UNFILTERED THOUGHTS: A NONCONFORMIST’S VIEW ON THE MUSIC SCENE

I just HAD to share the video above. Personally, I think the song with Christina Aguilera is better than the original, mainly because this version seems to emit more raw emotion and passion, thus allowing the message to really get across to audiences who do not necessarily have to watch the music video to understand the meaning of the song. When I found out that A Great Big World was invited to perform at the 2013 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, I was quite elated simply because a music talent like this should be shared as widely as possible, and although the fashion show isn’t exactly a conventional concert, it still stands as a great musical outlet, given the show’s wide viewership. However, when I came across some nasty comments on the Internet bashing Victoria’s Secret for choosing non-mainstream artists for this year’s show, I knew I had to finally sit down and churn out an overdue blog post to properly address my opinion on this whole “indie/hipster/mainstream” music feud, and this is where the real point of this article begins.

I dislike the term “hipster.” The original meaning has been lost, and it’s become such a derogatory term, usually attached with stereotypical perceptions and tones of patronizing superiority. People have said I have “hipster taste” when it comes to music (what does that even really mean anymore??) but I prefer to say that I have diverse tastes but heavily favor alternative music. Basically, I just like to operate on my own terms. During those prepubescent years in school, teachers always instilled the “Don’t be a follower; be a leader” principle in us, and I took it strongly to heart. I don’t like to always go with the flow. I don’t necessarily always strive to be a leader, but I like to chart my own paths, whether it be fashion, career ideas, routines, or music. But just because I may do things the unconventional way, or dress on my own terms, or listen to indie music… it makes me “hipster”? No. I just have a mind of my own and to be perfectly honest, I loathe the bandwagon/tunnel-vision mentality that I unfortunately see so often in my peers these days.

A few months ago, EDM producer/DJ Zedd issued a stream of tweets disparaging “hipsters.” Although he certainly produced valid points that mirror a mass majority of thoughts from the general population, I have to say that there were some misconstrued views, at least for me. In order to generate a valid argument and to share my opinion on this,  let’s say, for argument’s sake, that I fall under the “hipster” category when it comes to music (shudder).

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Granted, I cannot speak for the entire “hipster” community, so the following statements are strictly mine and mine only. As an avid music listener with an apparent “hipster” mentality, I will admit (and it’s certainly no secret to those who know me) that I regard the mainstream with some level of aversion and waspishness. I can’t help it. Maybe indie music has influenced me to be less of a conformist, I don’t know, but it’s just something I’ve always felt.  Mainstream is overrated. However, this does not mean that I do not wish my favorite indie bands much success. On the contrary, I want them to achieve great exposure and a larger fan-base – these individuals have amazing talent that deserve to be known and appreciated. In addition, I love it when people actively go out of their way (by that, I don’t mean just mindlessly sitting by the radio) to discover new artists, and I share my music finds on my social media channels for that reason. By the way, if you haven’t realized it already, the “Related Artists” function on Spotify is a fantastic way to discover new music. The world is so big, and there are so many talented individuals in the world who strive to make their voices heard. Unearthing new music, new styles, and new artists is a rewarding experience. Music is deep – it can expand your emotional intelligence, and you never know which musical find may come to change your perspective on life. These things really happen.

However, I will confess that there is a part of me that suffers and dies once a relatively unknown artist or song becomes a hit. It’s definitely not because I subconsciously feel like I “own” the artist just because I was one of the few who got lucky in discovering that artist. It’s actually really stupid to think that you “own” the artist and have the right to decide who gets to hear the songs just because you’re a fan, because that’s all you really are – a fan. I attribute my feelings of slight depression to the radio. Over the years, the radio has achieved a somewhat bad reputation with “hipsters,” as the radio tends to overplay the same songs repeatedly and, consequently, ruin the appeal of the songs. Granted, the radio is a powerful way to increase exposure for an artist, but when artists who have been in the game for a while already and gain sudden popularity, usually with the help of the radio, those musicians run the risk of overexposure – they may eventually change their sound to become more radio-friendly, allow their music to become altered to fit the dernier cri (the current one being EDM), start making music for the sake of fame and profit rather than for enjoyment, and open the door for other artists to imitate their styles. “But where’s the harm in that?” you may ask. “Generic,” you may receive. Because that’s exactly what mainstream is. Despite what people may say, the majority doesn’t like change. Change is different. Different is weird. It’s weird, at least, until someone influential decides it’s cool and everyone else bandwagons on with the collective thought.

I guess the bottom line is that as a fan of indie music and as a “diverse listener,” when I grieve over an indie artist’s overnight success, it’s not because I don’t want to share that artist or because I don’t wish success for that artist. It’s because I believe (cue major exaggeration that holds some truth) mainstream is death. It’s comparable to Pandora’s Box. Maybe this is why I’m slowly losing faith in today’s music scene. In fact, without some of my brilliant indie finds, I may just lose complete faith. The “cool” music today is so generic – unique melodies are lost, harmonies are decreasing, and electronic tuning and instruments are taking over. Even the topics of songs and lyrics have become generic. The quality of mainstream music these days is embarrassing, really, especially when you have so-called artists who rely more on sex appeal than voice and instrument talent to gain a fan-base. To me, good music isn’t just putting words and tunes together. It has to incorporate artistic elements, and that’s why I love it when musicians take the time to hide their message behind subtle but clever analogies, create thought-provoking music videos, experiment with different instruments, just to name a few, because it encourages me to expand and explore my own creativity. It really bothers me that more and more musicians are making music for the sake of fame and profit, despite their claims that music is their passion. I would prefer to avoid pointing out specific names, but I see no way around it, so compare the musicians who post Facebook statuses like “U get #PYD yet? get it to #1. it’s out!” (Justin Bieber) and artists who don’t particularly care about becoming famous, such as Novelette who wrote “fxck labels man” under the heading “Record Label” on its Facebook page. Some musicians really care about getting their song to #1; other musicians just want to make music for the sake of making art and enjoying music, and it’s the latter that I admire and respect.

Maybe what I’m really trying to say is, don’t look at “hipsters” and indie sounds with scorn. Without them, many artists today wouldn’t be achieving as much success.  The music scene today is held up and away from chaos mainly because some actual great music still exists, and it is because of indie groups and their fans. Look at A Great Big World, for example. Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino started out as a talented nobodies. The duo worked hard and garnered funding via Kickstarter from their earliest fans to produce a six-song EP, and now, thanks to what started as a tiny but generous fan-base, A Great Big World is finally on its way to having its talents recognized and appreciated.

TL;DR? Indie music is cool. Mainstream is generic. Generic is gross. I hate the word “hipster.” Valid reasons. Shame on your laziness. Just read the whole thing.

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