Why Lorde really appeals to middle-aged men…

22 06 2014

Admittedly I sometimes have reservations about writing articles on this blog. It happens about as much as Rolex tends to come out with a new model watch, yeah, not very often. I also have a confession to make, I kind of like cinnamon donuts. AHA! caught you out didn’t I? You fell right into my trap! Though yes, I admit that I very much enjoy the music of young New Zealand born prodigy, ‘Lorde’ (born Ella Marija Lani Yellich-O’Connor). Actually, her proper name sounds a little like the entire team of a private school cross-cultural debating team, so a monosyllabic and cryptic moniker was obviously a shrewd marketing choice. Having said that, I suspect that her song-crafting and style had quite a lot more to do with her success than a cool name.

 

Yep, I get the tension that is already palpably evident in your head at present.. “Where the hell is he going with this article?” and “Why is a middle aged man listening to, let alone writing about, a pop sensation not even finished high school yet?” or possibly “Why do I never get sick of tacos, no matter how many times I eat them, when I get sick of every other meal that I eat a lot?”. Ok, maybe YOU weren’t thinking that but I was and man, I am gonna have to write me an article about THAT very, very soon, but not now.

 

The reason I like Lorde is very simple. Her music is characterised craftsmanship, intelligence and genuine talent, not sex. I think it is no accident that fathers across the world find themselves listening to Lorde, even when their daughters or sons are NOT in the car. Her age puts her right at the age at which many forty years old men conceivably have daughters. Therefore, Lorde’s parents are similar in age and, allowing for some quirky variations in musical taste, Lorde may well have grown up in a milieu of music in a garden which might not necessarily be sound nor savage (couldn’t resist a bandy pun or two there!) but certainly not unlike that of most men listening to her music. There is the ambient grooves and basslines reminiscent of the heady days of early trance and house, lyrics that tend to be provocative and cryptic like the work of the Smiths, U2 or coldplay but not derivative of them and the melodies are pared back and haunting, almost a little like Robert Smith, of the Cure (who possibly seems to be giving make up advice to young Kiwi songwriters as well, these days!).

 

 

One of the hallmarks of a truly good musical artist is the ability to sell more than the ’empty carbs of the pop world’ which is sex wrapped up in the plastic of riffs better left in advertising jingles. Instead, despite her modest years and relatively limited experience in what is fast becoming the most competitive era ever for the sale of popular music, she is carving up the pie with some genuinely good material in a manner that established artists like Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Beyonce are finding increasingly hard to emulate. Lorde-RS So middle aged-men get Lorde because the musical style is eclectic, whilst reminiscent of a lot of things they half remember from their youth, which they half-remember wasn’t half-bad, back in the day. So about 12.5% association with something vaguely good in the past. What is great is that Lorde has so much more to offer than the shell that we all walk around in. Not so for artists such as Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga who each left nothing to the imagination when strutting out of highschool into packed arenas in their late teens/early twenties. There is, most certainly, something a little ‘pedo’ in a middle-aged man’s interest in the ‘music’ of any of these artists when the product being sold is both so young and so obvious.

 

Typically, such artists are “unit puppets”, just flogging their latest cheap, tacky fads to plump ailing record sales for a little girl who has grown up and lost core fans distracted by the musical equivalent of Sizzler Salad Bars as such fans have also grown up. Not so with artists like Lorde. It is perhaps a little naive to suggest that she, and artists like her, thrive because of authenticity and free reign to write precisely what they like, wear what they like and have control over how that ‘brand’ is developed. What she does have is, however, genuine product which is not dependent on her age, her body and her gender. Instead, along with other successful artists like Alannis Morisette, Avril LaVigne and Alicia Keys, she is a song-writer not just a singer. Sure the content does involve the usual pop themes of love and love lost, but not a whole lot. Instead, we get lyrical poetry (perhaps an unsurprising observation given that her mother is an acclaimed New Zealand poet but kids don’t always follow their parent’s day jobs!). Nevertheless, we hear class contrast, generational angst, concerns about superficiality in social interactions and the influence of mammon on man. Intelligent, philosophical, thoughtful writing and ambient, trancy and layered vocals with pitch-perfect harmonies (possibly worked on in the mixing and editing but still beautifully done) and, the hallmark of successful female artists: a different voice.

