January 4, 2022

Collapse of new pop music: Year-end charts dominated by previous years, as American empire enters decline geopolitically as well as culturally

A post from April last year noted that the "contemporary hit" radio stations were not playing much music from the current year, despite that being the sole raison d'etre of that radio format. If you wanted oldies, you would tune in to an oldies station -- not contemporary hits radio. In the comments, I left updates every few months noting the same pattern throughout the year.

As of 2021, there is no such thing as "contemporary" hits -- it's just 2020 and before, with only a handful of current-year songs that are quickly retired for good after a few weeks in rotation. If you listen to the music played in public spaces, it is also from 2020 at the latest, and generally the 2010s or earlier.

Even the libtards who control the music distribution industry are desperate to pretend that the entire Biden usurper interregnum is simply not happening, and we'll just make believe that, culturally at least, it's no later than the Trump era, whether you liked or hated it politically. That's why one of the few songs from 2021 that was allowed to go into heavy play throughout all of last year was "Driver's License" -- *the* breakout song of the year -- since it was released in early January, before the Biden usurper admin took office, and therefore technically a Trump-era song.

As teetering-on-the-brink as the climate and the culture were during Trump's term, it had not yet plunged into full-on irreparable collapse. That switch was only triggered once Biden took office, as most clearly signaled by the soaring inflation.

Aside from monitoring the contempo hit radio station playlists, now we have further confirmation of the collapse of the music industry in 2021 -- the Billboard year-end charts. Of the entries in the Hot 100 chart, merely 42 were released in 2021, a clear minority. Meanwhile, 51 were released in 2020, along with 4 from 2019, 1 way back in 2017, plus 2 Christmas revivals (from '94 and '58 originally).

It is normal for a handful of songs to carry over from the previous year, especially if they were released at the end of the previous year. But not a solid majority. And these were not just released at the tail-end of 2020, but all throughout 2020.

The only other year I know of where a majority of the year-end chart was songs from the previous year is 1985, whose charts were dominated by songs from 1984, as discussed here. I haven't done a fine-grained study of other years, but I've looked over these charts for over a decade, and no other year really jumps out as having been dominated by last year's songs.

At any rate, is the 2021 chart explainable like the 1985 chart is? No. First of all, there was a phase-change in the 15-year cultural excitement cycle in 1985, as the cycle switched from the manic phase of '80-'84 to the vulnerable phase of '85-'89. This is not just any old gear-shifting, but shifting from an invincible high to a crashing hangover. This was the difference between the New Wave half of the '80s and the slow & soft half of the '80s -- no contest.

But during the move from 2020 to '21, there was no phase-change, as both years are part of the restless warm-up phase of the cycle. And unlike the New Wave '80s, nobody is going to point to the songs from 2020 as some kind of recent peak in musical awesomeness, inevitably bound to overshadow whatever followed after them.

Also, in 1985 the contempo hit radio stations were in fact playing lots of that year's new releases, throughout the year, whereas in 2021 those stations play a few recent releases and then retire them immediately. The new releases of '85 lasted into the rest of the late '80s zeitgeist, whereas the new releases from '21 do not even last through '21, let alone the rest of the early 2020s.

* * *

There will be a few exceptions, like "Driver's License" and perhaps Olivia Rodrigo in general, but that is it. She is the very last dying breath of the moribund American empire's musical culture. The kind of wild and enduring cultural innovation that we saw in previous decades only comes from a people who are high in national cohesion (asabiya, or collective action potential), as they are fashioning their own group identity (ethnogenesis). The kind that could propel them into an expanding empire.

Now that the American empire is in clear terminal decline, the other things that stem from our formerly high levels of asabiya will also enter terminal decline. And nowhere is that more obvious than in music. The movie industry has been reduced to remakes and reboots, but at least those unoriginal new entries do something at the box office. New songs are not getting played and listened to, if they are getting made at all.

This dovetails with the national fragmentation and people not wanting to be part of a single, shared national culture. The days when Katy Perry and Taylor Swift united fans from both political parties are long gone, though it was only less than a decade ago. That's just another aspect of our asabiya stagnating for awhile, and has now begun plummeting off a cliff.

When was the last you ever heard of Babylonian scientific and artistic accomplishments? Don't get too smug -- that's going to be America's story in a few hundred years.

By the way, this is also why our national culture is more influenced by foreign peoples, who happen to lie within our geopolitical sphere of influence -- especially South Korea (K-Pop, and BTS specifically on the Billboard charts), and Japan (anime, video games, VTubers, e-girl fashion, etc.). We're running on fumes here in the imperial core -- anyone else out there in the Pentagon-occupied sphere got anything we can borrow for a quick fix of novelty?

Not to get all sacrilegious by comparing Christianity to anime and Nintendo, but it's not terribly different from the cultural influence of the Levant on Western Europe, as Jesus-following missionaries from the Roman-occupied Near East spread the gospel to the Roman-occupied regions of Europe, including the imperial core around Rome itself (but not the pagan north Germanic or Baltic tribes, who were unoccupied by Rome).

Of course, that extra-national cultural influence only began once the Roman Empire had entered terminal decline, during its Crisis of the Third Century. Hardly anyone in Roman Europe became a Jesus-follower during the Empire's peak and later stagnation periods of the 1st and 2nd centuries. However, once Roman literature began collapsing, at the same time the empire itself did, well, anyone out there on the periphery got anything we can borrow to fill the void?

* * *

Last year I showed that the popularity of rap music is a mirage, and that someone somewhere is cooking the books, tweaking formulas, or playing / downloading songs that no one is actually listening to from that genre. This was done over the course of the woke 2010s to boost representation of African-American culture in the national-level statistics and metrics -- but not the actual culture that actual Americans actually consume, just a bunch of white lies in a data spreadsheet. This was a symbolic fig-leaf to a neglected Democrat coalition group, rather than do anything for them materially.

"Digital song sales" is a far more reliable Billboard chart now, since it only measures the number of paid downloads for a song. The "faux representation" book-cookers have an infinite number of ways to tweak the formulas for the Hot 100 chart (which takes into account paid downloads, radio airplay, and streaming of various types).

