With the rise of cultural icons like the drummer of blink-182 Travis Barker, who recently established the DTA record label back in 2020, culture has attempted to redefine an idealistic version of the early 2000s in the United States. Reviving a unique blend of punk rock and post-grunge, DTA records has signed many up-and-coming, if I may use this term, post-modernist poets. Focusing on either hyper materialism or the complete rejection of material wealth mixed with a dose of nihilistic existentialism is what these new artists do best. Travis Barker has signed the likes of Jxdn, Avril Lavigne, and others to his label that realizes that poetry truly lives in the streets. Postmodernism has made its way downstream into the culture of today. What are we to think of this?
Complete intoxication, drug-fueled raves, wearing a blood-stained Balmain t-shirt as you cruise Rodeo Drive in LA. Sound like something completely foreign to what you ever imagined pop culture becoming? Well, it was predicted over a century ago by the great philosopher Friedrich Nietzche when he stated “The mother of excess is not joy but joylessness.” What has the American population consumed and dedicated their lives to for decades? A fallen dream of a consumeristic utopia. What I opened this paragraph with, is such a dystopian description of a fallen culture and people lacking all sense of direction, is the status quo of the youth. TikTok crazed, Instagram fueled, Snapchat stimulated cattle for a system to herd along the way to the meat grinder of reality. If reality does not exist in music and culture, where does it?
Existentialism In The Mainstream
Admittedly, existentialism (my favorite school of philosophy) is a bit pessimistic in the worldview that it can lead someone to believe. While on that note though, it makes a person who was previously an unaware sheep into a person alert of what the industrial system in the west is doing. It seems to me as I write this that the philosophical underpinnings of existentialism and rejection of materialism in favor of avant-garde art is the heart of this revival if one could call this a cultural phenomenon. The existentialist philosopher Albert Camus writes “Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.” Indeed, what is true is often what is most painful. Maybe as a society, we need to wake up to the cultural and social implications of the idolization of hypermaterialistic hedonism fused with nihilistic depression. A lot of weighty terms forge an image of the loss of the high intellectual environment that the Marxists of France envisioned.
It all started with a guy called Kurt Cobain and a grunge band on the west coast of the richest nation in the world. Nirvana changed the world. Sure, you have probably heard that a hundred times from everyone you have spoken to about Nirvana and its legacy but have you actually considered it? What started with the grunge movement along with punk culture became blended into what would become Nirvana and the mainstream descent of a niche culture to mass popularity. What if I told you that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was never meant to be listened to while shopping in a super Target or while ordering a nitrite-filled Subway sandwich? You would say that it is simply pop culture and it is simply accepted, “it’s a classic”.
What Kurt knew best was that he was writing to the grunge scene where he lived and thrived, not the executive in New York City. The executive could not identify with the problems that Cobain had faced in his life, or what he had seen others go through. Niche and alternative culture exists for a reason, but with there being a seemingly endless stream of culture flowing into the mainstream river every day through TikTok and social media…how long before we see the effects of these ideas?
I think we already are.
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