Who Says Old School’s Not Cool?

This writer explores if classic music can really stand the test of time in this digital age.

Nigel Crane/Redferns/Getty Images; Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Nigel Crane/Redferns/Getty Images; Ethan Miller/Getty Images

And a Justin Bieber “superfan” recently inspired an online war by claiming that Bieber was “bigger” than Kurt Cobain because Cobain did not have the biggest fan base on Twitter. Someone forgot to inform her that Cobain died 12 years before the launch of Twitter.

Information Push

Sure, everyone is entitled to an opinion, no matter how distressingly wrong it is. But should everyone feel so inclined to disseminate those opinions, simply because the technology exists to self-publish? In the age of reality culture, we’ve willfully blurred the line between amateur and professional, discarding Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of 10,000 hours to instead encourage learning on the job at every level of professional status, whether you’re working in the mailroom or running for president and unaware of the political situation in Libya or who runs Uzbekistan. These days, being uninformed is, for some, a kind of badge, a trumpet call of hip currency. Why bother with the hard work of typing “Rodney King” in Wikipedia if you can tweet “who is Rodney King” to your followers instead?

There’s especially no reason to bother in our contemporary “push” culture, in which millennials are used to receiving information passively (via a Facebook or Twitter feed); researching, hunting, gathering and “pulling” information just makes you sweat and gets your nails dirty. Or is that seeming laziness just the latest manifestation of a deep-seated anti-intellectualism, tragically tied into the increasingly poor U.S. showings in global education rankings?

Whatever the case, we have to get over our disastrously unhealthy cultural obsession with youth and currency — the ageist idea, informed by technological fetish, that if it’s younger and newer, it’s automatically better. According to that logic, of course Drake bests PE; he’s younger, cooler and of the moment and makes sense in the moment, no research or context required. But it doesn’t make you cool to be exclusively current, at the expense of the past, or at the expense of aspects of the culture that thrive on experience, maturity and thoughtfulness.

That said, the generation-gap concept is increasingly played out: Every generation fears that the one after it is wallowing in ignorance and misplaced priorities. Those fears are in turn rooted in anxieties about the loss of a mythical golden age in which we all supposedly subscribed to the exact same cultural ideas of what was great and what wasn’t.