The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Apr 012012

I often reflect on the various ways Millennials are inexorably transforming the pop culture.

One clear trend is the new youth enthusiasm about “team” creativity.  As in the whole digital mashup scene, where tracks from several artists are merged, altered, and then remerged by successive people.  Or as in collaborative R&B or rap medleys in which several artists take different voices.  Or as in using social media to facilitate direct-to-fan communication, especially among ultra-connected Millennials.  (Fans of Brit Millennial folk singer Ellie Lawson chipped in to finance her new album in exchange for an exclusive look at new material and their name in the liner notes.)  In fact,  the crowdsourcing option has artists at all stages of their careers, from Björk to Kaiser Chiefs (Gen-Xers) to The Vaccines (Brit Millennials), taking it a step further by actually turning to fans for artistic input on their albums and music videos.

Along with trend toward team play, there is the parallel trend toward “depersonalizing” the performance.  For Boomers (and most Gen-Xers) creative individualism and the cult of personality went hand in hand.  You loved a performer not just for how he (or she) sang… but for who he was (ideals, character, passion, ideology).  Now we are into the era of techno and dance hall music–much of it auto-tuned–where personality is suppressed.  People in the music industry tell me that “one-hit wonders” are now commonplace: Millennials all fall in love with a song, but have little desire to listen to the next song by the same artist, unless it stands on its own.  (Admit it, Boomers, how many utterly incomprehensible songs by King Crimson or CSNY did you suffer through just because it was THEM!)

OK, all this is a long wind up to a funny video illustrating all of the above.  Everyone knows that, back in the day, the solo guitar act was the ultimate Boomer expression of creative individuality and the cult of personality.  Think of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” or CCR’s “Suzy Q.”

Now try this one for size.  It’s by “Walk Off the Earth,” a group of Canadian Millennials.  It’s perfect, especially the expressions of the performers themselves.  I just about fell off my chair when I saw it.


I thank my friend Dave Sohigian for giving me the heads up.



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