And yet, even this illusory genre's hits in the 2021 year-end charts fit the same overall pattern, with loads of them having been released in 2020, including two of the highest entries -- "Go Crazy" by Chris Brown & Young Thug, and "What You Know Bout Love" by Pop Smoke. These songs reached #19 and #22 on the Hot 100 chart, despite not breaking into the top 75 Digital Song Sales chart, and neither hit #1 on the weekly Hot 100 chart.

Meanwhile, "Easy on Me" by superstar Adele, a new release in 2021, did not make it onto the Hot 100 year-end chart at all, despite being #1 on the weekly Hot 100 chart for fully 7 weeks (not to mention dominating multiple other weekly charts), and landing in the top 30 of the Digital Song Sales year-end chart, and her YouTube videos alone having reached into the hundreds of millions of views.

This kind of flagrant fakeness is the result of transforming the Hot 100 chart into the NYU admissions office of the music industry, where objective merit counts for little, and it's all about woke representation and reflection of Democrat party demographics (*not* the demographics of "society" as a whole, or else there would be a fake boost to country songs as well as rap). If you want to see how the songs scored on the music industry's SAT, go to the Digital Song Sales chart, or consult the contempo hit stations' "recently played" lists.

December 31, 2021

"Auld Helle Sytes"

This one goes out to those personas whose memories linger on, and who we continue to cherish, even if they're no longer "on here," wherever "here" may be these days.

Roissy, Udolpho, Alias Clio, and the GNXP crew from the blogosphere. The original cozy groypers from Twitter (including a very special fren, who miraculously came back from the Isle of the Banned). Not to mention the anti-woke left babes from Twitter -- Heather Habsburg, Caroline, and the most sorely missed of all, by all, Alison Balsam. (I should have titled the song "Alf Lang Syne" to better catch her attention...)

Don't be strangers forever. I don't mean toward me specifically, I mean toward your entire peeps in the online space in general.

Here's to the good ol' days, as we enter the New Year.

* * *

Should old account-frens stay logged off
And lurk like ghosts online
Should old account-frens stay logged off
From auld helle sytes

For auld helle sytes, anon
For auld helle sytes
A popping cork we'll type in chat
For auld helle sytes

December 28, 2021

When toys were their own world, not mass-media merch tie-ins

Looking back on the kinds of presents we Gen X-ers used to get for Christmas, birthdays, or just as a special treat for no greater reason, I'm struck by how uncoupled they were from the mass media / entertainment ecosystem.

To reiterate, there was a massive change with the Millennial generation, or rather with their helicopter parents, who locked them inside all day long during their developmental years, rationalizing it as keeping them safe from bad influences (AKA their neighbors and their neighborhood). Since kids need some kind of external stimulation and interaction, the helicopter parents decided to saturate their kids with mass media and entertainment products, which replaced connections to the outside physical and social world.

As a result, all Millennial experiences have been mediated through these devices and informational products, right up through the present and their online-connected devices that deliver (para)social media and streaming entertainment content. They only remember physical items from their childhood if they were closely connected in their memory to a mass-media product -- a TV show, movie, video game, omnipresent ad campaign, etc. See this recent post.

That includes physical items like toys -- Millennials only connected with toy lines that were heavily co-branded with a big-hit TV show, movie, video game, etc. For example, the X-Men figures that tied in with the popular X-Men cartoon of the early '90s, Power Rangers, Tickle-Me Elmo, Sonic the Hedgehog merch in various forms, and so on and so forth. There was only one notable exception -- Furby (unless Millennial kids played with Beanie Babies, which I think were mostly for Boomer collectors). I consider the Tamagotchi as a stand-alone video game, rather than a physical toy.

Certainly the '80s had no shortage of toy lines that were tie-ins to popular cartoons and movies -- Star Wars, He-Man, Thundercats, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, (the Real) Ghostbusters, and various others. Our memories of those toys are closely connected to our memories of the cartoons and movies.

However, those barely scratch the surface of toy-world and kid-life in the '80s, which was awash in all sorts of toy lines -- many of which were not derived from an existing, popular entertainment franchise.

In the appendix to this post, I've shown examples of quite a few that I remember off the top of my head, and stopped after awhile because there are simply too many to show pictures of: Starriors, Bone Age, Sectaurs, Supernaturals, Rock Lords, Crystar, Inhumanoids, Boglins, M.U.S.C.L.E., Madballs, and Computer Warriors. To list a few others that are not in the image appendix: Power Lords, Food Fighters, Barnyard Commandos, Mad Scientist (including "dissect an alien"), My Pet Monster... I really could go all day long!

Oh sure, the creators of the toys may have produced a limited-run cartoon that aired for two weeks, never went into re-runs or syndication, and was not seen or remembered by the kids because the cartoon was poorly made or boring or whatever. They may have even put a handful of commercials into rotation on TV. Maybe they made a 4-issue comic book series that no kid actually read (not the least because the comic book format was rapidly fading from importance for small kids during the '80s). And in several cases, there was no pre-existing or concurrent mass media tie-in at all -- just the toy line unto itself.

By and large, though, these toy lines were only known from actual visits by the kids to actual toy-stores and looking over the actual physical items for sale. All of the advertising and branding went into the package design. If the toy "did something," this was visually demonstrated in pictures on the packaging, perhaps with a caption to explain it. Since you hadn't seen such things on cartoons, movies, video games, or even commercials, you had to figure out from the packaging and the toy itself inside, whether it was worth buying or not.

That was the heyday for buying toys IRL, from the huge toy-store chains like Toys R Us and Children's Palace, to the smaller-scale chains like K-B Toys, to mid-market department stores like K-Mart and Woolworth's, all the way down to general closeout stores like Odd Lots (since rebranded as Big Lots).

If you wanted to know what was new in the toy market, you didn't bother watching hours of TV just to see a handful of toy commercials, nor did you watch hours of cartoons to see if their toys might be worth playing with. You simply had your parents drive you to Toys R Us, browse the selection, and compare the many many many wares on display. In other words, the purpose of a toy-store visit was not only to pick up an item that you already knew you wanted, but to learn about what all was available by browsing IRL (rather than learning this info through the mass media).

