HowTo:Be a hipster
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“I went through every possible scene you could imagine: mallgoth, emo, scenester, mallgoth revival... it was all so childish. But now I've really found myself as an individual in this world, and that's why I listen to mostly depressing lo-fi indie rock. I'm also a vegan, an- oh! Do you like my new leather shoes? I bought them somewhere. It doesn't matter where. You wouldn't know where it was, anyway.”
Are you tired of being hopelessly mainstream? Have you just realized that all punk rock bands are pretty much playing the same song? Is the ecstasy-induced merriment of raving starting to get dull? Did you fall for the "What did you think of Joy Division's third album?" trick again while you were trying to bang that cute chick who hangs around the snooty independent record store with a world-weary expression on her face?
Well, your troubles are over, for within this article you will find everything you need to enter that most elite of music-based cliques: the hipsters! Yes, by following the directions on this article, and soon you'll be on your way to earning the right to bitch about the recording industry for hours with other twentysomethings who shop for their clothing at thrift stores. At the highest levels of Hipsterdom, you can even force people to listen to Yoko Ono and pretend to find aesthetic qualities in her work. So what are you waiting for? Standardized nonconformity awaits!
(Oh, and before we start, you should know that the cute girl is a confirmed lesbian.)
- 1 Choose your opinions
- 2 Music
- 3 Irony: the hipster's best friend
- 4 Memorize obscure musical trivia
- 5 Read the British music press
- 6 Become a college radio DJ
- 7 A final note
- 8 Footnotes
Choose your opinions
First, you'll need some opinions. Not on politics — that doesn't matter. No, you need opinions about music. And no, you do not need your own opinions about music. It doesn't matter what you think (unless you happen to be a college DJ, see below). Your opinions are derived from the hipster bible: Pitchfork Media.
Luckily, we've compiled all of the pressing issues in hipsterdom today. Simply answer the following questions:
- Is [insert musical artist or group here] overrated/underrated?
- Has [insert semi-popular indie band that moved to a major label] sold out?
- Why does mainstream music suck so much?
- I mean, sure, mainstream music always sucks, but does it really have to suck that much?
- Hip-hop: Yes or No?
- What about underground hip-hop?
- Did you hear the new Yo La Tengo album?
Please note that it does not actually matter how you answer these questions, as long as you are willing to defend those answers in long, tedious debates with other hipsters.
As a novice hipster, you will likely be hearing several new names while you're hanging out at your local independent record store, like Belle & Sebastian, Gil Scott-Heron, Cap'n Jazz, Explosions In the Sky or Joanna Newsom. And, just as likely, you won't be able to buy all of the essential "cool" albums. Sure, you could just download them illegally like everyone else, but in this case you'd be taking money from honest, hardworking independent artists instead of the evil major labels, which means you run the risk of having to deal with excessive guilt, like the guilt one feels when you have to admit that you don't see why everyone is fussing over Arcade Fire; this is a feeling that you want to avoid at all costs. You'll still be downloading most of your albums, but you are also required to pay lip service to legality. Buying at least one album every two months should do the trick, but make sure you do so at the independent record store where your fellow hipsters can witness your awesome display of coolness.
Unfortunately, not everybody has a perfect music collection — we all have fossils of our pre-hipster years that continually come back to haunt us, threatening to destroy the coolness that we've spent so much time cultivating. Fortunately, as a hipster, you have access to the most useful fix-all in the universe: irony.
Suppose you listen to Journey. Not just because that's what your stuck-in-the-eighties friends play on their stereos, or because you really like the movie Caddyshack, but because you actually enjoy the band's overproduced, studio-heavy sound and the hyperdramatic vocal stylings of Steve Perry. Were you a member of a standard music-based subculture (for example, a metalhead), you would no doubt be cowering in fear lest your awful secret be found, hiding your autographed copy of Evolution in the closet and directing the attention of anyone who may enter your room to your fine collection of Cannibal Corpse CDs. Yet this would never be enough, because there is always the risk that one of your purer brethren may catch you humming "Wheel in the Sky" under your breath between sets at Ozzfest.
However, for the hipster, there is nothing to be ashamed of in liking utter dreck, for, unlike lesser mortals, hipsters are allowed to like bad music. In fact, they are allowed to brag about the dozens of musical travesties in their extensive collection of LP's, and even play them for their fellow hipsters. There are even a few persons in the movement who insist that one can't be a hipster unless you listen to crud. They can do this because, as hipsters, they have learned how to listen to music in an ironic fashion. In other words, it's okay to like crappy music, as long as you acknowledge that it's crappy and claim to enjoy it for its crappiness.
Memorize obscure musical trivia
The memorization of musical trivia is arguably the most important part of the hipster lifestyle. As everyone knows, the only people who go into minutae about a particular artist or group are pathetic fanboys and crazy stalkers, because "normal" people actually have a social life. Paradoxically, however, if you know everything about every artist, then you are considered to be a well-adjusted human being who simply likes music a lot. Obviously, you want to be seen as a well-adjusted human being, as this will enable you to look down your nose at the fanboys and stalkers.
