The ongoing debate about the relevance of rock music has been raging for some time, with essay after essay about why rock’s stock has fallen and who precisely is to blame for it. Last night on the battlefield of Instagram, Dirty Projectors singer/guitarist David Longstreth threw a question out into the void: “Is it me or is the condition of indie rock in the 24½th century both bad and boujee?”
You see, Longstreth felt a need to connect to the youth of world by referencing something they know and love, Migos’ chart-topping hit “Bad And Boujee,” even if it was only tangentially relevant to his larger point. Longstreth qualified his point with, “bad in the basic sense of like, musically underwhelming,” and “boujee in the word’s negative sense: refined and effete, well removed from the raindrops and drop tops of lived, earned experience?” Longstreth clearly knows a thing or two about a lived, earned experience, as his status as a Yale dropout is certainly akin to those who came up selling drugs to make ends meet. Yet he threw this observation into the void, encouraging people to contribute their own thoughts to this fruitful discussion. And, like a horse to water, Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold appeared.
“I get bogged down in thinking there is a ‘right’ music to make at a given cultural moment,” Pecknold wrote, going on to say, “to me there is a always a vast expanse of feeling being explored by everyone engaged in music and it’s all valid in that it defines a feeling or creates a new one, for whatever group or groups have their ears turned on that music.” And sure, that’s a completely valid point. One person will like Migos while another enjoys Fleet Foxes, and that’s totally fine. But then the discussion took a turn, as Pecknold used this as a chance to say that current indie acts such as Angel Olsen and Mac DeMarco aren’t “cutting edge.” “I feel like 2009, Bitte Orca / Merriweather / Veckatimest, was the last time there was a fertile strain of “indie rock” that also felt progressive w/o devolving into Yes-ish largesse,” Pecknold would continue. This made Longstreth seemingly double back on his initial argument, positing that “we don’t need music that changes all the time; for this, tradition is valuable.” Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste even chimed in, adding the incredibly cogent thought: “😱..”
Of course, the fact that these three would engage in this dialogue about the relevance of their chosen art form when all three of them have new records coming out in 2017 only makes it all the more curious. While there’s nothing wrong with an artist posing a question and engaging with a peer, there’s a subtle undercurrent that Longstreth and Pecknold get it, man. These aren’t old guys pining for 2009 because that’s when they were riding high on a wave of critical and commercial success. That couldn’t possibly be what informed their desire to drum up some controversy. They’re just guys, asking why music isn’t as cool as it used to be. Many music writers on Twitter saw through the ruse, offering up subtle jabs and more nuanced opinions on the state of rock and indie:
But then, like a beacon in the night, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda gave us this: a reminder that if rap and rock can coexist, can’t we all?