In my career I've enjoyed involvement with a wide variety of music types. I learned early on that there were distinct systems of value for each type. Classical musicians read from a different rule book to jazzers, and folkies were another world apart. Rock, pop and punk players behaved like they had thrown the book away. They all had their histories, their heroes and mythologies, their pecking order of standards.
There was one type I never had much time for and they were the hipsters. For they seemed to deny the innate virtue of an eclectic taste. They would tend to take their chosen brand too seriously and peddle it with ruthless exclusivity. They were hell-bent on telling you what to like and deriding you if your own choice didn’t match up.
I confess to feeling superior to them never much needing their approval in order to develop my ear. Beyond the school-playground I never much felt the need to be hip to their trip. In ways I was their opposite. I inclined to having a broad mind musically, interested and open to all sorts. The hipster by contrast is narrowly defined. If there are a million things to like he will seek just the one. He is the equivalent of an audio snob in a hi-fi shop. He is the guy in High Fidelity who hates people who like the wrong music.
I think that hipsters are characterised by immaturity. Almost nothing pleases them as if they never quite got beyond being that picky fifteen year-old in high school. Perhaps they weren’t hip enough then and spend the rest of their lives trying to rectify the injustice.
Often what hipsters like they’re not going to like soon. Shortly they will have moved on to the next hip thing that nobody else knows. Actually a lot of them don’t like music that much. They often end up not liking anything at all given their confused motives: they are trying to influence the pack they are never quite a part of.
It is unfortunate that these types have historically played quite an important role in the breaking of new music. Some became gatekeepers and tastemakers, the ones artists had to impress to get a gig, the ones who told the uninitiated what they should be listening to.
I think their role is becoming obsolete. There are now so many new modes of discovery, some even created by computers which will throw a thing at you based on what you’ve just heard. “If you like that you might also like this” is one of the finest features of the online music experience. The algorithm has a minimal agenda and isn’t fussed about coolness.
Music means so many different things to different people. It features in just about every human cause from peace to love to war. There are few contexts that don’t have some appropriate music application. Allowing people to like what they like for whatever reason without having to consult a pre-determined set of values about quality laid down by someone with a dubious agenda is surely a good thing.
the hipster is characterised by immaturity
HIP TO THE HIPSTER TRIP
music • 17.09.10