30 December 2012

New York Times 2012 Pop Music Retrospective: The More it Changes the More...

Happy 2013. I just read the end-of-year 2012 pop music retrospective roundtable at the New York Times, featuring new findings and some old thinking.

American pop music, the NYT critics have found, is more and more affected by the Internet and electronic music. Social media, viral videos and music sharing have stunned the industry with some quite unknown artists, embarrassing underperforming stars backed by multimillion marketing strategies.

As another weird trend, American mainstream electronic music in 2012 has strangely departed with the multicultural core of its youth (45% of American millennials are Latino, Black or Asian). Whereas the will of minorities was loudly felt in Obama's recent victory, the nation's electronica has taken a sharp turn towards White European beats, as NYT pundits have noted. Why? I suspect that, in particular, psy trance (the "whitest of electronic genres", according to Simon Reynolds and several others) has been honing and bubbling for a while, so it's no surprise that its effects are being now felt. More deeply however, Hebdige and Kerouac have argued, already back in the 1960s, that White music is in direct dialogue with Black culture, and in large part reflects and reacts to transformations in African-British and African-American cultures (a relevant topic to be resumed another time).

I couldn't help but feel vindicated and also disappointed with the NYT pop music retrospective. I'm glad to see some prominent pop culture pundits catching up with some of the thoughts we've been sharing here for a while now. But also disappointed that their discussion merely rehashed some well-known assumptions about how electronic music evolves and permeates the mainstream, not to mention some awkward references to post-modernism (Baudrillard, simulacra, pastiche) as in a 1980s college classroom. Check the NYT article. After all is said and done, the more it changes the more it stays the same... In any case, enjoy a happy 2013.

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