Hipster-bashing is in.
Everybody’s doing it. With the same frequency that cavalier children in 2006 called each other “retarded,” we throw around the word hipster. Obviously, hipster is not as grossly insensitive. You can certainly choose to be hipster if you’re so inclined … All right. We’re off to a good start.
I’m not here to defend these people of woven beards, with their couscous, vinyl, and hats made of flannel. If, however, we divorce them from their caricatures, hipsters represent the very human desire to be different, to possess a sense of individuality. Certainly one’s privilege, upbringing, and social surroundings dictate a piece of his or her composition, but now more than ever is culture widely, and often freely, available for intake. Since Gutenberg revolutionized writing by substituting print for panini, art, music, and literature have become increasingly egalitarian. In terms of music, we have Spotify, YouTube, and all sorts of illegal methods that get us what we want at the exact moment we want it. The Internet is your parent, and when you ask for a pony, it gives you a unicorn. Everything in your wildest, childish dreams is yours.
In the face of such endless entertainment, it seems rather wasteful that we have relegated our selection to 100 Commandments, the fluctuating pile of hurricane-refuse that Billboard carries down from the Mount every week. Pin me to a cross and call me “I Am” (no one ever uses “I Am” anymore, which is why it makes me cool), but we are wasting this privilege of infinity by conforming to a set of strictures that would make even the Pharisees go, “Oy, is this superficial.”
Pop. It’s initially a very satisfying sound. Pinch a piece of bubble-wrap: pop. That was fun. Another three and a half minutes of UPS-amusement go by, and your roommates are ready to throw you out of a closed window. What’s surprising is that the people who would have you defenestrated for innocently playing with packaging are the very same people who “throw down” to the same lineup of songs weekend after weekend. The setlist is loyally consistent: some iteration of T-Swift, a deified instantiation of the Form of Beyonce, the nearly obsolete “Turn Down For What” to liven things up in the middle, and either “I Want It That Way” or “Mr. Brightside” as the token throwback jam. What a time to be alive.
“Just enjoy the music, you pompous non-self-identifying h—ster,” one might yell at this piece of inanimate writing. This is where I feel I should state that I do not want to abolish pop music nor the Billboard from whence it came. I’m in no rush to draft up the Emancipation Poplimation; The Magna Can-We-Play-Bon-Iver-Deep-Tracks; The Declaration of Indie Penchants.
That’s it. That’s all I have.
In truth, pop music is a necessary evil, immensely important to maintaining a sense of community within a generation of people who feel quite detached from one another. Let’s, for a moment, assume that you have not cocooned yourself in nest of obscure bands, and that you actually participate in the cultural zeitgeist enough to know that “Uptown Funk” is a song and not a genre. When we go to parties, especially for the more introverted and less forward among us, pop music offers a collective social consciousness in which everyone can participate, a pool of equal opportunity. The water may be tepid, but at least we all know how to swim.
Listening to and learning pop music is easy and offers immediate reward. In a room of foreign faces, being able to shout at a stranger, “I don’t f—k with you!!!” is very satisfying, and it binds people together in a community, albeit a mostly superficial one.
In fact, I’m not convinced anyone actually likes these songs. Rather, it’s the fact that we know these songs that inspires excitement. When “Gas Pedal” comes on, minds are lost, and yelling erupts, but after the first verse and chorus, no one knows the words, nor do they care to inquire into the lyricism of Sage the Gemini. The beat becomes trite, and the crowd, restless. That is really all parties have become, waiting for the next song to start—a summation of the beginning of 25 anthems, and each respective three remaining minutes of milling around. Skips are welcomed.
But this is how it has to be, the greatest good for the most people, the pulse of the party that spikes and flatlines according to the crossing of a threshold. Parties are no time for music discovery. Flourishes of Dream Theater or the sweeping melodrama of Death Cab for Cutie would usher in clouds over a parade that has for years been baking in the sun. A cooling rain, if considered, would perhaps come as welcomed and deeply appreciated, but the procession has for too long been in march-step to consider an aberration anything other than a bummer. So let us don the Red, eat our equally proportioned biscuits, and raise the hammer and sickle: 20-Somethings Of the World, Unite!
Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic