I know what they say — that my generation chooses idols based on which Urban Outfitters band T-shirts are in stock. “I saw Hailey Baldwin wearing a Slayer shirt and knee high boots, so I bought a Slayer shirt and knee high boots.”
And OK, there’s a little bit of truth in that. If we rep a band from our parents era, our coolness is somehow legitimized. It shows that we’ve done our research and studied up on music history, that we don’t always listen to what’s dished out to us on Top 40 radio. In the aughts, I learned the entire Beatles discography before hitting 6th grade — a time when everyone else was focused on the aftermath of Britney and Avril as messiah. I was a fetus elitist, and I felt a proud individual because of it.
Even this becomes mainstream, though. For years, wearing Nirvana shirts was a trend, until it peaked in January when Justin Bieber wore a Nirvana shirt to the AMAs. Being unique is not so unique.
Since we didn’t grow up immersed in “classic rock,” it’s also all right NOT to know everything about every band that’s existed. You can CHOOSE which artists you want to invest in. Some days I’ll find myself in time-wasting Internet spirals, reading up on the psychedelia of Donovan, or bouncing from Wiki page to Wiki page, soaking in everything I can about Phil Spector’s weird world. I can tell you about all my favorite Hall & Oates songs, but I can’t explain their place in the music industry in the ’80s and how they impacted my parents.
A music conversation riddled with old-school references can be satiating, but I don’t know everything. And so often, I feel dumb or excluded when I can’t contribute. We each have our nuggets of info. Sometimes we share those nuggets, and sometimes we keep them to ourselves. I can’t hold a conversation about Whitney Houston, but I could probably tell you everything about Liz Phair.
When David Bowie died, I think a lot of people tried to join the conversation without the experience. We tweeted “David Bowie – RIP a legend” just to show that we were up on current events and that we knew David Bowie was a legend. Because he was. We know that. But maybe we’re ill-equipped to really add anything to the conversation. Anything I say about Bowie won’t do him justice — not because I don’t have the words, but because I don’t have the knowledge and the experience.