What difference did it make if you didn't recognize the toys on display from a cartoon, movie, commercial, etc.? Either it looked cool and fun, or it didn't. We judged them on their own toy-like merits, not their brand synergy with existing intellectual property franchises. Even without a hyped-up cartoon to relate it to, the toy had some special appeal that was apparent right there in the toy-store -- the translucent and geometric forms of the Crystar figures, Bone Age's dinosaur skeletons that could be reassembled into vehicles or buildings (borrowing from Lego blocks and Transformers), the horror hologram stickers on the Supernaturals, the gross-out feel of their skin and the try-it-in-the-package puppeteering of the Boglins, and so on and so forth.

No cartoons or commercials required! -- they could not hope to convey, palpably and immediately, what the items for sale in the store could so easily.

It wasn't even as though we balked at the toy lines that we didn't associate with a media property, but were more willing than Millennials to give such things a chance, to take a risk. We simply did not treat toys as derivative products from a primary media property like a cartoon. The toys themselves were primary and fundamental -- some of them happened to have counterparts in cartoon-world, and some of them happened not to, and we didn't think a second thought about those differences. Were they fun to play with, or not?

For the heavily mediatized experiences of Millennials, though, such toy lines were not really real. They were not the physical incarnation of characters from a favorite cartoon / movie / video game. So in a way, those toy-makers were just making shit up, lying and deceiving the kids. "That's not a real hero, he's not on TV or in a Nintendo game at all!" They would've felt like such toys were counterfeits, knockoffs, dimestore versions of the real deal (mass media merch).

This is not the difference between old-timey toys that were artisanally made and unbranded. The Gen-X toys were mass-produced by industrial factories, and were very heavily branded -- it's just that this branding often had nothing to do with mass media franchises, and the advertising was only the physical packaging, not a mass-mediated ad campaign. This is the only crucial difference -- do physical things belong to their own world, or do they only exist if they're extensions of a mass-media franchise?

And given how socially outgoing the '80s were, compared to the cocooning era of the '90s and after, kids didn't only have toy stores to find toys at. We checked out garage sales, second-hand stores, and the toy-boxes of our friends and same-age relatives. At that point, not even the packaging was there -- it was just you and the toy, and it resonated with you or it did not. I got quite a few of my favorite toys that way, and I never knew the name of the line they came from (let alone the specific individuals in my possession) until I investigated out of curiosity in adulthood. That could never appeal to the average Millennial, for whom these strange toys could not plug into an existing mediatized experience.

This also underscores the far more active imaginations that Gen X had (and still has), compared to Millennials. We didn't have to know the figure's name, what line they were from, what the intended narrative was around them, their character traits, relations to others, etc., as told in a cartoon, movie, or whatever. We would just make up the story-lines ourselves! It's not that hard.

Good guy and other good guy are friends, bad guy hurts one of the good guys, and the other good guy avenges him against the bad guy. Or one good guy betrays the other good guy, joins the bad guy, and now the remaining good guy has to take on two bad guys instead of one -- but he's so angry over the betrayal, it gives him a new motivation and determination to see it through.

Who could possibly care what their "real" names are, what their "real" roles are, and what the "real" plot-lines are? Who died and made some cartoon writer king? They're our toys, we'll make them do whatever we feel like. Lighten up, it's just action figures -- it's not committing sacrilege, as though we were making a Jesus toy betray the other disciple toys, instead of the Judas toy playing that role.

* * *

This example shows how different these toys as fundamental things-in-their-own-world are from "merch" of a mass media franchise. For merch, the form and function is basically the same as the version that is not branded with the relevant franchise -- either branded with some other franchise, or not at all. A t-shirt with a Sonic the Hedgehog picture on it is the same as a t-shirt with a Pokemon picture on it, or no picture at all. It's a t-shirt, and the branding is applied at the most superficial level, not changing the form or function of the item.

This was parodied in Spaceballs during the "moichendizing, moichendizing..." scene. It's not like "Spaceballs: the flamethrower" is different from the same flamethrower without the Spaceballs branding on it. But if you're a diehard member of the Spaceballs fandom, maybe you'll buy any old thing, as long as it has the Spaceballs branding on it.

The trend toward toys as an existing pop culture tie-in, and simply re-skinning the same underlying form, while also not changing its function, has reached its peak in the Funko pop phenomenon. The vinyl figures all look highly similar in their proportions (notably the big head), their material, and their function (to sit on a shelf as display items). Only the most superficial re-skinning work distinguishes the Harry Potter figure from the Shakira figure.

Not only are the figures highly interchangeable within the line, by this point the Funko pops are *the* sole popular toy line. "Should we make a toy for some media property?" has instead become "When do we make the Funko pop for that property?"

Back in the '80s, each toy line was different from the other -- He-Man figures were not built like Star Wars figures, whether in size, color, articulation, material, etc. "Toy" did not merely reduce to "He-Man or He-Man clone," one toy-form to rule them all, as today's toy-world reduces to Funko pops or clones.

But more than that, the various figures within a single toy line were all distinctive. Sure, they shared enough in common to be recognizable as belonging to the same line. But they had to be different enough to warrant buying all the figures -- if they were too similar, and only re-skinned, well, what does one add that the others do not? So just within the He-Man line, one was covered in a moss-like material, another had a stinky odor within the plastic it was made from, one had a heavy rubbery tail, while another had large translucent bee wings, one could spin his torso around indefinitely in a cyclone, while another was a reptile that could spit water from his mouth, and so on and so forth. No two were alike.

If the toy is a physical thing first and foremost, and interacts with other toys, in its own toy-world, then its particular physical form, material, actions, etc., all matter very much. It's why you buy that toy over another toy.

But if the toy is merely the physical incarnation of a character from a mass-media franchise, which has no physicality itself, then who cares what form it takes when incarnated? As long as it's a physical presence, whether to hold in your hand or display on your shelf, that's enough. It's just a space-taker-upper that reminds you of that character you saw in a cartoon, movie, video game, or whatever. It doesn't need to be made from a certain material, to have certain kinds of articulation, to perform certain special motions or actions, to come with its own accessories / weapons / etc., or to be paired with certain vehicles or playsets that recreate the specific environment of that cartoon, movie, or whatever.