 

So why the appeal to middle-aged men, specifically and why should this be important in any way to those who direct this juggernaut of a musical phenomenon? Primarily because it represents generational change. We have the first glimpse of our millenial/Gen Z music, almost like a time trip into the near future. Arguably, the music reaching our ears through whatever media we choose to consume is the last flickers of Gen Y artists, that are sounding tired, stretched, over-evolved, like some actress that has been poorly advised to pay too much for cosmetic surgery that  creates more beasts than beauties.Typically, the generation consuming the music has it delivered by the generation above, but here we see a wonderful window into what could be the future of millenial artist pop. That’s exciting.

 

 

Generation X is characterised by its cynicism, search for authenticity and obsession with relational depth (as opposed to Boomer/Gen Y focus of relational breadth). Likewise, their children seem to have inherited these values. Millenials question superficiality, generally have drive, focus and ambition that is tempered with acceptance of honest feedback about their ability to achieve such goals. Unlike Boomers, whose suspicion of ‘the establishment’ was near universal, which often led to “plugging in and dropping out” in search of a new utopia (almost universally disappointed with the outcome..when human nature is involved), Millenials see the inevitability of the establishment and work within it, breaking and shaping it when needed (and allowed to). In an almost Frankl-esque dedication, these Millenials understand that the ‘Matrix’ is something that we need to work with but we choose how much it changes our sense of self. Digital natives yes, but not the mindless slaves we thought they’d be. Using technology to find relational depth, make their brains more alive, more creative, more rich not less rich. The games they play tune their brains, build creativity within boundaries like lifting weights at the gym, using their networks to study seriously and faster than their older natives, now in employment.

Lorde at Madame Jojo's, London Lorde seems emblematic of a generation that their parents can’t help but get excited about. True, many Gen Ys don’t know what to make of these younger ‘upstarts’. This is not, however, die to the fact that Millenials are so enigmatic but more a function of the fact that Gen Y tend to be so self-absorbed or, now, running around on minimal sleep now they are breeding, that they simply don’t have the time to care. Of course music artists, particularly female artists trying to share this consumer-space with artists like Lorde are not happy in the slightest, and the knives are out. This guest is, in their opinion, unfashionably early and they are not happy about the way the party might change.

 

Now the fathers of Millenials who listen to the haunting melodies ringing through their homes in wireless convenience also find tracks on their own devices feeding these melodies they find themselves humming. Daughters going to Lorde concerts may find their Dads not only footing the bill but offering to come along. In doing so, these involved ‘Neo-Dads’ far from experiencing the derision common in earlier generations at this kind of cultural invasion or cringeworthy example of an uninvolved Dad trying to ‘get hip and be cool’ to be-friend his distant daughter, is often greeted compassionately by such gestures. Dads and daughters these days have a lot more to do with each other than they once did. Dad is not trying to be a friend, he will always be the ‘daggy old dad’.. but he is there and that is, for the meantime at least, cool. From the Dad’s point of view, this is a damn-sight more tolerable to sit through for $100 a pop than, say Britney Spears or Taylor Swift or even Pink, for that matter.

 

The music is cool, accessible and it is about the talent, intelligence and concert atmosphere of an artist and work, not a piece of female flesh teasing the men and causing the women to covet mimicry of that blatant sexuality to get the same attention from men. Again, there is more than enough evidence that marketers are way ahead of the curve on this one (money is that most powerful motivator!). Even the clips selected for this blog post contained advertisements for Joe Satriani concerts (1989 Surfing with the Alien, anyone??) and Rolling stone arguably bought into this phenomenon with Lorde in a Cramps shirt and a nod to early Gen X punk with both their cover and headline.

