Lady Gaga…Beyoncé…and Adele…split the market into neat thirds…Adele’s impeccably sung collection of unperturbing soul…will almost certainly be the year’s biggest-selling album…she is selling to…middle-aged moms who don’t know how to pirate music and will drive to Starbucks when they need to buy it. The rest of the population has Gaga and Beyoncé.
—Sasha Frere-Jones, in the New Yorker, 27 June 2011.
But isn’t the bulk of the New Yorker’s staff “middle-aged moms [and dads, I think it’s fair for me to insert] who don’t know how to pirate music”? Isn’t that the bulk of professors? Gallerists? Poets?
Come to think of it—I have no idea about her piracy skills, but isn’t Sasha married to a middle-aged mom?
Isn’t Sasha transparently implying—as many grownups involved in music do—that his entire generation is lame, except him?
(There’s a very good chance that somebody who’d imply that she or he is exceptional secretly believes the opposite)
Not that it would be better to use a different stereotype as shorthand for banality and Philistine-itude—“suburbanites” or “Midwesterners”—but is it not distressing that parenthood and age, in combination, signify cultural insignificance?
I also find it distressing that gender is a key factor in his sketch of irrelevance. (Maybe he assembled focus groups, and discovered that dads drive to Starbucks to buy Paul McCartney albums? Maybe he’s letting urban-dwelling moms off the hook because they can take public transit to Starbucks?)
(I bet I’d be less offended if I didn’t think Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” is magnificent. P.S., I’m not an album guy, but Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” and Gaga’s “Just Dance” are durably rooted in my playlist. I read an interview in which Beyoncé enthused about Coldplay, and, deducing from what I know about the creative processes of the best songwriters, she might be not only listening to Adele, but taking notes)
(and, if you look at my listening to non-current GG and B songs with derision—if you think that proves Sasha’s point—I ask you, quite sincerely, to reevaluate your priorities)
What did Sasha’s editors feel, upon first reading this piece? Maybe anxiety that they themselves were irrelevant, but were afraid to reveal it, because that would confirm their obsolescence?
Every generation since the alleged Youthquake has done a great disservice to their youngers. We act like age makes you inescapably pointless. It doesn’t.
I think we owe the next generation hope. They deserve elders that will help them be less afraid, that will tell them they’ll get older, and still be dynamic human beings. They might, in fact, be happier. I propose we start immediately by un-hiding the years of our births on our Facebook profiles.
There’s great stuff about youth, for sure. My capacity to burn calories without undue cardio was pretty superb. But the anxiety is WAY outsized. It’d be immeasurably beneficial to one’s happiness to decide not to be anguished about age—personally, at some point I realized that when I was 32 I despaired at not being 27, at 35 I despaired at not being 30, at 38 I despaired at not being 35, and that, if I don’t do a cognitive overhaul, when I’m 72 I’ll long to be 55. So, I propose we be psyched at being ourselves now.
People don’t yearn to be young. They yearn to have young bodies. Very different—and so weird to me that that’s not obvious! For me, at least, the metabolism was great, but the persistent fear that the future would be horrible, the conviction that nobody liked me, the carelessness with which me and my cohort treated each others’ hearts, and the hopelessness that I was secretly different from everybody else—thus a freak—was NOT.
a) splits the population into neat thirds? I mean, I dig that Sasha’s riffing, but, like, aren’t there A REALLY HUGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE who don’t listen to any of the three aforementioned artists?
b) Sasha uses “unperturbing” as a pejorative. Are we seriously still doing that dumb baby boomer thing that music should be AARGH SUPER SCARY! When was the last time you heard a song and thought I LOVE THIS! I AM SO PERTURBED!
I feel that it’s imperative to add: Sasha is a critic well worth reading. This piece, like all of his New Yorker pieces, is a good read. I’ve known Sasha a very long time. We used to gig together; he had a great band called Ui (incidentally, with one-time Soul Coughing bass player Wilbo Wright). If you can track down their song “Sexy Photograph,” you will have yourself a treat.
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