"That song sampled Elton John. Ask your parents."
Justin Timberlake has been the subject of many opinion pieces in recent weeks, none of which I am going to discuss today (sorry to disappoint). However, it was whilst reading the BBC article "What's behind the Justin Timberlake Backlash?" that I encountered the following line:
"I'm not sure young music fans are relevant to any discussion of Justin Timberlake in 2018."
It reminded me of the type of comments I read as an 18-year-old blur fan when they performed to a lukewarm reception at the 2012 BRIT awards. Sure, it wasn't their best ever performance, but did they really need to be labelled as 'has-beens' and compared to drunk dads at a wedding that were trying to cling on to their former glories?
Did listeners, whom the DJ on air at the time presumed to be majority under 30, really need to be told to ask their parents who Elton John was after playing the Your Song sampled The Man by Aloe Blac on Capital FM a couple of years back? Most of us already knew who he was, thank you very much. I even had the pleasure of seeing him live last year, in a crowd filled with a wide variety of ages.
This industry and its surrounding media is so ridiculously obsessed with youth that I cannot remember a time in my life where I have ever felt 'in touch' with current trends or that I was into anything deemed 'relevant' to young people.
The most striking aspect of these comments — be they in online articles, magazines, radio shows, podcasts or whatever your format of choice — is that they are almost always made by those who fall outside the demographic they are making judgements upon.
The notion that it is impossible for any supposed 'millennial' or 'gen zedder' (old skype throwing up emoticon) to feel any connection to any art created more than five years ago, and god forbid before they were born, is not only completely inaccurate but also ironically out of touch.
One of the most beautiful things about the development of streaming services over the last decade or so is that it has opened up a huge world of music to us all, from every decade and every genre, available within seconds through a playlist or a manual search.
Pop stars are also being more open with fans than ever before, sharing their musical inspirations and leading listeners on their own unique paths of discovery.
My generation, and any generation that comes after it, operate in exactly the same way as our parents and grandparents. We learn, grow and explore just like they did. We have the same core hopes and fears that they did. We choose our own style and decide on our musical likes and dislikes, just like they did. We have our idols, just like they did. And we enjoy discovering artists we've never heard of, old and new, just like they did.
We are not some mystical beings, operating in a world of our own. We just happen to have different technology at our disposal.
Radio 1 recently celebrated its 50th year on air. During one show, a daytime DJ played the first complete song ever aired on the station, "Flowers in the Rain" by The Move. As the track finished, it was met with laughter and mockery by said unnamed DJ, who made a remark about the station coming a long way over the past 50 years. Needless to say, I didn't laugh. Why? Because like it or not, they were a part of pop history that for an avid fan like me, it is interesting to learn about.
We are taught to respect our nation's history and be grateful for the roles our ancestors played in creating the world we live in today. Why is it frowned upon for young music fans to respect pop stars who have made an impact on the industry they love and inspired newer artists? Why must we disregard the newer work of those who have been active musicians for longer than five years? Why on earth would young music fans be uninterested in the work of musicians who paved the way for some of the artists they know and love today?
Give us some credit, we're not all cardboard cutouts. Anyone can be 'relevant' as long as they have the tunes, and the titans of music will always stay evergreen. Let us be ourselves and find our own way. Please don't tell us who we like and don't like, or even worse, who we should and shouldn't like. There were legitimate points raised in the aforementioned Timberlake article which deserve further discussion, and I'm also sure that to some young people, Timberlake is irrelevant in 2018. But there are also millions of young people who may just be discovering his music and becoming super fans. Can we just let them, accept them and respect them? (So many rhymes in one go).
We're already under enough pressure as it is — constantly being informed that once we reach a certain age, our time in the youth spotlight is over and therefore so is our own relevance in the world. If we haven't made it in life by 30 we might as well just sit back and accept a 'supporting role'. If we don't get married and have kids then there's no point in being a human. If we're not physically attractive then we must strive to be. Please do us a favour and take all things music-related off that list so we can have one less burden...
I would really quite appreciate it. Thanks.
an insecure 23-year-old pop fan.