Millenials Aren't Corny: We Just Lack An Identity
Hey everyone, this is my response to the seemingly viral article about Millenials being "uncool."
I want to start by saying, I don't think Millenials are "uncool" but I do think we don't have an identity and that is problematic. Instead, I think we have taken the easy way out to showing our artistic identity. Many of us have been cookie cutter, we do what's cool to be heard, instead of taking the chance of being ourselves. It is not to discredit the fact that there are artists of our generation who are speaking the truth, but I do believe that there is an oversaturation of fluff that follows this cookie cutter trend that gives our generation the vibe that we are "uncool." You have rock musicians who look like Abercrombie models, bedroom pop artists who dress like Mac Demarco, and rappers who dress in the aesthetic of a european tumblr model. But can you blame us? Not exactly.
Aspiring Millennial musicians have taken the habit of mimicking what is getting attention. Instead of writing from our own experiences, we are writing to what is cool. This is not to dismiss the fact that there are musicians out there who are being honest. There are many musicians who are staying true to themselves. However there is a saturation of artists who are playing the game of trendiness for the sake of being heard. Why are they playing this game? I am not sure, maybe it's out of fear. Maybe it's because music has turned to a popularity contest. Or maybe I have completely missed the point. However, I think this trendiness is what causes some to believe that we are a "corny generation."
Very few of us are telling the story of our own struggles and pain. I must also clarify , not every artist needs to be in pain or struggle to create art. However, I do believe that in my time of being involved in the music scene, I hear less music that is sung with conviction and more that is sung with the desire to come off with the desire to be approved with the need of censoring the self. It's like I feel that I hear musicians who are hiding their true identity because they don't know how to accept the art that they can create.
In the word's of Max Bemis from his song Admit It, I am tired of attending shows with people who sing to a "set of standards and tastes that appear to be determined by an unseen panel of hipster judges." Generally I am saying the scene is suffering from cliched bullshit rules that no one understands and somehow we follow it, and we really shouldn't because that's killing our scene and suffocating our right to be an individual.
Not every artist needs to suffer, but I do believe every artist needs to be honest. Instead I believe that artists need to be more honest about who they are instead of following the trendiness that seems to be an unwritten rule that we don't need to follow. If you are from the suburbs and have a 4,0 GPA with no family or emotional problems and you love to sing, then sing your heart out. If you are a child who has suffered from pain, abuse, and addiction, then don't hide it, be who you are. I believe as listeners and performers we need to cultivate a society and generation of individuality to create our identity. Not a culture of mimicry and revivals.
I also think the author of this article missed the fact that there is art out there that is honest. There are tons of artists out there mainstream and underground who are telling their stories with out sacrificing their artistic integrity. Some examples include ;Kendrick Lamar, IIOI, Kevin Devine,Title Fight, Waxahatchee to name a few. Instead we are just following the trends and writing the same thing the next guy has heard. Which accounts for the countless number of flannel band rock and revival core style of music ( math core revival, emo core revival, etc etc). If anything I believe that we are lacking an identity as artists, and that is problematic.
As a 27 year old musician who has been playing the guitar for 9 years, my ears have grown tired of hearing the same old thing. Too many songs have the same titles, too many bands have similiar names. I think it's for the very reason I stated before, bands are afraid to be themselves, so then you develop a generation of musicians who are lost and afraid to take risks like musicians have done before. Seeing this trendiness happen, leads me to stop caring and listening to Kevin Devine's I Don't Care About Your Band.
In Devine's song he states in the first verse; "You were DIY, you were test-tube made, I wasn't biting either way." This lyric defines exactly how I feel about the current affairs of the massive music scene. We have an over-saturation of fluff, and records that do have meaning, are either ignored or people just simply miss the point all together.
Kendrick Lamar's TPAB was a record that discussed the realities of the struggle of an African American in an urban community. I have no way of assessing whether or not people have been able to understand the message behind that record, or any record of our time that has had meaningful depth. However, I do fear that our generation commonly misses the point of an artists messaging and instead of digesting a song based on it's meaning and quality, we are digesting music based on it's trendiness.
I am not entirely sure if that is unique to our generation. I believe that artists will never be able to convey the message they intend to convey based on how common folk digest it. As a result there will always be a disconnect between artists and people. At the same time, I think that leads to another problem that Millennials have...focus.
I believe in addition to following trendiness we have developed a race of aspiring musicians who are literally all over the place. Instead of sticking to one thing or one genre , you have musicians who are in 7 or 8 bands, spreading themselves thin into emotional exhaustion and burnout. I won't touch too harshly on this. But I think it goes back to lacking your own identity. Are you in 7 bands because it's fun? Do you think it's realistic? Is it because bigger bands are doing it too? Do you ever stop to think that those bigger bands focused on one band first and then they spread out to other projects? Ask yourself these questions, and think, maybe the commitments I am making don't agree with my goals an artist, just as the image you are portraying.
I am not a fan of cutting off Millenials, because we are still growing and we are still getting to know ourselves. However, I fear that as a whole our generation is becoming too cliched and cookie cutter. The 40s had jazz, the 50s had rock, the 60s and 70s had acid rock and The Beatles, 80s had the birth of punk and hip hop, the 90s had grunge, and what are we going to be? I don't know but we are doing a hell of a job at reviving things and losing ourselves in to the trends and that makes me sad. It's not to discount the thousands of artists out there that are staying true to themselves. I just fear that there is more art out there that is cliched than honest. I am not the judge of that, but it is my perception now and it's what I see and I am only limiting that to my perception which is so very narrow compared to the rest of this world.
For the artist trying to take a step of bravery to establish yourself. Be honest, don't spread yourself to wide with too many projects, and focus on one thing. Get really good at that thing, and be honest with yourself. Be a voice to your story and the story of others who have lived a life like you whether it be joy, pain, or misery. Just be yourself because that's all you can do.