Hipsters get way too much credit these days. I don’t mean that in a good way. Hipsters – especially those of a South African persuasion – deserve all the deep-seated hatred that comes their way. What I mean is that they are credited with far more social traction than they actually possess. They just aren’t that big of a deal.
I mean, what in the name of all that is obscure is a hipster anyway? Just about the most useful description I’ve come across is taken from hipsterhandbook.com, which states that a hipster is “One who possesses tastes, social attitudes, and opinions deemed cool by the cool. (Note: it is no longer recommended that one use the term ‘cool’; a hipster would instead say ‘deck.’) The hipster walks among the masses in daily life but is not a part of them and shuns or reduces to kitsch anything held dear by the mainstream. A hipster ideally possesses no more than 2% body fat.” I needn’t belabour the point, but there is honestly very little cool about the entire exercise.
The very term ‘hipster’ is up for capture. The Mail & Guardian once very amusingly described Tony Yengeni as a hipster, in an apparent effort to box his proclivity for gauche European fashion like Dolce & Gabbana. I imagine that particular use of that word would have appalled the unkempt, ginger beards of Kloof Street.
I’ve often been labelled a hipster myself (and have certainly humoured such sentiments) by people who mistake my taste in music, and general discomfort with what society expects me to be because I’m a black man of a certain age, as hipsterdom. Serious hipsters (I note the irony of saying that) would not embrace me as one of their own.
The worst indictment of the hipster is that once the fad has passed, it will leave no indelible mark on the public consciousness. Hipster social networks have failed. Hipster bands never succeed (whatever happened to MGMT?) and hipster humour never seems to gain traction (note Hipster Hitler’s subdued status, after all these years).
I’m far more forgiving of emos than I am of hipsters.
Emos are no more. Well, they are definitely not around in the same numbers as they were in the early 2000s. I’m somewhat bleak about that.
The Daily Mail once tut-tutted with disapproval at emos in a hilariously misguided article, calling the craze a cult of self-harm and suicide. That alone is reason enough to celebrate that they existed at all.
Unlike hipsters, emos left us with their music. Whilst I’d never say that I ever went through a full-blown emo phase, I did deeply love their music at one stage. It started off with Jimmy Eat World – doesn’t it always – and progressed from there into the phantasmagorical stuff.
One of my favourite emo bands is My Chemical Romance (mock away). MCR is often mocked for its frivolous, theatrical affections of gloom. And there is no justifiable excuse for Gerard Way’s lesbian coif in The Black Parade years. But the music video for Welcome to the Black Parade is a spectacular achievement. The punchy guitars on Famous Last Words are gobsmackingly beautiful.
I’d go as far as saying The Black Parade must rank as one of the finest rock operas ever made, and you probably haven’t ever given it a fair listen. Listen to it here.
The best emo song ever – in my ever-humble opinion – is Major Tom (Coming Home) by The Shiny Toy Guns. The song was a cover of Major Tom (Völlig losgelöst) by the 1980s star Peter Schilling, who in turn borrowed the idea of the astronaut Major Tom from David Bowie’s Space Oddity.
The Shiny Toy Guns made the best emo song quite by accident. Their take on Major Tom was actually for a 2009 ad for the new Lincoln MKZ, an unattractively American sedan. Their electronically-driven interpretation of Schilling’s languid space ballad pretty much explained what emo rock is about – the childlike desire to leave earth behind. It all ends in tears, of course.
If you’re interested, you will want to get We are Pilots and Season of Poison by the STG.
To say there isn’t an air of pretension to emo-dom would be to lie. But it certainly gave me an avenue of expression during the more difficult bits of my teenage years that managed to encompass all the fear, despondency and anxiety of growing up. And yes, it gave the world some of its best rock music. That’s more than can be said for hipsters.
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