[Help Help Hooray] The Age-Old Question of When to Throw Horns


Hype Hype Hooray is normally a go-to resource for philosophical analyses of popular music, but today it is Help Help Hooray, a go-to resource for music-related personal advice. Have a music-related problem you need help with? Email knoxroadblog@gmail.com!

I was at a Toro Y Moi show with my roommate, let’s call him “Dirk,” and right in the middle of “New Beat” where he breaks back into that synth lead like crazy, Dirk starts throwing horns in the air. I get that it’s a high energy moment, but I just feel like the horns don’t belong at a Toro Y Moi show, ya know? Should I sit him down and talk to him about it, or should I just forget about it? Help!

Help Out Right Now Soon!

This is a very tricky issue, HORNS. Throwing horns, or extending one’s index and pinky fingers while tucking the rest together, then thrusting that hand in the air, has roots that reach back into ancient superstition. “The Sign of the Horns,” aka “Devil Horns,” aka “mano cornuto,” was thought to ward off evil or else summon Satan or else imply cuckoldry. Like every other combination of raised and lowered fingers, it has several different meanings across cultures and over time.

In rock culture, the meaning of the horns is more vague. The sign’s first appearance is debatable. Gene Simmons, Ronnie James Dio, Ozzie Osbourne and even John Lennon have received credit for bringing the horns to rock ‘n’ roll. The horns gained popularity in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s at heavy metal and otherwise “hard” rock shows, but have since infiltrated shows of all genres, from Big & Rich to Britney Spears.

To throw horns or not to throw horns, that is certainly a big question at a show. On one hand live music is all about uninhibited freedom to enjoy the music, to let it flow through you and to truly experience it. On the other hand, it can be embarrassing for everyone when you’re the only person throwing double horns to Laura Veirs. It’s always best to test the temperature of the audience. If you start to feel that macho, fist-pumping energy that summons the horns, by all means throw them up. Just know that throwing unwarranted horns is a major concert faux pas. I won’t necessarily judge you but there are plenty of people, like you yourself, HORNS, who will.

Judging by your reaction, and the energy of the music, it sounds like your roommate did in fact throw inappropriate horns, HORNS. But let’s not judge too harshly, lest we wind up getting lost in the energy of a show and throwing unwarranted horns ourselves. It happens to the best of us.


My husband isn’t into the same music I am and it’s driving me crazy. I had to DRAG him to a Superchunk show and he just stood there with his arms crossed the whole time. Meanwhile I respectfully attend all of his Kenny Loggins concerts and even agree to eat at Maragitaville once a year. I feel like I should have married somebody with the same taste in music. This is tearing us apart! Help!!

Dying Every Aggravating Day Maybe A Regrettable Result In Already Getting Engaged

I’m so sorry to hear your troubles, DEAD MARRIAGE. This is a classic conundrum that has no clear solution. Look no further than High Fidelity for a perfect illustration of the conflict. In the 1995 novel, author Nick Hornsby writes: “It’s not what you like but what you are like that’s important.” In the 2000 film adaptation, John Cusak turns that quote on its head: “What really matters is what you like, not what you are like … Books, records, films — these things matter. Call me shallow but it’s the fuckin’ truth.”

My romantic side sides with Hornsby. I’d really like to think that two people with such opposing tastes in music could get along, but life experience tells me different. If I’m being honest, DEAD MARRIAGE, and I’m here to be honest, Cusak was right: These things matter.


I’m thinking about making this girl a mixtape, like a real actual cassette tape, and I have no idea where to start. I haven’t made a mix since I was, like, seven but I know she’s really into that stuff. So, uh, what do I do? 

My Idea’s eXceptionally Exceptionally Difficult

If there’s one thing I like to do, MIeXED, it’s dole out advice on making mixtapes for love. And, no, I’m not being facetious. I remember spending hours crafting a tape for my high school love. She gave me a hug and told me she didn’t have a cassette player. But since it sounds like your future love is into tapes, let me give you a few tips:

1. Listen to the lyrics
This should be a no-brainer, but know what your songs are saying. Don’t fall for the ironic “Good Riddance” trick. Use songs with lyrics that will be meaningful to her and to you and to the sort of relationship you want to have.

2. Use music she likes
Dear god, I can’t stress this enough. Don’t put a John Mayer track on the tape if she’s into Johnny Rotten. Find out what she likes, if you don’t know already, and carefully curate a tape she’ll legitimately enjoy listening to.

3. Make it flow
If you’re going to sit down and actually make a mixtape you need to think about how the thing will flow. Much like a band does in a studio, you need to think about transitions, how to open and close each side of the tape, when to burn and when to cool. Don’t go from “Electric Avenue” to “Jeremy” (actually, don’t use “Jeremy” at all).

4. Don’t be cheesy
Look, I know you’re making a tape for love but that doesn’t mean it has to be a love tape. You need to walk that line between a romantic gesture and a just a nice gesture. You’re not buying her flowers, you’re giving her something to keep forever and play again over the years. Nobody wants to return to the cutesy child-like romance once it’s gone. Keep it classy.

5. One song per artist
This is a bit persnickety, but it’s an age-old mixtape rule. The tape is supposed to be a varied collection of songs by different artists — a mix — so don’t go using six songs off “London Calling” because you can’t pick one. This is what makes mixtapes challenging, whittling down all your favorite songs to just a handful.

Best of luck to you, MIeXED! Even if she hates the tape, it will probably be the thought that counts.

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