In fact, it's not something you actually play with, by itself or interacting with other toys. It really is the purest form of the devolution of toys into merch, where the underlying forms are interchangeable and fungible and homogeneous, with only superficial branding applied to distinguish the different entries in the list. At Hot Topic, the wall o' Funko pops is no different from the wall o' band t-shirts -- all the same fundamental physical thing, just with different branding on the surface.

RIP toys, and physical stuff in general, victims of helicopter parenting and the exclusively mass-mediated experiences of the Millennial and Zoomer generations. I have a 13 year-old Gen Alpha nephew, and I don't see the tide turning with his generation either -- or rather, the generation that is parenting them (very late X-ers and early Millennials).

But like I always say, things move in cycles, however long the period may be. This isn't the first time that helicopter parenting has been the norm, cocooning the norm, and toys only as extensions of mass-media franchises.

Remember in A Christmas Story (set in the cocooning period of circa 1940, when helicopter parenting was also in vogue), the main toy in his life is a decoder ring? It's branded with, and relies on consuming, a popular mass-media franchise -- the radio program Little Orphan Annie. And what secret message does it send to its owners? Another form of mass-media content -- a commercial! "Remember to drink your Ovaltine". The other toy he's pining for -- a Red Ryder BB gun -- is also branded after a cowboy character from a popular Western-themed comic strip. That's a heavily mass-mediated experience of toys.

As Midcentury cocooning began going away during the '60s, and vanishing by the '80s, we didn't need to brand our most in-demand toy guns after popular media franchises. It spoke for itself, in pure toy-world terms -- "Lazer Tag".

* * *


December 25, 2021

"Somewhere in My Fren-feed" (Home Alone / groyper Christmas tribute)

To help keep the cozy spirit alive on Christmas, whether you're together with your loving family or living out a latter-day latchkey kid holiday as in Home Alone, here's a song to the tune of "Somewhere in My Memory" from that movie's soundtrack by John Williams (original lyrics here). Now adapted to the mostly-online existence of people these days, with a special tip of the hat to the original groypers (and to a special fren who was made an honorary groyper by them, hehe).

Like all people with normal good taste, I dislike most of those Midcentury Christmas song standards, and find them grating after weeks of constant playing in public. People in cocooning times just cannot stand a Christmas spirit that has any hint of solemn or sacred to it, which is why they leave out those from the same Midcentury period that depart from the campy, self-aware, low-energy, or schmaltzy, such as "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

As the socially outgoing / rising-crime phase of the cycle reached its peak during the '80s, though, they perfected the art of holiday-themed songs that were not religious, but still sounded solemn and sacred, resonating with a broad audience. The two greatest examples of that development both came from John Hughes movies. For Thanksgiving: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles ("Modigliani (Requiem Mass)" by Book of Love). And for Christmas: Home Alone ("Somewhere in My Memory").

Even the non-religious aspects of the holiday feel special, almost other-worldly, no matter if they're as down-to-earth and regular as the seasons changing. To imbue the lyrics with that elevated feeling, I've set them to the tune of the Home Alone song.

Pronunciation guide: two whole beats for "memes" and "dream" in the first verse. Stress shifts to the final syllable in "winning" at the end.

* * *

Santas in the videos
Cat snow angels in memes
Lazing 'round in nightclothes
Dreaming that New Year's chat dream

Cyber snowmen, blankie peepos
Avis changing winterly

Somewhere in my fren-feed
Crimmus groypers abounding
Living in my fren-feed
All the AGOO-ing, all gonna make it
All of the fandom, on here, winning

December 21, 2021

"Lifeline to the drowning" anthems by manic-phase births, to save others from hitting rock-bottom during vulnerable phase of excitement cycle

Back to the topic of the role of would-be Manic Pixie Dream Girls during the vulnerable phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, when their nursing-back-to-health services are not wanted while everybody is wallowing in a touch-me-not refractory state.

A recent post looked at a frustrated would-be MPDG, in Michelle Branch's song "All You Wanted" from the early 2000s vulnerable phase. It made me think that the manic-phase births like her perform some variation on the nursing-back-to-health theme during the vulnerable phase -- just not that of coaxing wary people out of their shells, as their signature role during the restless warm-up phase that follows.

That is, the resilient attitude that they acquired from imprinting on the zeitgeist of invincibility during their birth, in a manic phase, might be a lifelong trait that expresses itself in different ways, depending on what phase of the cycle they're in.

Another post has already shown how they lead a quasi-rebellion of carefree self-actualization during the manic phase -- not as mindless self-indulgence, but as a deserved vacation after tending to others' needs during the preceding restless phase, when they did their heavy lifting role as the MPDG proper.

Now I think I've finally figured out their role in the vulnerable phase. Everyone is too touch-me-not to accept her role as coaxing them out of their shells, encouraging them to achieve the most they can, and serve as a practice girlfriend in order for them to find true love by the end of their fleeting relationship. And it's just past the phase where everyone felt invincible, comfortable taking risks, interacting with others, and so on.

What is left to do, but send the message that this down-in-the-dumps doldrums, this social-emotional hangover, is not going to last forever -- and therefore, they should just try to ride it out, to believe that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Although you feel like you're drowning, do not let yourself sink to the bottom, because before too long, you'll be swimming back to shore. Just tread water for now.

To be dramatic, apropos of the emo vibe during the vulnerable phase, I'll call this role "throwing a lifeline to the drowning". It's not the same as commiseration, which does not presume an end to the suffering, and could easily be two co-dependent depressives remaining down-and-out together indefinitely. There has to be a silver lining / light at the end of the tunnel message. A reminder from someone who is seemingly not affected (or affected far less) by the refractory state.

It's as though they can breathe underwater and pass on some of their oxygen by mouth-to-mouth to the typical person who is barely treading water and whose lungs are starting to fill up with liquid. But it cannot rise to the level of an empowerment anthem, which assumes that they're in a normal healthy state, and just need a shove to accomplish great things. In this phase, she's just trying to keep them from drowning. The tone is only uplifting in the sense of helping them not hit rock-bottom -- not lifting them up to soar away on their own.

