November 16th 2012
Are Eminen and Skrillex the New Rolling Stones?
Remember when parents were outraged by the Rolling Stones?
Neither do I.
But it happened. While today we’re about as threatened by Enya as the Rolling Stones, it wasn’t always that way. In their early days the Stones were counter-culture, dangerous, and drove parents crazy.
But as Jon Parales addressed in Sunday’s New York Times, the hard edges of their reputation have worn away over the past fifty years. It had to be that way really. There’s no relevant band of senior citizens that manages to tap into the angst of youth. It seems though, that their stubborn popularity has less to do with their ability to adapt and stay relevant, than with their ability to stay exactly the same. They only seem soft now because society has hardened around them.
A whole lot of punk kids rebelling against their parents listened to the Stones in the 60s, and because the musical exploration of any generation tends to fizzle out around age thirty, they just kept on listening to the Stones as they grew up; even when they moved to the suburbs and had families. The music was nostalgic – the new stuff kept remnants of the old sound. Classic rock radio was born, and many a young Millennial was forced to listen to his parents’ music every Saturday morning on the way to soccer practice, until he couldn’t help but sing along to Under My Thumb. Only now, it was family friendly.
But back in their rooms under the safety of headphones, that Millennial generation of suburbanite kids was branching out, discovering their own rebellion. Like the generation before, this music pushes our comfort levels, just as the Stones did decades ago.
The question then, is whether Eminen, Skrillex, and Kanye will have the staying power of the Rolling Stones? Thirty years from now, as suburbanite Millennials drag their kids to soccer practice, their gray hair neatly combed, will Kid Cudi be blasting from their stereos?
And will their children think it’s lame at first but eventually find themselves singing along? Perhaps we won’t even notice if they do, if society has come to accept it.
Either way, they’ll be exploring their own boundary-pushing music, stuff that makes their parents cringe and wonder how society came to degrade so much.
Is there a limit to what we’ll accept as pop culture? The period during which the Stones became popular was one of great liberalization, and their ideas reflected a major cultural shift that became the norm. But there’s always room for another shift. How will those limits be tested by the next generation?
Whatever happens, the parents of those kids can go ahead and blame the Rolling Stones.