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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Column: Smells Like the ‘90s

Do We Need A New Nirvana?

Nirvana was a pretty important change agent in the ‘90s. They brought on a massive cultural shift that essentially juxtaposed the ‘80s with the ‘90s. I think the world was on a precipice anyway and Nirvana happened to be making the right kind of art at the right time and in the right place.

I think the most recent cultural shift has been brought on not by art or music but by technology, and so to say we need another artist like Nirvana to shake things is only half true. If you ask me there is more important music being made today than ever before, especially in Australia. Genres are being stretched and recreated; ideas and boundaries are being challenged. The issue isn’t the music; it’s the audience and the manner in which they consume the music.

People listen to songs on iPods and download tracks from blogs and this happens at such a fast rate that any artist with anything important to say needs to sink their claws into the listener within the first two minutes or they don’t have a chance.

Take Gotye, he is probably the best example of an Australian act really connecting with people and he’s done it all off the back of “Somebody that I Used to Know,” with lyrical content that is extremely literal. It’s not ambiguous in any way and his audience gets it instantly. They understand what he is trying to say and listen on because he’s reached them on an emotional level.

Adele is another example. “Someone Like You” is also literal and that’s part of the reason she’s had so much success. One of her acts, Belles Will Ring, just released an incredible record that’s complex and layered and worthy. We knew the road would be a much longer one because you have to convince people to invest their time and energy into it, and in this day and age that’s not an easy thing to do. People aren’t willing to put in the time with music anymore so you have to hit them really quickly if you want success in a manageable period of time.

On the other hand the majority of pop music isn’t intended to connect. Most of it is designed to be disposable and to appeal to really short attention spans. Artists like Kanye West are challenging that idea and it’s working well. On the extreme end, artists like OFWGKTA, who are aiming for Grammys, are doing everything they can to illicit an emotional response of any kind from their audience.

I guess what I’m saying is that I think the art is there. The audience just needs to work on their attention spans. If any one act or one album was going to shake us up out of this tech-imposed vacuum, it would have been Radiohead’s OK Computer. They predicted all of this and it still wasn’t enough to stop it from happening.

 ESTEFANY SALAS can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.



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