose vocal performance has been saved by a subtle lift here and there, there are a lot of pop songs in which the singer's voice has a frustratingly flat robotic grain to it.
Let's just leave this here and say no more about it:
2. The death growl
Part of the reason why metal has such a tough time on daytime radio is the aggression of the music, which makes it a poor choice for comfortable background listening. And the most nakedly aggressive sound in the metal arsenal is the death growl, that guttural grunt that obliterates all melody and sounds like Satan is throwing up and he hates it. It's a noise that only really works in that musical context (despite Future Islands's Samuel T. Herring using it rather well when playing Seasons (Waiting On You) live), or, as Slipknot's Corey Taylor proves above, as the roar of a monster in Doctor Who.
3. Slap bass
Slapping and popping - whereby you hit the bottom strings of a bass guitar with your thumb and then yank the top strings up with your fingertips - are oddly maligned techniques (as Mitch Benn found out in the Radio 4 documentary above), most closely associated with Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Mark King of Level 42. Never mind that slap bass is also an essential part of funk (see: Sly and the Family Stone), rockabilly and disco - three of music's wildest musical treats - or the interstitial moments in Seinfeld; as far as a great proportion of music fans are concerned, the slap bass is nothing but bullfrog burps and holding your guitar up under your armpit.
4. Vocal fry
That noise at the back of Britney Spears's throat, the lizard-like rasp, or creak, she uses to convey sensuality, toughness and experience, is the sound of her vocal fry register (as expertly dissected in this Radio 4 report). With excessive vocal fry in speech, words come out in a drawl with elongated and elasticated vowels, everything slurred together in a sardonic vibrato tic, as if a record playing on a turntable has had the power cut. On record, it can sound like someone trying too hard to convey emotion, or just plain insincere.
This clip from Radio 4 contains everything that, in this writer's opinion, is wrong with the modern use of ukuleles. They're not used to express new ideas that require a constant flow of high, unsustained notes from a tiny guitar. They're used as a basic, entry-level instrument that offers the illusion of stripping music back to its bare essentials, and encourages advertisers on YouTube to recreate old pop songs as if they were a) sad and b) terrible. George Formby's expressive frails and trills have not made a comeback, so we're often left with nothing but half-hearted strumming and a suffocating air of quirkiness.
6. Pre-song shout outs
Rappers and singers do like to introduce songs with some talking. It can be a request to make the headphones louder - a demand that is so common, particularly on Jay Z songs (see below), that it has its own acronym: TMHU, for "turn my headphones up" - or some kind of audible product placement from the production team who made the track. Done well, it can make a song seem like it is being created right there, in the moment, before your very ears. Done badly, it just sounds like poor treatment of recording engineers, especially as so many studios have personal headphone volume controls nowadays.
Melisma is the vocal technique that involves packing a sung syllable with more than one note. This can be anything from a brief and expressive warble around a melody to a full vocal firework display lasting several minutes. Expert practitioners include Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera and Mary J Blige, each one more than capable of wringing fresh new melodic possibilities out of a single lyrical moment. The trouble is, songs are about communication, and an overdose of melisma is like an exhausting chat where the person you're talking to keeps adding extra bits in the middle of their words, just to keep on talking.
8. The dubstep wob
Another victim of its own success, the dubstep wob is that overused judder that appears to be trying to shear the wheels off a song and throwing down liquidy splats to the left and right. It may have begun as a rarified taste within the DJ boxes of FWD>> (as Radio 1's Story of Dubstep explains above) but the startling success of Skrillex and his bro-horts in American EDM means that the wob has taken on a steroidal hugeness and become ubiquitous in pop music over the past few years. And, as with anything that constantly demands your attention, after a while it can become tiresome.
9. Pedal steel guitar
Country music is in a fine place at the moment, but like metal, the genre does suffer from an inbuilt sonic barrier to entry that some people really struggle to get past, namely the pedal steel. At least with bluegrass - a riot of banjos, mandolins and fiddles - you can kid yourself that you're listening to twangy folk music, but (despite what BJ Cole may have to say on the topic, above) the keening wail of the pedal steel is as country as a Tennessee blue yodel and that can be more that a little distracting for those who are not prepared to embrace their inner cowpoke.
10. Widdly-widdly guitar solos
As with slap bass, it can be argued that the faster a metal guitarist shreds - even incorporating the tricky techniques of finger-tapping and squealing harmonics like Eddie Van Halen - the fewer people are interested in what he (and it is most often a he) is doing. As St Vincent (no slouch in the guitar department) explains here, the key is to use the techniques to play something new and interesting, not win a shootout for the title of fastest fretboard in the west.