 

Yep, this young lady is for youth and their dads (with a possibility that more than a few Mums might also want to ride this train!!). Economically, nothing could be smarter for Lorde than continuing to push boundaries of music and stage performance whilst remaining decently (if esoterically) dressed and not dipping her feet into the superficiality of carnal hedonism as she ages. In an age where profitability from music sales is bottoming out and album sales contribute paltry revenue for even the most popular artists, sales of concert tickets are a coveted stream of income. Having on board the fathers of fans as benevolent benefactors of entertainment coin is very, very savvy. Deep pockets and an appreciation for the art is driving a medium which simply can’t be pirated: the live experience. Much like the glory days of stadium rock and pop concerts that were the staple of bands in the 1980s, such fathers are keen to support this once again. A format long in decline to the chagrin of performers as music became diverse and democratised in the age of the internet, good concerts are slowly, but surely experiencing a resurgence with artists such as Lorde and, just like a feudal system that young Ella Y-O is often enamoured with in her lyrics, we are seeing a new generation of Pop royalty rise among the ashes of a cacophony of peasants. Long live the Queen, then eh? Mickovich

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Man Clothes. All you never wanted to know.

8 04 2013

Men wear clothes, generally. Most men don’t seem to wear enough around the house for their wife’s liking. I suspect that this is mostly due to the fact that women find most parts of male bodies repulsive most of the time. Much of the time I suspect we can blame the fathers of those women who are perplexed to find that the man they possibly respect most in the world looks something like this:

ugly daks dad

Needless to say it takes a long time to heal such shocking memories. For first dates, I always recommend a full suit and tie (what? you still think women think men look cool in them because of James Bond??). No, the suit covers more surface area (besides a scuba suit) than any other male outfit (with the added bonus not afforded to scuba suits of discreetly hiding what most women consider the ugliest bit!).

It is often said of men’s bodies when comparing them to women that the salient difference really boils down to function versus beauty. I think this is generally accepted as true. Think of a woman as a gleaming red ferrari and her husband as an old rusty Hilux Ute and you’ll soon understand why you really don’t want the neighbours to see it. Or him.

Nevertheless, men tend to get around the house in as little as possible (or necessary). In some cases, it is not the quantity of fabric but the quality of the fabric that wives take issue with. A bloke’s trakky dacks are sacred. I have a glorious pair that are well over 15 years old (just getting to that comfortable, worn-in phase) that my wife turned her nose up for years at. That was, until she was pregnant in a fairly cold climate and discovered the joy of ‘ol grey on cold legs. Unfortunately, she stretched ’em out a bit and I lost 15 kilos, so after a few embarrassing trips around the house with them around my ankles and my dignity in close proximity, they were laid to rest (in a box, where I can look at them occasionally or wear them if I ever become a barge-arse again!).

stryper 1

I have a theory that a man’s wardrobe is largely set around age 32. Above is a photo of the polarising band from the 90’s: Stryper. This is what they were wearing LAST WEEK!!! Ok, not true but raises another key point about never letting men near spandex nor perming machines. Whatever men we wearing then, will be their uniform for the duration, until the recession from public life at the end, where the fashion gets truly borderline, as I will discuss a few paragraphs hence. Thus, I thought that dark indigo jeans, black shirts and cargo pants were pret-ty-darn-cool (and wonderfully functional!). That was until a particular student on one particular trip to China cringed when I considered buying a pair at the markets and opted for the zip-off Columbia trouser-shorts instead. Said student nearly puked. I wouldn’t have minded but she was right next to my groovy shorts and they were brand new!

Some people get too fussy about things too. Like socks. I have two kinds:

  • ‘White-ish’ Socks
  • ‘Black-ish’ Socks

White-ish socks include all sports socks, or socks not dark enough to be considered Black-ish. It is fairly simple. So White-ish socks go with sports shoes, hiking boots or, if necessary, sandals. Black-ish socks are serious socks and are for work. I need to state right now, I am NO sock nazi, I put my socks under no undue pressure to technically ‘match’, as long as they are of the same broad type. So a black/blue is great, a blue/uncleanably greyish-ex white-ish sock is satisfactory. Don’t go looking up my trousers at work to check however, or people will think you are weird (don’t thank me, my social skills are a gift).