The person they're helping is not actually profoundly traumatized, they're just feeling a heightened level of anxiety, insecurity, and depression. These feelings stem from uncertainty -- what seems like unresolvable uncertainty -- and that in turn stems from social isolation. If they were socially and emotionally interacting with others, they would have a resolution to their uncertainty -- other people value them, like and love them, need them, and so on. But when they retreat into a refractory-state cocoon, this feedback from others vanishes, and they are left in a state of crippling uncertainty. So the would-be MPDG swoops in to deliver a clear, definitive message that they're worthy, and not to give up hope, as their anxiety etc. will eventually get better.

Related posts here, here, and here. Reminder that the physical profile is to establish that the MPDG is a corporeal rather than cerebral type, and that butt people are corporeal while boob people are cerebral. She is an earthly guardian angel, not a purely disembodied one.

* * *

"Que Sera, Sera" by Doris Day (1956)

The least emo of the anthems, since it was the 1950s and people were about as far from drowning as could be. There was New Deal collectivism rather than neoliberal atomization, and the 50-year political violence cycle was at a nadir (between peaks circa 1920 and 1970). Still, the cocooning-and-crime cycle was in a falling-crime / cocooning phase ("Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" alienation), and the second half of the '50s were a vulnerable phase of the excitement cycle.

To assuage the anxieties and insecurities of her Fifties audience, Doris Day delivers a message, not of fatalism, but rather not stewing in one's own doubts and depression, and that everything will work out well in the end.

As with all MPDGs, she was born during a manic phase (early '20s), and was an hourglass-shaped butt woman rather than boob woman.

"Lean on Me" by Bill Withers (1972)

Also during the New Deal era, though right at the peak of political violence and civil breakdown. Instead of inflaming those tensions further, Bill Withers (born during the manic phase of the late '30s) promoted solidarity and fellow-feeling, while also playing a role in the vulnerable phase of the excitement cycle to keep people from hitting rock-bottom. There's a light at the end of the tunnel because we're all here to help each other out with whatever problems we may encounter.

A close runner-up from the same phase is "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel (1970), both of whom are sad-boys born in the early '40s, not manic-phase births. There's something slightly off about this one compared to the others, though, in that it's not encouraging an inner-confidence in the listener, as a kind of pep talk. Its message of reassurance is that the singer will shield and protect the listener, who either will not have to give back in the same way, or does not need to find or cultivate that inner-confidence that the other songs encourage, like a motivational speech. So, perhaps sad-boys and sad-girls are good at commiserating, but not motivating others to find an inner strength that they might not be sure they actually have.

"I'll Be There" by the Jackson Five (1970) is another example from this phase, although more in the context of a bf / gf than a generalized motivational speaker, therapist, or nurse. Still, worth including. Three of the five are manic-phase births (early '50s), while two are sad-boys (late '50s). The two lead vocals are split evenly between a manic (Jermaine) and a vulnerable-phase birth (Michael).

"True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper (1986)

Now that we're getting solidly into the neoliberal era, and its collapse in collectivism, these anthems are going to get a lot more emo, as the audience finds itself in a far more precarious situation, no matter what phase of the excitement cycle they're in. That inclines them toward a hysterical response, compared to the more unflappable entries in the genre from the New Deal era.

Just a few years earlier, Cyndi Lauper had delivered the prime example of MPDG behavior during the manic phase -- the carefree self-actualizing anthem "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" (1983). But what a difference a few years make, when it crosses the phase boundary into the hangover of the second half of the '80s. And yet she couldn't keep her fundamentally resilient free-spirited nature from expressing itself, she only had to modulate it to cater to the new needs of an audience that was slumped over in a refractory state, and needed motivation not to let themselves go under for good.

She was born during a manic phase (early '50s), and was formed like the rest (hourglass butt woman).

It's really too bad she didn't have any big hits during the late '70s or the early '90s, which were restless warm-up phases that would have allowed her to play the role of an MPDG proper. Still, it's illuminating to see her perform iconic entries in different variations on the underlying MPDG theme. As far as I can tell, the only MPDG to shine through all three phases of the cycle is Avril Lavigne (more on her in another post).

"Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel from the same year is a close second for this phase. And like Cyndi Lauper, he's an early '50s birth. The featured singer in the chorus is Kate Bush, a sad-girl born in the late '50s, and I think it's her tone of commiseration, rather than leading and motivation, that makes this one sound halfway like "Bridge Over Troubled Water" from the sad-boy duo extraordinaire. Maybe it would have equaled "True Colors" as an anthem in this genre, if the featured chorus singer had been a more resilient manic-phase birth with a strong inner-confidence, for example Annie Lennox (early '50s birth). Kate Bush as the singer doesn't detract from its aesthetic merit, just saying that its inspirational role is not quite as powerful as "True Colors" for this reason.

"Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera (2002)

The trend of neoliberal atomization to produce hysterical and flailing responses to adversity is even more evident, and the MPDG's task all the more demanding to steady the audience's nerves and reassure them of their worthiness. This one relied the most on her branding outside of the song itself, to establish the "not like other girls" persona -- crucially the video, where she has multi-colored hair, facial piercings, and edgy clothing, unlike bubblegummy blonde peers like Jessica Simpson. Not to mention all the outcast groups showcased in the video. And this was just after the success of "Genie in a Bottle," whose title helped to establish her image as a social-emotional deus ex machina for a sad sack who needs some major help.

Christina Aguilera is a manic-phase birth (early '80s), and an hourglass butt woman, like the others.

"I Believe in You" by Kylie Minogue (2004) is a fairly distant second for this phase, but there's something about this genre that's unmistakably there. It's in a bf / gf context, like a disco-danceable take on "I'll Be There". And yet the ethereal vocals and synths keep this from sounding like any old bf / gf song, and lend a more universal sky-level point-of-view to the singer, as though she were a goddess or guardian angel. Of course, like the others she's an hourglass butt woman born during a manic phase (late '60s).

