Paul McCartney, Kanye West and How Kids Today Don’t Understand Real Music

Nothing is more disheartening than watching my generation become just as obnoxious and insufferable about the Music Of Youth as our parents’ generation was about ours: 

After Kanye West released his new single “Only One” featuring Sir Paul McCartney yesterday, some of the rapper’s fans took to Twitter to publically admit they had never heard of the legendary Beatles rocker until this week.

Needless to say, the Internet exploded with hilariously appropriate reactions to the general stupidity of society. We can only hope some of the “Who Is Paul McCartney?” tweets are jokes. If they aren’t, it’s safe to say we are all doomed.

No, society is not doomed because people don’t know who Paul McCartney is. God, people my age, can we not be as fucking tiresome in our musical dotage as our Boomer predecessors? Can we not do this? Can we not act like anybody who doesn’t worship old-as-fuck music is somehow a terrible person?

Especially if we are going to be jerks about Ke$ha and Miley. I mean, the person who wrote this sort of thing and everybody who’s enthusiastically posting it everywhere are the same people who will ask in a crooked-pinkie-finger voice, “What’s a Lady Gaga?” like her name tastes bad, who will be perversely proud of not knowing who anybody on Top 40 today is. Who will bitch about the American Music Awards and think the last good songwriter died 50 years ago, because that gives them some kind of cred. As if you should be proud to be ignorant, and as if curiosity and the capacity for enjoyment of the new has some kind of acceptable expiration date.

(I am biased, in this, somewhat because my warmest feelings about the Beatles in general and McCartney specifically are apathy and exhaustion. I don’t care about Kanye’s music at all either, but I think if we directed a fraction of the hate we send his way at Dick Cheney, we would be better off as human beings and Americans. Also, my favorite thing on the radio is the 1940s station, and WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW WHO THE ANDREWS SISTERS ARE? God, Philistines.)

And you know, musical literacy is a good thing, the same way knowing major authors is a good thing, or having read books that have contributed to change in the world.

But mocking someone for their lack of knowledge when that lack of knowledge is generally just due to THEY HAVEN’T BEEN ON THIS EARTH LONG ENOUGH TO KNOW WHO EVERYBODY IS OR LISTEN TO EVERYTHING YET is not, shall we say, a good way to teach that literacy. You don’t expose someone to something by humiliating them for not knowing it already. You expose them to it by exposing them to it.

Paul McCartney, no doubt, did a song with Kanye West not only to bring Kanye West to his audience but to bring himself to Kanye’s, so by that measure, these Tweets show remarkable success. “I didn’t know this dude, and he sounds awesome” is something every older musician would probably like to hear said about himself by teenagers.

The carping is just jerking off, a way to show how morally superior you, person who already knows who Paul McCartney is, are to everyone who doesn’t. Which, you are comparing yourself favorably to people in terms of the musicians whose existence you are aware of.

That is the stellar achievement you are celebrating by writing this piece and posting it everywhere. Way to set the bar high.

A.

10 thoughts on “Paul McCartney, Kanye West and How Kids Today Don’t Understand Real Music

  1. And the dollop of whipped cream on this are the not-so-subtly racist comments over at eonline.

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  2. Yeah, there’s a lot of that, too. Why is the definitive musical canon of which Everyone Must Be Aware a bunch of white dudes? It couldn’t be because most music critics are a bunch of white dudes, could it?

    A.

  3. You would think that our generation – one that followed in the wake of a demographically huge one that dictated cultural terms for a disproportionately long time and with a disproportionately loud voice – would have acquired a certain reluctance to spouting exactly the kind of bullshit we heard for so long.

    It’s just so obnoxious. Like you said, 15 year olds haven’t had the time to become familiar with everything, and there’s a world of difference between that kind of innocent ignorance and the swaggering, willful ignorance of that douchebag. Jesus, nothing makes me feel older than my fellow old people.

  4. One thing about Macca and the Beatles. They belong to history now so ignorance about them is ignorance about recent history. Just sayin’

  5. Odd how on many fronts the ones decrying today’s kids not knowing McCartney are actively showing their ignorance of the bands before their time.

    Example – in the racist overtones, funny how they don’t recognize the non-white underpinnings of the music of the 50s and 60s leading to Elvis and the Beatles.

    Example – wonder how many of the McCartney generation could pass a simple test on the major ,musical influences of the 1910s (1960 to today = just over 50 years = 1910 to 1960).

  6. I’ve made my peace with my own past and its irrelevance to today’s youth. I had a friend in college who conducted a summer workshop in 1981 or so for aspiring theater students drawn from the area high schools. Each day for the two weeks of the workshop, he’d ask his charges a pop culture trivia question, and one morning he asked them, “What band was Paul McCartney in before Wings?”

    The kids were pretty well-versed in entertainment (being interested in theater and all), and this was barely 10 years after the Beatles broke up. My friend’s question elicited nothing but blank stares: Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings??? He prompted them with a few song titles. Still nothing. John, Paul, George and Ringo? Silence. A couple more songs? Finally, one of them who had an older sibling remembered the record collection and came up with the Beatles. This happened more than 30 years ago, so this story didn’t surprise me in the least.

  7. Isn’t this the whole point of popular music, defining the times? Every era has its soundtrack, just as it has its look. Especially when one is young, music is about now. Only as one ages does music become about then.

    For a really funny take on this, rent Searching for Sugar Man. It’s about the most popular musician in South Africa in the 1960s and a bunch of people who years later try to find out who the hell he was.

  8. As far as popular music goes, only your own age’s music is relevant to you for the most part. People should just shut up about other people’s preferences/knowledge in music because it’s at least as personal as religion, and often moreso. As an Old Fart I have no use for rap or hiphop but it does neither me nor anyone else any good for me to bitch about it.

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