FEATURE: The Hipsters Shall Have Their Revenge on Shoreditch: Why Being ‘Cool’ Is Not All It's Cracked Up to Be



The Hipsters Shall Have Their Revenge on Shoreditch


 ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Unsplash

Why Being ‘Cool’ Is Not All It's Cracked Up to Be


MY final two pieces of the weekend…


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

will, for one, look at music made by black artists – and why they deserve more credit than they actually get. I want to address, oddly, musicals and whether there has been a massive reinvention over time; why more artists deserve their own musical…and the way more people are embracing a side of theatre that was reserved to a certain fan/type of people years ago. Before I get to that; I am being faced with a lot of artists who project, rather overtly, ‘cool’ energy. Whether it is the way they treat electronic sounds or the manner in which they project themselves. You get the impression they are angling for a soundtrack spot on Made in Chelsea. You know the type of artists I am talking about: the men are either clean-shaven and wear the skinniest jeans and jackets possible; the women wear 1950s dresses and drive around in a V.W. Polo. The music, worryingly, is designed for these type of shows and racking up the Spotify figures. You listen to artists who have genuine integrity and make music that is natural to them: too many are crafting songs aimed at fitting in with the East London crowds. I can’t be too hard on the area: it is somewhere I want to work in and have a lot of respect for sounds coming from there. What I mean, is those boutique coffee shop-dwelling types who put almond oil in their beards and would vomit blood were they ever asked to shop at Lidl rather than Waitrose.


Take away the too-hip-for-school clubs and bars where all the tables are bespoke – the drinks fancily-named and the patrons reeking of arrogance – and you are left with a very fractured community. I love music that makes me feel cool – not so keen on those who are more eager to please labels than write something meaningful to them. Electro-Pop is one of the fastest-growing genres in music. It provides artists the chance to play solo or as a duo (or trio); there is variation and room for invention; the music is inoffensive and has plenty of commercial bang. As I said; I am keen, around this time of year, to embrace music that brings in the sunshine and reminds one of summer. Last year; acts like Justice and M83 produced heady, fulsome jams that stayed in my head. Unfortunately, there was a wave of artists who produced skeletal, generic Electro-Pop that would make the most leather-clad beard-stroker drop their extra-hot-with-stiff-foam-vanilla-and-nutmeg-cappuccino with a high-pitched squeal. The themes (these artists released) did not stray too far from the average and plodding: songs about jilted hearts and the reckless nature of their lovers. Some did stray from the pack but, by and large, there was not a great deal of difference. This concern is not only reserved to Electro-Pop – there are other genres, like Pop and Indie, where artists are more concerned with image and style.


In fact; many new Rock/Indie bands are breaking out their old denim and patching the f*ck out of it! I cannot blame streaming services like Spotify but there is some truth: the slick and ultra-new nature of the site promotes those artists who pout the biggest and wear the oh-so-trendy fabrics of popularity. I have written, in the past week, about the nature of coolness and whether music can be seen as a guilty pleasure – I have penned pieces regarding language and the quality of modern songwriting. I am a non-denominational music fan who opens his heart to anyone willing to make a serious go of things. Because of that; my vinyl collection if rammed with classic L.P.s and lesser-heard oddities. As I approach new musicians; there is a bit more trepidation than I’d like. I am guilty of interviewing a few bands/artists who fall into their trap. So many people are looking at the Spotify petrol gauge and concerned, if they do not promote a certain gloss and popularity, they will sink and be overlooked. It can be challenging going against the grain and pursuing something that is deeper and more original. I look at the modern charts and there is a three-way divide. You have the camp who are producing good music and doing things their own way. There are others who either designed their music according to the rules of streaming services and T.V. shows – always keen to pen the latest who-gives-a-donkey’s-rectum song that gets people nodding their heads but does not remain in the mind.


The other side of the coin is those who release music that copies what is seen as popular and radio-friendly. These players are about fitting into cliques and getting their music heard in the trendiest joints in town. Maybe there is more of a North-South divide: London artists, and those down this way, more to blame than those further up the country. I am finding, annoyingly, a lot of artists in northern cities forsaking local ideals and sacrificing their roots. You get artists in working-class areas pulling out the keyboards and performing some of the vaguest and most anodyne sounds you are likely to hear. I can think of no other reason bar the fact (these artists) want to get onto certain playlists and create something commercial. This may sound like another shot at those who value streaming figures and Internet notoriety above musicians who want to craft something genuine. It is difficult to succeed and grow in the modern time and not have one ear listening out to the hum of the streaming machine. That word, ‘cool’, can be a bit misleading. One can say a band like Pink Floyd or The Beatles are cool; Radiohead and Roy Orbison are cool – do any of these artists set out to be that way?!