"Scars to Your Beautiful" by Alessia Cara (2016)

Not only has neoliberal atomization reached new lows by this point, but wokeness and civil breakdown have begun to accelerate toward a new peak (which would be reached circa 2020, rivaling the last peak circa 1970). That's why I've featured the official music video, with its insane levels of wokeness that interrupt the lyrics themselves -- as a reminder of how fucking emo the late 2010s vulnerable phase was. Easily the most hysterical micro-era since World War I / the late 1910s.

As a consequence of wokeness, this song explicitly only caters to half the population (girls), unlike its not-too-older relative "Beautiful," whose video made sure to include a scrawny straight white guy whose body dysmorphia was channeled into weightlifting and obsessive mirror-gazing. But then the Aguilera song was from a near nadir in the civil breakdown cycle.

Like the others, Alessia Cara is a manic-phase birth (late '90s), and an hourglass butt girl, unusually for someone of Eastern Med background (Calabria), who tend to be skinny boob women.

There are no second places or honorable mentions from the genre during this phase, due to the breakdown of not only civil relations -- which had also happened circa 1970 -- but of the American empire and its culture as a whole. American culture finally bit the dust in 2021. (An upcoming post will elaborate, but I have been cataloging this all year by looking at how "contemporary hit" radio stations have stopped playing songs from the current year, and are frozen in 2020 at the latest, but generally the 2010s and earlier.)

But even by the late 2010s, we had already felt a strong impression that the culture-makers were finished with making American culture, had minimal interest in appealing to a broad universal audience, and were going to simply go on an originality strike, and cope by serving an increasingly narrow provincial audience of libtard strivers.

Still, credit where it's due -- the Alessia Cara song is the final entry in this genre, as opposed to the total absence of entries that will characterize the indefinite future void of Anglosphere culture.

December 17, 2021

"Thank You For Being a Fren" (theme song to The Golden Groyps)

Another tribute to the cozy original groypers (not the spergy poser closet cases). Still seems appropriate for Christmastime, as an extension of Thanksgiving and the whole bundled-up by the fireplace with a cat napping on your lap season.

Not a direct participant in their scene, but impossible not to value even from observer status.

It's possible one of them has made this play on the theme song to the Golden Girls, but most of their accounts are suspended on Twitter, so it's hard to check and see. If they haven't, it would go great with their animated memes, since they resonate with that soft side of the '80s (the late '80s Weather Channel / New Age vibe).

Pronunciation guide: stress / extra length on "to" in the 5th line.

* * *

Thank you for being a fren
Held my hand when I got banned again
Your art's a hoot
You're a calmposting boss anon

You hollered to the froggies
Invited us for tea & tunes
In your feed, a cozy Christmas vid from me
And its soundtrack softly plays
"Thank You For Being a Fren"

December 16, 2021

Millennial childhood memories didn't record their own home, only what was on screens

Every year a post on Corningware or Corelle from the '50s - '70s does numbers on Twitter. Here is the latest one (h/t to Jack from TPN).

Those manufacturers kept making new patterns into the '80s and '90s, but I've never seen Millennials reminisce about them, the way Gen X-ers and Boomers do about the stuff they grew up with. (And have pieced back together in adulthood -- for me, that Corningware "spice of life" pattern shown in the tweet above [yep, I have that exact teapot], "butterfly gold" by Corelle, and "chablis" by Casual Elegance Hearthside. Nothing more cozy and familiar than these things, which you use every day.)

Maybe they don't like the '80s and '90s aesthetic per se, but I doubt it. I think they just got their minds warped by their helicopter parents sticking them in front of a screen all day long their whole lives. They didn't even notice the physical tangible items within their own household, unless it was also shown to them on a TV commercial or a Disney live-action movie.

Whereas we Gen X-ers remember all of that stuff from being plugged into real life, and in particular *other people's* lives, wandering from one home to another on a daily basis.

It can't be understated how Millennials' experiences of the world have been entirely mass-mediated, rather than derived from direct unmediated experience. See this recent post and the links to much older posts therein. Only in their 30s are they starting to venture out into the world and noticing what kinds of strange things are in it, that were never shown to them on TV, movies, video games, or internet memes.

So, they show no awareness of what the major visual tropes were, like plates and pots having salmon pink and teal green (or baby blue), or ducks and geese being put on everything. Contrast that to Gen X-ers who know that mushrooms were put on everything in the '70s, and that the yellow / orange / brown combination was everywhere.

Another example from household items -- you never hear Millennials talk about '90s furniture, even though it is highly distinctive. But Gen X-ers can easily tell you what '80s furniture or '70s or '60s furniture looked like, felt like, etc. Millennials had furniture in their homes, sat on it, slept on it, ate at it, all day, every day of their formative years. But it did not leave an impression in their memories because it wasn't sent through a screen.

The only exceptions there are things that were popular on a hit TV show, like "Woah, that looks like a Zack from Saved by the Bell blanket". Or, "This room looks like Clarissa Explains It All". It's not "My best friend had that exact blanket -- it's so '90s!" They never spent any time at other people's homes. But even their own home is a blank to them!

Sorry, but it's weird how no matter how much time I spend in thrift stores, I never see Millennials having a laugh about those over-the-top wacky patterns from '90s bedding and linens. They just walk right by them, not even a chuckle. You know which ones I'm talking about!

But these absolutely ubiquitous items, so unmistakably identified with kid-world during the American 1990s, just go right over their heads because they weren't prominently linked to a hit TV show, movie, etc. Contrast to every kid who grew up in the '70s talking about what their curtains, carpeting, etc. used to look like. You don't have to be a fan of it, or of furniture and home decor at all -- you just had to have experienced reality directly, because your parents let you roam freely, like natural human beings.

Since the '90s and 2000s have never received a proper revival in the mass media, Millennials and Zoomers cannot call up images of those decades as a whole, despite having lived through them. Whereas there has been a mass media revival or nostalgia for the '50s, '60s, '70s, and especially '80s -- so they can find something in a thrift store and say, "Wow, that teapot looks like it belongs in The Conjuring", or "That's such a Stranger Things shirt", or "Now there's a Mad Men chair..."

