Gen Gen

I started reading Rob Harvilla’s book 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s and it has already, for me at least, started off on the wrong foot.

Did you ever notice that new music, now, is nowhere near as great as the music you loved as a teenager? And you know what? You’re right. Whether you were a teenager in the ’60s, the ’90s, or the 2010s, you’re right. The music you loved as a teenager is the sweetest music you’ll ever hear; that music will be, in all likelihood, the greatest, wildest, purest love affair of your whole life. That’s how music works; that’s how being a teenager works.

Does it? I guess for normies. I think music now is pretty damn good, though, and I listen mostly to works from the last few years — though I take in an insanely broad range of music. When I was a teenager music helped me cope with my often terrible and traumatic daily life but I don’t think music from that era was the greatest ever made. I’m grateful it existed, though. I am not sure I would’ve made it through without Tori Amos, The Sundays, Mazzy Star (et al.) And while I still listen to those artists and others from that time, there are equally many great artists now doing completely different things that are just as magical in their own way. (For instance, Baby Queen — Arabella Latham — is really, really fucking wonderful.)

The 90s was the last era in most people’s living memory where we thought a global and egalitarian belle époque might be possible and that does matter for the music of the period and all else — that’s not just nostalgia. But music is much more diverse now and more interesting than it was then, and more accessible. That matters a lot.

Growing up in rural North Florida as a complete misfit, my life was pretty miserable in a lot of ways. Music helped me survive it. Now, though, music adds joy and depth to an already-lovely life and I think that’s far better. I wouldn’t go back, for so many reasons, and I’m glad I’m not mired in the past musically. I was thinking the other day that music is the best of humanity realized. So here’s to the music of the now and all the artists still creating it.