To suggest young artists only talk about themselves is out of touch
Alexandra Pollard

12:56 20th April 2015

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If you wrote a parody of "middle-aged man lamenting how things were better back in his day", you'd struggle to write something as out-of-touch as Damon Albarn's recent comments on what he calls the "selfie generation."

In a new interview with the Sunday Times Culture magazine, the Blur frontman said, "But look at music now. Does it say anything? Young artists talk about themselves, not what’s happening out there. It’s the selfie generation. They’re talking platitudes.

"What are any of them saying? I don’t hear anything other than: ‘This is how I feel.’ Which is an important part of song-writing, but we’re talking in the context of the election – and they don’t have anything to do with it."

There's a molecule of truth in Albarn's comments - there's some mind-numbingly inane music in the pop charts these days (step forward Rita Ora) - but surely he can't truly believe that all "young artists" can be painted into one reductive box? "Look at music now," he tells us - but it just doesn't seem like he's done that at all.

Lorde, who admits that she was "basically a foetus" when she released her debut album Pure Heroine, and wasn't alive for the release of Blur's first four albums, sings of her weariness of materialism, the poetic mundanity of adolescence and the stagnation of economically-deprived small towns. Outside of her music, the 18 year old is an outspoken feminist who released a video with the New Zealand Electoral Commission encouraging young people to vote.

How about First Aid Kit, who tackled the hypocrisy of religion in their debut album, released when they were teenagers, and who have carried these subtle political and social themes into their early 20s. "We're not afraid to be political," they told Gigwise last year. Clearly no-one's passed them the message that they're supposed to be a part of the selfie generation.

What about 27-year-old Kendrick Lamar's blisteringly political new album To Pimp A Butterfly? Yes there's plenty of self-love and self-reflection in there - not least on the brilliant 'I', with its "I love myself" refrain - but there's also references to Clinton, Obama, police brutality and institutionalised racism. What is platitudinal, Damon, about the lyric, "This plot is bigger than me, it's generational hatred / It's genocism, it's grimy, little justification / I'm African-American, I'm African / I'm black as the heart of a fuckin' Aryan"?

Listen to 'The Blacker The Berry' below

It's not just this inaccuracy in Albarn's comments that sits uneasily though - it's also the implication that being inward-looking and self-reflective in music is something newly invented by the millenials. Albarn's belief appears to be that before 1999 the only things people sang about were land value tax and immigration policies.

If he tried harder, Albarn could find political undertones aplenty in the music of Hozier, Raury, Polica, Pussy Riot, even Rihanna. The list is genuinely endless and goes across all genres, even pop - but there's also something beautiful about writing music that simply says, "This is how I feel." It's not new, it wasn't invented by the selfie generation... but it's not going to end with them either.

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

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Photo: Splash