Part 1: Every artist you've ever heard of
To that end, you should spend several hours each day scouring the Internet for information on every musical act you've ever heard of. No detail is too insignificant; you never know when your knowledge that Trent Reznor's house in New Orleans was a former funeral home right across the street from Anne Rice's house could be the "clincher" you need to win your music-based argument and put your opponent to shame. Note that your personal opinions about an artist's music do not come into play here: you need to know just as much about artists you hate as the artists you like, as this will give you evidence of inherent lameness that will can be priceless ammunition when you find yourself crossing wits with some poor deluded soul who thinks said crap-merchants have any talent whatsoever.
Don't slack off here! Unlike politicians, hipsters can't afford to fake their way through conversations with made up facts, as the people they talk with are almost always other hipsters, which in turn means that they've got their own repositories of useless musical trivia. If they catch you making things up, you will be subjected to ironic, patronizing derision. Of course, the good news is that if you catch another hipster in a bald-faced lie, you get to pour on the snobbish elitism. One never knows when this could happen, so I suggest you have a stable of appropriate insults ready. For example, "I bet your favorite Radiohead album is Pablo Honey," or "Let me guess: you think the Melvins were ripping off Kurt Cobain."
Part 2: Every artist that nobody's ever heard of
In addition to the time you spend researching known musicians, you should devote several more hours to researching really obscure bands, preferably ones without a label. In the event that one of the new artists makes it big, you will then be allowed to bitch about how they were better before everyone thought they were cool. If someone challenges your "original fanbase" status, you can then rattle off fact after fact, and nobody will doubt that once upon a time you actually cared about those sellouts.
It's common knowledge among hipsters in the USA that our allies across the pond have a better taste in music than we ever will. After all, they produced such musical giants as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Clash, while we in America have produced dreck like Vanilla Ice, The Backstreet Boys, Creed, and millions of other names that do naught but shame the sensibilities of music lovers everywhere. Fortunately, to correct this imbalance, one has merely to read the NME, and then drop the name of any artist spoken of with gushing praise into every conversation possible.
A word of warning: While you should always pay attention to acts that are getting a lot of hype in the British music press, you also need to stay the hell away from the British music sales charts. The reason is simple. While British music reviewers have good taste, the taste of British people who actually buy music is worse than the state of their dental health. These people actually liked "The Ketchup Song"! Enough said?
Become a college radio DJ
This step, while optional, is highly recommended. If hipsterism was Islam, college radio DJs would be the imams: their opinions concerning music are not to be questioned by the masses of lesser adherents to the hipster philosophy. If you say an artist sucks, he or she sucks. Even if that artist happens to be Bruce Springsteen, your opinion takes precedent. On a similar note, if you say an artist has musical merit, then your hipster friends are all obliged to listen to that artist at least once in an un-ironic fashion (unless you direct them to do otherwise), and if they do not listen to said artist, you have the right to pester them incessantly until they do.
However, like Uncle Ben said, "With great power, comes great responsibility — and it corrupts responsibly, too." Though you might think it is humorous to use your position to trick your friends into thinking that artists such as My Chemical Romance, The Pussycat Dolls, or, God forbid, Limp Bizkit are worth their time and money, but you won't be laughing when you see them turn into mindless TRL zombies and have to live with the guilt of knowing that it's all your fault.
The main disadvantage with this strategy for achieving hipster infallibility is that in order to be a college radio DJ, you actually have to get your butt off the couch and go to college. This is not always easy for certain persons in the music aficionado community. If you often engage in amateur botany, your best chance to get a similar status among your fellow hipsters is to either start your own band, or to write music reviews for a reputable publication. And by "reputable," I mean "any publication other than Rolling Stone."
A final note
If you really want to, I suppose you could try to squeeze some time to actually listen to music into your schedule. But between the hours spent researching musical trivia and the hours spent arguing about music with other hipsters, you probably won't have any time.
- Now that's what I call power!
- Unless you're a Republican, in which case you aren't allowed to be a hipster.
- To save on bandwidth, these albums will not be listed here — trust me, such a list would be really freakin' long. Besides, I'd be kicked out of the Eternal Order of Hipsters if I let you in on all of our secrets right away.
- Note to Kevin Shields: You don't count.
- If you find yourself in this situation, your best bet is to lie through your teeth.
- Hey, I said it was a worst-case scenario, right?
- And in order to prove that they are truly "metal," they will likely as not beat the shit out of you.
- You didn't really think you'd be allowed to listen to music on anything other than vinyl, did you?
- For extra credit, ignore any band who already has a MySpace page.
- New Musical Express, a weekly rock magazine in the UK for nostalgic hippies.
- But it only counts if said band does not suck monkey anus.
- Bonus points if it's Pitchfork, but remember that you'll be fired if you so much as hint that any music recording isn't a complete waste of time.