April 30, 2010

Family values revolution spreads even to indie

Since the decline of wild times around 1991, the influence on culture from 15-24 year-olds has all but disappeared; now everything is for older adults and small children. Malls are no longer overrun with teenagers because they're holed up in their room. The mall instead caters to the needs of 25+ status-seekers -- Crate and Barrel, spas and salons, etc. -- and any tots they may have (Build-A-Bear). The top 10 box office draws have for a long time now focused more and more on children (Harry Potter) and older adults, with teen-oriented movies dropping out of view.

As a result, the culture has never been more asexual: everything is about the stages in life when you're too young to care about the birds and the bees, or when you've already gotten that messy business of finding a mate and making babies out of the way and it's now time to raise them right.

This is not because there is a wealth of great adolescent culture out there being suppressed by demographically more powerful grown-ups and their ankle-biters. Anyone with sense really would rather see a Harry Potter movie than Superbad, and would rather stroll through Barnes and Noble than putz around Hot Topic. Young people's cultural comparative advantage is in anything requiring wildness, so that when they become domesticated, they have nothing special to offer and vanish into the background.

As though pop music didn't sound juvenile enough already -- as opposed to the coming-of-age and reckless youth themes popular from the '60s through the '80s -- there's now a movement within indie to make music for small kids. (Even indie for adults sounds pretty kiddie to me.) Listen to the song samples at the NYT link; sounds pretty hokey. The acoustic folksy sound is trying too hard, and the lyrics about cotton candy at a baseball game and Mama taking off her ring because she's sad are too self-conscious. At least there's an attempt to not really patronize the children like you see with Barney or Dora the Explorer, but it still doesn't work. The zeitgeist just won't let music makers get into the right mindset. About the only pop music song for small kids that I liked as a kid was "NeverEnding Story" by Limahl.

In fact I'm glad there wasn't dedicated little-kid music when I was growing up because it made you yearn even more to join the cool older-kid age group -- you could just tell they were having a lot of fun with their music, whether it was your high school babysitter playing "Open Your Heart" on your tape player or your friend's older brother blasting Bon Jovi out of his van windows. Sure, as a pre-pubescent kid you don't really relate to the lyrics that much, but you can't help but feel the beat and get sucked into the melody. Plus once you get into third or fourth grade, you start paying attention to girls but are nervous about not appearing guyish enough in front of your friends. You're looking for some role model to say it's OK, just go with it and don't worry about their cooties. I mean hey, if Michael Hutchence likes girls, maybe they're not so bad after all...

Who are small children going to hear "I need you tonight" from these days? It breaks your heart thinking about how deprived their childhoods are going to be.

4 comments:

  1. "Plus once you get into third or fourth grade, you start paying attention to girls but are nervous about not appearing guyish enough in front of your friends. You're looking for some role model to say it's OK, just go with it and don't worry about their cooties. I mean hey, if Michael Hutchence likes girls, maybe they're not so bad after all..."


    Fourth grade, definitely. By the fifth grade, everyone is, and by the sixth grade you all admit it to each other.
    By the seventh grade, you can hardly get it off your mind and you wish they'd stop being so hot so you could actually focus on your schoolwork.

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  2. Off-topic, but thought you might be interested in this on cyclical reactions in music, from Rush to Nirvana.

    And something I should have linked before, on awareness at the time that the 80s was wild: Kids of the 80s. If instead there had been "Kids of the 90s" would people have found that odd?

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  3. Killing Joke also had a song about the '80s. As far as I know, there was no song about how turbulent the '90s were, let alone the 2000s. Nor was there a hit song about how great they were either. Prince's song "1999" came out in 1982.

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  4. NutUpOrShutUp5/6/10, 10:25 PM

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1oyfG6t2ew

    This is the Killing Joke song your talking about Agnostic. I think Nirvana ripped them off.

    ReplyDelete

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