Their appeal and allure is as a result of the originality of their music and the fact they have created a legacy. 1960s bands like The Beatles, I guess, were the equivalent of a lot of bands we see now. They were designed to appeal to a certain market and look a certain way. The thing is, against the marketing men and the need to appeal to young women – the guys penned music that broke boundaries and shook up the world. I would not object to the pretentiousness and oiled facial hair was it not for a distinct lack of quality. My ethics would be shaken but, if a modern artist – who wanted to be cool and fashionable – were to write something fantastic and mould-busting…that would be okay. From The Fonz through to James Dean: icons, real and fictional, have defined what it is to be ‘cool’. Nowadays; we do not really have idols like that or idols of coolness. The coolest music, in fact, is that which rebels against the predictors and prides quality and impact over anything else. I can throw the best Rap, Hip-Hop and R&B artists into that category. I shall not name-and-shame any artists directly – unless I need to borrow money from them in the future – but there are too many calibrating and configuring their music according to the codification and gospel of the modern cool.


Whether that is a song that can nestle neatly into a Friday Spotify playlist or a perfect cut to soundtrack a reality T.V. show – it is all a little bit icky, pointless and dangerous. I would have though Rock and Indie bands would turn their noses up at any suggestion they were trying to create a fashion brand. Maybe it is not only streaming services that are culpable of such sins. The world is becoming more homogenised and, when you think of an area of the capital like Shoreditch and Hackney – there are a lot of new bars opening that play the sort of music I am putting under the scalpel. Areas are becoming posher and cleaner; people are attuning themselves to a new sort of high-street and more upmarket reality. I have voiced concerns Grime and Rap clubs are being marginalised because they are too gritty and real for the young generation. When I try to visualise the embodiment of the uncool and tragic try-hard; it is usually a white male. There are female and black artists who are, tragically, trying to conform to those who want their music a certain way: the majority of the guilty are white men.


IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

Maybe we have come too far to reverse these trends and force rationality to those artists who want to be popular and cool. I know every genre/style has its fans – and everyone should be proud of what they hear – but how substantial and meaningful are artists who direct their music at the hip and exclusive? In a way; they are producing music to generate money for all the wrong reasons. I think artists collaborating with brands and companies can be a good thing – getting music to different people and making it more visible is great. There is a line between those trying to do something good and those aimlessly following the crowd. Many might argue the music I have mentioned is not doing anyone any harm. It is connecting with some people and has its place in music. My objection is not with the desire of the artist, per se, but the lack of quality and guts. If you are going to make music for streaming sites and to win popularity…at least make it decent! It is the saggy-breasted nature of the sounds that make the whole endeavour questionable and flawed. I am a big fan of all music but go out of my way to follow those who do not give a damn about hitting streaming records and producing thread-bare Pop/Electro. From the gleaming, white-toothed female Pop artists to the trying-too-hard-to-be-cool duos cranking out something fizzy, buzzing and bland – where does it all stop?!


In a way; the music industry is a bit like school. We are told, in a way, the best way to become popular is to fit in with the cool kids. Those who hang solemnly around the bike shed or smoke a bit of weed after class has ended are weird loners or things to be judged: those who ride with the cool girls and click with the cliques are the optimal ideal. I am about as cool as a Piers Morgan-branded enema so one can claim there is some bitterness and long-stored hate spewing out at those who court popularity and success. I have grown a lot and my concerns are purely musical. We should not be encouraging artists to make music a certain way and provide the (false) notion hitting streaming highs and getting your music on the screen is the dream. If you want to be that artist, then that is your choice: we should not project that as something good and worthy. There is, mind you, a part of me that wants to reason and yell at artists who give us shallow music without any depth and point – beyond getting a certain crowd fired and excited. Within the gentrified streets and independent cafes; the chrome bars and fusion cuisine – there is music out there that perfectly scores a very bohemian, middle-class and lamentable lifestyle. I yearn for genuine passion and originality; a brand of music that does its own thing because it is the right way to do it. In essence; I want the bullied overweight kid in the playground to stride up to the cackling, always-laid jock and…


KICK the skinny cigarette right out of his smirking mouth.