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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The trouble with #YOLO

Whether you know it or not, you've been listening the most depressing party jams in history. I was born in 1989. I'm old enough to remember when 90210 was edgy and forbidden, and yet I can still call myself one of the YOLO generation, for which Miley Cyrus has been twerking nine to five.

For anyone not in the know, Grady Smith of Entertainment Weekly wrote this excellent piece about how agressively in-the-moment today's pop music is:

"These days, pop stars don’t just sing about throwing a great party. They sing about throwing a great party because it’s their time to do so. There’s a weirdly reverent sense of duty wrapped up in the whole affair — as if stars must pay homage to the #YOLO (You Only Live Once) mentality that’s so often cited by young people in moments of indulgence or reckless adventure. This is our moment to claim, say pop stars. This is our moment to be crazy. We’re entitled to it because we’re young. "
The think about #YOLO, or "you only live once" to the older set, is that it ought to be read in the opposite direction--if you only live once, it follows that we should all be extra careful about our decision making, eat healthy and plan for the future, because  you have to live with your decisions for a very long time.

So what happened? How is an entire generation simultaneously missing the point? I think we're scared. To think that "You only live once" means "do whatever you want," you have to have no hope for the future.  Our formative years were clouded by the horror of September 11th, the looming threat of "An Unconvenient Truth" all fed by the twenty four hour news cycle and the ever proliferating internet.

 Of course, our parents had The Bomb to worry about. Maybe the hedonistic pop stars of today are the natural successors to the hippies. I hope not...for two reasons. (1) The 60s counterculture were too stoned to accomplish much--at best they ended up conforming to the man, at worst they overdosed. And (2) \the music was better.

And by "better" I don't necessarily mean "classic" (although, yeah, clearly), I mean hopeful: "We Can Work it Out", "All you need is love", dig the words to revolution:

"Don't you know its gonna be all right?"

Somehow in the last fifty years, that notion has slipped away. Now, "let's make the most of the night like we're gonna die young"

From Ke$ha to Miley and on, these are the most depressing party songs in history.