I love Grimes. Her album, Visions, is one my favourites of 2012. She recently put up a tumblr post detailing her top songs of 2012 which included pop hits such as Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe (<3) and Psy’s Gangnam Style. Being the epitome of ‘weird’ and ‘arty’ and ‘hipster’, she received lots of flack. See the Forbes post on it (thanks @rianvdm for sharing it).
I’m fully behind her. Although I have a very eclectic music taste, I really love my pop bangers such as Call Me Maybe (<3). I listen to music primarily because of well… the music. In the past I’ve dealt with people who’ve run up to me (a friend) and shouted: “Simon, Black Keys is going to be on the new Twilight movie soundtrack! No!” I simply don’t care. In the very least, now more people can discover how awesome they are. Now, I’ve even seen tweets (after the Grammys) from people saying: “Remember when the Black Keys was cool?” Yes. They still are. Their old albums didn’t suddenly disappear. Their new album is spectacular. What’s the problem?
So it got me thinking. Why is there this backlash towards artists becoming mainstream? Why when they get big, the ‘hipsters’ all go ‘BOOO!’?
I think it boils down much deeper than the music itself. While ‘hipsters’ do sometimes have a sense of elitism and superiority over their taste of music (“I understand and appreciate more nuances than the usual 4-bar 3-chord songs”), I think the distaste towards popularity actually has to do with connection and identity. Let me try and explain:
If you are human, you crave connection and understanding from people. Primarily we do this through language. It’s pretty decent, but we have to adopt similar vocabulary to convey what we think means the same things.
Art, or appreciation of certain expressions, does something similar. I make an emotional connection to a painting (for example). If someone else gets it, we immediately form a bond/connection. The emotional response is “proxied” through the art to another individual. We can connect on levels that language doesn’t allow us to. It is intangible, but meaningful.
This is exactly the case with music as well. If you meet someone with your intense love of that one b-side of Radiohead or Beck’s early slacker-blues albums, you form a connection that transcends what language can provide. “You like Lewis (Mistreated) as well?! No way. Me too!”
If it is only you and handful of people that “get it”, that appreciates this new and unknown artist, you form a deep and intimate connection (regardless of emotional connotation to the song). When it suddenly pierces into mainstream too many people have connections to this song/band. The sense of intimate understanding and connection is diluted and lost. Now that everyone “gets it”, an individual has lost the connection to the few people who understood them. And so, the “hipster” goes to the next new artist to find people to connect with in ways which language can not. If everyone likes the same things, it doesn’t become something to connect with. “Oh you like Gangnam Style? What’s new? You drink water? Big deal.”
To create the law of “Hipster Connection”: The more obscure and deeper down the rabbit hole of music you go, the deeper and more intimate connections between individuals become.
At the turn of 21st century, music became less an art form controlled by labels and radio and one everyone could do and share. This allowed it to flourish. Expression went past shared cultural trends such as Grunge in the 90’s, to smaller and more intimate shared identities (witch house trend, chillwave trend, etc).
In this light, I reckon: Hipsters, do your thing. I don’t want ascribe ways in which you want to connect with people, but for the better, I advise to not tie your identity too much to music (or anything else for that matter).
So, to end off: Has anyone heard this track by a new artist called “Casually Here”, called “Settle”? He only has like 74 likes on his FB page and 2700 listens. It’s awesome.