Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fight This Generation

As I get older, I find I'm more prone to griping about "kids these days." It's not that I have this burning desire to yell at kids to get off my lawn, but there are definitely generational differences that jump out at me.

The one sticking in my proverbial craw at this particular point in time has to do with context. Not just having a thorough knowledge of what's going on right now, but what came before you. Seems to me that a lot of the young'uns don't know and don't really care about what happened in the past, whether that past is 100, 20, 10 or even five years ago. Part of this is reflected in blank stares if you make a cultural reference more than a year old, but especially in music, there's an out-and-out ignorance of the music of previous generations.

My ire was provoked by an NPR blog post that ran last week in which an intern reviewed an album he had never heard before, Public Enemy's 1988 hip-hop classic It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Now I don't begrudge the kid for not having heard it; the album came out before he was born. And I guess that's the point of the post, to get the perspective of a kid who isn't a so-called expert. But holy crap, the guy has no reference points to judge the album on other than to say that Drake rules and Chuck D sounds weird. And if that's his opinion, more power to him, but it illustrates my point.

[Begin old guy rant] I don't necessarily blame this kid, because it's a societal thing, but his review really bums me out. Our society is so overloaded with stimuli these days coming at us through smartphones, computers, TV, etc., that it's a tough task to keep up with what's happening right now, let alone what happened 20 years ago.

Growing up, I listened to plenty of new music, but I also knew about bands that came out when I was a baby (or before I was born) like the Beatles, Stones, the Who, Zeppelin. I didn't get into them until I was 11 or 12, but when I found out about them, I dove in. And it wasn't as easy to access the music or do the research back in the late '70s/early '80s. You'd hear bands on the radio, but you had to buy the records or read books or magazines to get any information about artists. Now you can stream just about any band's music on Spotify or YouTube and get plenty of opinions (as well as facts) about an artist before you ever spend any money (if you do at all).

But if you point out the ignorance displayed by this kid and others, you're usually met with a shrug because nobody gives a rat's arse about some old farts and the music they played in the Paleolithic Age. The same thing goes for movies/TV/history. It used to be cool to be knowledgeable about bands or a music scene or movies or whatever; now unless you're in a trivia contest, you don't have to know that stuff. You can just look it up on your phone if you need to.

Of course, I'm generalizing about a whole generation; I'm sure there are kids who know about Public Enemy or Led Zeppelin or The Feelies, but they're few and far between. There's too much coming at kids these days for them to bother looking back. And that's a damn shame. [Conclude old guy rant]

5 comments:

Dan said...

Definitely feel like accessibility to the entirety of recorded music has bred that kind of jaded attitude you're describing. I remember discovering Zep in the late '80s and early '90s: hearing a song or two on the radio and thinking WHAT THE HELL IS THAT AND I NEED MORE OF IT, getting into their whole slightly dangerous vibe, saving up money to buy their stuff one measly album at a time and experiencing it all new. I could never find Presence in a record store so I remember ordering it on cassette from another town's library -- then combing record stores for bootlegs. Now you can sample it all online, listen to it all on YouTube via people who've ripped all their songs there, or go to iTunes, drop a wad of cash and get the full LZ catalog all at once. Ruins the mystery of discovery.

Jay said...

Yeah, that was definitely a factor. Although whereas with us, that accessibility is a great thing (and massive time-waster), younger music fans still don't give a shit about older acts. They'll take advantage to find out more about Kanye, Biebs or the Killers, but it's not likely to get them listening to all the awesome older stuff out there. Still, nothing beats rifling through the stacks at a record store.

Brian Salvatore said...

GET OFF MY LAWN!

Jay said...

YOU FIRST!

断了翅膀的梦 said...
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