Common culture shared by all has died definitively since the usurper Biden stole his way into the White House. Common culture was already rocky during the 2010s, but was still unified and bipartisan. You didn't have to be left or right to be taking part in the ubiquitous '80s revival. Now, nobody wants to belong to a single national culture. So there will be no '90s or 2000s revival, like there was an '80s revival. No endless portrayals, with period accuracy, from media or entertainment. After all, a shared revival is still shared culture, even if it's not new culture.

And therefore, no way for the screen-mediated memories of post-X-er generations to identify everyday items from the '90s and after, even if they grew up with them in their own households.

To conclude, I have to emphasize that these have all been social changes, not technological ones. Their parents are the forces responsible for them having little contact with other households growing up, and for being stuck in front of screens within their own nuclear home. The TV set, VCR, computer monitor, and video game console, do not have agency of their own. They are just inanimate tools with no will of their own, employed by the parents to accomplish the goals of the parents -- keep kids from being contaminated by the dirty scary Outside World.

But being shut in all day, every day of a kid's life is not a sustainable situation. They're curious and need *some* kind of interaction with a place outside the home, and with people or other characters outside their home. Enter the mass media. Suddenly they can leave the environment and cast of characters from their own home, and get some outside stimulation. But in so doing, the helicopter parents have sewn their kids' eyes shut to even their own home, not to mention the rest of the real world, and programmed their kids' brains to equate what it shown through screens with reality.

It's not the nature or essence of these technological devices that has this effect. Gen X-ers grew up with radio, TV, movies, and video games -- but that was only a tiny slice of the sensory input for our developing brains, most of which was IRL and unmediated and social and outside the damn home. That's because our parents were different from those of Millennials and Zoomers. They had different goals, different styles of parenting, and therefore they used these devices differently on us -- letting them be there for occasional distraction, but not parking us in front of them all day, telling us that it was better than venturing outside the safety of home where there might be bad influences (AKA your neighbors and community).

Some time sooner than later, the young generation is going to start ditching the online media and living more of their lives unmediated and IRL. Maybe Gen Alpha, or the next after them. And in 10-20 years, young people will be making fun of the middle-aged geezers who are still stuck to their dorky handheld computers ("phones"), instead of doing anything real. That moment cannot come soon enough -- for the past decade, it's been nothing but the young generation scoffing at older people for being real instead of terminally online, as though that's the hip, cool, wild & crazy way to be a teenager or 20-something!

The natural order is for young people to live directly, and old people to be plugged into "their stories" on TV, after having acquired so much direct experience when they were growing up. But when Millennials get old -- in about five seconds -- they're going to be in the strange position of only being plugged into "their stories" (albeit online rather than via TV), but without having had all those direct experiences and memories from their formative years. An entire lifetime of existential void and abyss, caused entirely by their over-reactive helicopter parents.

However, since we've begun the rising-crime phase of the crime-and-cocooning cycle, I predict that the middle-aged Millennials and Zoomers are going to go total freak-out mode, in a desperate attempt to make up for their lost abyss of a youth. Exactly like the Silent Generation during the late '60s and '70s, whose youth was sheltered during the cocooning phase of the mid-'30s through the '50s. All of that weird stuff from the late '60s and '70s was by and for the Silents, not the Boomers (who were mere children at that time).

That's what happens when you shelter your kids -- prevent them from developing naturally, then they go totally off-the-wall in middle age. I wouldn't discount the chances of another acute divorce epidemic when Millennials and Zoomers hit middle age. Everyone knows they've basically never had sex as young people, and when they're 40, they're going to be bitter and try to make up for it -- plus the zeitgeist will be much more accommodating, since young people are going to get wilder in the coming decades, so middle-aged men will have willing young partners like they have not had since the '60, '70s, or '80s.

For the first time in awhile, the world's about to get a whole lot more lit, socially and not just economically or politically.

December 13, 2021

Vocal harmonies, dance, and cultural correlates of egalitarian economic eras

Checked out a Bee Gees greatest hits CD from the library and been playing it a lot the past couple weeks. It reminded me of this classic post of mine from 2013, back when I was one of the only people popularizing and doing original extensions of Peter Turchin's work on secular cycles and the structural-demographic model. I still basically am the only one.

Still, I've been more fascinated by the cultural correlates of the changing phases of political & economic cycles. Not that they're more important in some utilitarian, society-managing sense -- they're just more interesting.

Anyway, one of the clearest signals I found was close harmony in popular music vocals, linking all of the New Deal era together, and clearly separating it from the neoliberal afterward. After the inauguration of Reagan and Thatcher in the Anglosphere, the only popular groups to use close harmony were Bananarama in the '80s, and Wilson Phillips during their brief heyday of the early '90s. No single member of either group was clearly "the lead singer" or "the one poised for a solo career". But these two groups were the exception during the transition to neoliberalism.

After that, there were a handful of black girl-groups like En Vogue and SWV, but by that point the harmonies were occasional, and most of the vocals were from one girl at a time, moving from one to another. Still less hyper-competitive than one woman doing all the vocals as lead diva, but not as harmonious, as it were, compared to close harmonies throughout. By the y2k era, Destiny's Child was basically Beyonce and two back-up singers, and she quickly launched into a solo career.

A pattern I did not remark on in the OP is that close harmonies are more characteristic of the less pretentious genres -- pop, disco, dance in general. Far less common in rock, especially its harder forms, or any form of rap, which are more about the lead singer / MC who is there to let you know how much better he is than all the other pale imitations among his rivals.

I neglected to include ABBA in the list of harmonizing groups who kept the spirit alive in the '70s, and of course they were mostly a pop / disco group. And no, it's not because Scandinavians are genetically programmed to be more egalitarian (although they are), since their blood-cousins in the Nordic metal bands would never use close harmonies. And whatever Swedish rappers are out there, do not do so either.

That underscores how egalitarian of an environment a dance floor is, whether it's trad folk circle dances or mod neon disco. Sure, there's usually someone (like me) in that room who is the greatest dancer -- they'll even write songs about him (Sister Sledge). But that hierarchy doesn't rise to the level of a lead singer or lead guitar soloist at a stadium rock concert commanding the attention of 10s of thousands of fans. Dance clubs are way more down-to-earth, easy-going, we're all just as special as each other, kinds of places. What's there to be pretentiously hierarchical about? Lighten up -- it's just disco! Cut loose, have fun, and don't worry about someone else hogging all the attention. It's not going to happen.

Perhaps this is another reason why music critics love rock and rap, and hate anything danceable -- aside from the obvious, which is that critics are cerebral nerds who are tone-deaf, can't carry a tune, and have two left feet. They also want to lionize the god-like individual ubermensch, and egalitarian genres like dance, with their communitarian setting of a crowded local dance floor, are never going to produce that, while rock and rap does produce a pronounced hierarchy of gods vs. mere mortals.

It's also another hilarious example of libtards being the most enthusiastically Gilded Age and Ayn Randian in their aesthetic preferences. Nobody loves Victorian novels more than Democrats, and they were produced by a rising-inequality period. Indeed, they barely resonate with the literary output of the egalitarian periods on either side of the Gilded Age -- the Romantic era of 1780 to 1830, or the New Deal era of 1930 to 1980. Even today, they are more wedded to the cultural correlates of 1980 to present, than they are to the New Deal culture (aside from a few token gestures to Seventies Hollywood or French New Wave).

I don't think you have to reject the culture from a period whose economics you ostensibly abhor. Cultural works should be judged and appreciated on their own aesthetic merits. I'm just pointing out what is either a hilarious mismatch between which eras the left wants to work in vs. want to enjoy the culture of -- or to highlight that maybe today's left are barely concealed Victorians and neoliberals, *not* Romantics or New Dealers, and so their cultural sensibilities are entirely concordant with their anti-egalitarian, status-striving, Me Not Them, economic agendas.

At any rate, let's cleanse the palate with a reminder of what the tail-end of the New Deal sounded like, "Too Much Heaven" by the Bee Gees (1979). I was playing this while driving down the main drag through the city yesterday, and a cute girl in tight leggings saw random hot guy cruising slowly and decided to stop my car entirely by strutting her buns across the street, outside of a crosswalk (ooh, such a naughty girl...) That earned her a nice little OWW OWWWW! from the driver.

You may think that a slow or soft song clashes with catcalling, but there's nothing more appropriate than some soulful slow-dance music to get her in the mood for being pleasantly and playfully objectified. Today's tastemakers cannot tolerate catcalling, heterosexuality, dance music, dancing period (especially slow-dancing), and egalitarian social and economic outcomes. But to hell with their degenerate, boring, enervated crap.

Leave the pod, spit out the bugs, rip off the mask, catcall hot girls, and play harmonizing dance music for the masses.

December 12, 2021

Frustrated would-be Manic Pixie Dream Girls: Michelle Branch, "All You Wanted" (2001)

Let's return for a bit to the theme of what the would-be Manic Pixie Dream Girls are up to during the vulnerable phase of the 15-year excitement cycle -- when people are in a refractory state, do not want to be bothered, and therefore when the MPDG's services are generally unwelcome.

An earlier post looked at one who was doomed in her attempt at playing the role of the protag's earthly guardian angel. That suggests that the type of women who would be a MPDG in the proper phase of the cycle -- the restless warm-up phase, when people are coming out of their vulnerable-phase cocoons, but some are wary and need some coaxing -- feel an impulse to play that role, even when it's not meant to be, due to the refractory state that everyone else is in.

So perhaps being born during the manic phase of the cycle gives a person a lifelong mission to play that role, and sometimes they are broadly rejected, while other times they are broadly welcomed, depending on what phase of the cycle it currently is. Manic-phase births are resilient, having imprinted on a zeitgeist of invincibility, and aren't going to let a little wet-blanket atmosphere stop them from at least trying to be earthly guardian angels.

Here's another textbook case, albeit from music rather than movies: "All You Wanted" by Michelle Branch, from the early 2000s vulnerable phase. The guy she's addressing is down in the dumps, feeling lonely inside and all mixed-up from the chaos in his environment. Lest anyone get confused about her guardian angel role, the chorus puts it plainly: "If you want to / I can save you..." And there's that therapeutic bartender aspect again: "And all you wanted was somebody who cares".

Unfortunately, it's a vulnerable phase, so not only do they not end up together (which is typical for the MPDG and the sad-sack protag), but she doesn't get to motivate and inspire him to achieve the greatest things that he can, and find true love (with some other love interest). The song is more about the would-be MPDG's frustration of being a guardian angel in a world where no one wants to be saved, but rather left to suffer alone. Doomed just as much as the would-be MPDG from Frantic.

Like the actual MPDGs, though, she fits the profile. She's born in a manic phase (early '80s), hourglass shape, butt girl rather than boob girl, and taller than the average for a girl (5'6, although their heights have a wide variation).

I checked out her work from the late 2000s restless phase, when she could have realized her MPDG potential, but it didn't seem to pan out. Maybe because it was a side project (a country duo, the Wreckers), rather than her main singer-songwriter career, I don't know. Too bad.

At any rate, the line in the chorus about yearning to save someone makes me wonder about the whole "I can save him" meme. Wasn't that primarily during the late 2010s, that is, another vulnerable phase? If you want to save him, just go ahead and do it -- unless everyone's in a refractory state, and you feel doomed in your yearning to save him. I also wonder whether these girls were primarily manic-phase births, that is, born in the late '90s? Impossible to conduct a survey to verify, but I suspect my hunch is correct.

Those poor girls had imprinted on an invincible, resilient zeitgeist at birth, and when they're undergoing their second birth of adolescence at age 15, it's another invincible zeitgeist (early 2010s). Everything seems to be going so well! And then suddenly, when they're in college around age 20, their would-be bfs are all mopey and touch-me-not. If only she could snap him out of his funk, and cure what ails him...

But now, as of 2020, these late '90s babes (and any hold-outs from the early '80s cohort) can work their MPDG magic on the sad sacks of the world, and they will be welcomed with open arms rather than pushed away like they were five years ago.