I get pretty cranky about millennial kids whose horrible helicopter parents are so myopically focused on their kids’ special-snowflake-ness that they’re all but contemptuous of anyone not produced by their own personal genitals, but I’m equally cranky about the recent ubiquity of “think pieces” about how no one makes good music anymore and the Internet is going to make it so that no one ever makes good music ever again. Music is healthy; it’s selling music that can be excruciatingly difficult these days. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s categorically not good, and the fact that current musicians are revisiting ideas first explored by previous generations of musicians only means that music’s evolution is happening exactly the way it has for the past several hundred years, though at a much faster pace.
Those two subjects collided recently with the publication of a study claiming that narcissism in pop-music lyrics has grown over the past several decades, along with narcissism in general among younger people. When it first started making the rounds a while back, I mostly ignored it—it seemed likely enough to be bullshit that I decided I had better things to do. In the new issue of New York magazine, the always-on-point Nitsuh Abebe offers a compelling takedown of the whole meme, indicating that it might not be the escalating self-regard of America’s youth that’s cranked up the “me” talk on the pop charts, but rather the increasing prominence of musicians who speak to or for demographics outside the mainstream of privileged boomers who controlled the charts during rock’s dominant era—that is, marginalized people who sometimes talk about themselves as a method of empowerment. It’s a good read.