Don’t buy a guy a tie ever. Should be a song. Ladies, don’t do it. According to a blatantly fabricated statistic, men search through 237 ties before purchasing a single tie. Average shirts before purchase? 12.Trousers? 3. Jocks? 0.142 (men grab the first 7 pack of jocks on special with an average decision time of 13 seconds). Ties though, are personal. Maybe the feminists were right about what they represent?

Men’s shirts always fascinate me. Ok, I lied. But I do find it strange that women’s clothing stores outnumber men’s stores by about 10:1, that shirt styles are FAR less limited and yet it is rare that you run into a guy wearing exactly the same shirt. When I find a good shirt I buy it, a LOT! All guys need a ‘weekend black’. This is a smart looking black shirt that you can wear with jeans that makes a middle aged man look 5.3kg lighter than he actually is. I have a great one that is only now starting to die but had the most bizarre experience one day at the washing basket when I saw the same shirt that I had just thrown into the laundry basket not ninety seconds previous turn up clean as a whistle on the bed. Needless to say I toyed with a sacred reverence for this most magical of shirts and stood for a full five minutes staring at it wondering how the hell that it was there and clean so quickly. My wife must have been watching me for some period and, having long accepted the fact that I am perhaps not completely hinged, simply asked if I was going to get dressed anytime soon (see paragraph one for reference). Then, I mumbled something incoherent about the magic black shirt washing itself and she patiently explained to me that I had actually bought a second one at some stage because I liked it so much. To this day I have no clear recollection of this but thank my subconscious for taking care of (fashion) business. I even have a vague feeling that I got it for a bargain. I bloody LOVE those shirts!

fat guy black shirt

One night I was watching Seinfeld DVDs in bed (peak entertainment for a Wednesday night when you’re in your fifth decade) and an episode featuring Jay Peterman, the eccentric clothing entrepreneur. After a quick search, I found out two things:

  • Jay Peterman is a REAL clothing company
  • The actor that played Jay Peterman in Seinfeld ended up buying the ACTUAL Jay Peterman company. Legit.

That alone was enough for me to want to buy clothes from Peterman: clothes that have a cool story. 🙂

As it turns out, they had really nice shirts, so I waited for months for them to go to the ‘clearance’ section, which made them ‘barely affordable’ by Australian middle-aged-men standards once the exorbitant postage was added. What made it so much nicer is that I bought several of each. Now I realise that this might have a slightly concerning side effect: that people see me wearing the same shirts a lot and think that I am a complete slob that doesn’t wash much. My solution: completely nonchalance. I just don’t care what people think. I mean, I try to, I really do, but the older I get, I think this gene just switched right on that says “bugger ’em all, be comfortable man!!!”. To be honest, I am not entirely sure that my fashion-awareness-button ever really worked properly.

That brings me to my step-father for a fast-forward on what I could be like in a further 30 years. Once we were coming over for lunch, an event known about for several weeks. We rolled through the driveway to his broadly grinning face which warmed our hearts as much as his clothing contorted our minds. He was wearing pillowcases that my mother had apparently patchworked into baggy gardening pants. He wore these all afternoon and nary made so much as a comment about them. I had to admire the complete absence of embarrassment in my Dad and was still counting my blessings that his ‘old man legs’ were well and truly covered.

Ladies, be kind to your men when it comes to clothes. Firstly, look at his wardrobe space compared to yours next time you bleat about having “nothing to wear”. Secondly, consider his annual spend on clothes compared to yours (even if you don’t count shoes!). Finally, realise that the daggier he is, the less flattering his clothes, the more embarrassing his shoes are, the safer you are from ever losing him to another self-respecting woman. Of course that’s logical. I’m a man. I do logic better than accessories.

🙂