How to make fans and alienate purists: in the first of a new series, Cormac Duffy explains why going hipster is the new selling out
Despite my lofty credentials, even I sometimes doubt my omniscience when it comes to music. As I see others react to music I like, I’ve slowly released that I’ve become an accidental yardstick for fans of niche genres. If I’ve heard of it, it’s toeing the line of losing legitimacy. If I like it, they’ve made the hipster equivalent of a Faustian bargain.
Two albums released earlier this year inspired me to use my insight as a factory-line indie kid to help those acts sick of being authentic. Aesthetica, the sophomore effort of Brooklyn black-metallers Liturgy, has gotten significant acclaim in mid-level indie press, where metal is usually avoided because its lacks the intellectual and emotional depth of acts such as their precious Best Coast or Wavves. Despite being despised by many metalheads, Liturgy have hit the indie crossover nail on the head.
Few other releases this year matched the buzzstorm that was The Weeknd’s debut mixtape House of Balloons. It took baby-making R&B slow jams and soaked them with hungover, hedonistic chillwave-esque vibes, giving the band’s work the lofty description of ‘Hipster R&B’ to share with How to Dress Well, Frank Ocean and absolutely no one else, because, like hipster metal, it’s a fucking stupid concept. Yet for many, it’s the only way out.
What you’ll find below is a helpful guide on making the big switch:
Avoid anything stereotypical. For metal, no mythological obsessions, or else you risk triggering the Spinal Tap reference reflex. You can’t do gory lyrics or political incorrectness (unless you’re Odd Future, then we will praise you for it endlessly). Singing in English helps, given that the only world culture we enjoy is sad French pop. What gets noticed is usually what helps fans to sound intellectual when we brag about it to our scenester friends.
Follow Liturgy’s example and write a bizarre manifesto called ‘Transcendental Black Metal’ that illustrates your points with graphs. Graphs are the hippest of all means of expressing statistics. Concept albums are great, because they give us all the satisfaction of reading a novel, without any of the effort (obvious bonus points if it’s about whales).
For an R&B act, reverb is your best friend. Lots of it. Really, it can’t be emphasised enough that it’s not worth doing until you sound like Panda Bear in a cathedral singing into a toilet paper tube. Keep a sense of mystery about you, the more the better. When we hear you crooning about how much tail you get, we don’t need to know it’s because you’re a suave, emotionally and financially stable person. Let us think you’re like us; it gives us hope.
These are but guides for two genres among many. If you’re a rapper, insult hipsters, hipsters love insults (see Das Racist’s entire existence.) If you play jazz, try being from fifty years ago, that helps. May the indie gods guide you in your crossover. See you on the other side bro.