Fino a qualche anno fa avrei segnalato lo spendidio post di Chris DeVille su Stereogum Deconstructing: The O.C. And Indie Rock Gentrification pochi minuti dopo la sua pubblicazione, e l’avrei probabilmente integrato con le mie riflessioni sul non-genere musicale a cui abbiamo dedicato parte della nostra gioventù. Ora invece, incastrato tra gli impegni di lavoro della mia società e quelli della vita personale, distratto dalla pianificazione di una vacanza in un posto esotico e senza neanche fare più finta di aver voglia di ascoltare dischi nuovi, lo linko con una buona giornata di ritardo e mi limito a un pigro copiaincolla. Come dice il finale, «For better or worse, indie rock has settled down into a comfortable life of luxury, nostalgia and privilege. Seth Cohen is all grown up, and he looks a lot like his parents.», che è in parte vero e in parte no. Ma non ho neanche più voglia di spiegarvi perchè in parte no, quindi facciamo che sì.
Ten years ago today, five words forever changed the nebulous concept known as indie rock: “Welcome to the O.C., bitch.” That dialogue was in the pilot of Fox’s teen soap opera The O.C., but you already knew that. The fact that it’s virtually impossible to imagine a reader of this website who isn’t aware of the show underlines the notion that it played a huge part in the genre’s trajectory this past decade — and in tastemakers’ retreat from it.
Let’s not belabor the whole “What does indie rock even mean?” thing. Yeah, “indie” is short for independent, and somewhere along the line it shifted from a description of a business model to a description of a musical style, at which point it was distended, like “grunge” and “alternative” and “new wave” and “punk” and “metal” and “rock” before it, beyond coherence. The O.C. played a pivotal role in that process. Still, even at this late date, you know indie rock when you hear it, whether in classicist forms like Parquet Courts and Cloud Nothings or modernized festival tentpoles like TV On The Radio and Spoon and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It’s intangible but unmistakable — a designation you’d assign to Liz Phair’s shambolic underground smash Exile In Guyville but never her radio-baiting Liz Phair.
Back in June, I argued that a move like Phair’s much-maligned pop crossover attempt in 2003 never would have provoked so much outrage in 2013. The thesis was basically that “poptimism” — the unapologetic embrace of pop music once deemed distasteful by critical elites — had been internalized to the point that your average straw-hipster is more likely to fawn over Justin Timberlake or Beyonce than the Walkmen or the National, and that becoming a superstar, even “selling out” to become a superstar, is now applauded rather than shunned. It ended like so: “In 2013, poptimism is the air we breathe. Why that happened is a complicated argument for another essay.” If there was ever an occasion for that essay, it’s the tenth anniversary of The O.C., a major player in the gentrification that helped drive away the kind of people who think of themselves as cutting-edge. [#]