The epic, collective roar -- you know, the kind that followed "Thriller," "Nevermind," "Purple Rain," "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back," and other albums so gigantic you don't even need to name the artist -- just doesn't happen today.These moments "leave an indelible imprint on the collective memory" and kids these days, with their downloading and disjointed niche culture, are missing out on when times were better--which happens to be when this writer was a bit younger. If anything destroys culture or "collective memory," it's nostalgia, with its ability to bend historical facts to please its thesis. So let's look at some of these claims.
The last two albums that truly grabbed an enormous swath of America by the throat and made us lose our collective mind were "Nevermind" and Dr. Dre's "The Chronic."Those albums played a big role in my youth as well. "The Chronic" played at every party for five years straight--and damn if everyone doesn't still love it. It sure brings back memories. But Toure says he isn't talking about fond memories, but facts. On his Twitter feed he wrote "Nevermind spoke to something in America's soul and changed America" and "It came in through the window at night & played itself." Is that even remotely true? "Nevermind" actually floundered in obscurity for a year after its release before finally blowing up, creating a reference point for music writers about the rise of grunge. It was huge for an album of its type, but as popular as it was, it definitely was not the sound coming out of everyone's speakers--this music was called "alternative" for a reason. Hardly a "Massive Music Moment." And how can a hip hop album in the early 90s be said to part of our "monoculture"? "The Chronic" was a nuisance to most of America. It's only now that Larry King can interview Snoop Dogg without anyone batting an eyelash. What he really means to say is: "Me and other people liked things at a certain point in time and, damn, wasn't that great?" Surely these great "Moments" still happen, only in a way the writer doesn't recognize. When singles by Kanye and Rhianna are released, they are heard by nearly everyone remotely concerned with those people that very day. Pop culture is less centralized now, as people aren't all pumped the same thing through a few channels--is that a bad thing? I'm sure there are still massive moments of collective pop culture able to provide today's adolescents with endless fodder for nostalgic articles wired into our hologram Void-3Z ports in 2024. (oh, the days when we pointed and clicked!)
Maybe there are artists out there who want to stoke some sort of revolution. There must be, right? But where? Perhaps they're stuck in obscurity, unable to get the push they need.One thing that definitely happened in the past is that large major labels and radio stations pushed brilliant revolutionary artists Who Changed Things and today it's all fluff. Maybe nothing speaks to America's soul anymore. Maybe no one cares about innovation. Maybe there's no spark anymore. Maybe that writer just got older. As Generation X starts to fetishize its youth and recast the past in the same way the Boomers have, I'm reminded again to make a mental note to myself to never become the guy shaking his fist at the present and avoid these generational territorial pissings that are in bloom. Get that last part? It was a Nirvana reference. Oh, Nevermind. You're too young.