‘Original’ hip-hop and ‘formularized’ K-pop: Authenticity and the good/bad music paradigm

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By Ida Bulölö

Rhymin’ astronomical, original, shit is phenomenal
– Nine, Whutcha Want

In this essay I explore the value of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ music, and look into the ways that ideas surrounding the quality of music are constructed. It seems that the verdict of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is largely based on the authenticity of the music. Yet authenticity is a very difficult concept, as ideas on authenticity widely differ, not only between music genres but also personally. I thought it would be interesting to compare two opposites in the spectrum, to see how they are constructed within the ‘good’/’bad’ music paradigm in connection with the music being seen as authentic or not. These two genres are hip-hop and K-pop (Korean pop music). To me, they represent one of the biggest dichotomies when it comes to the notion of ‘authentic music’, despite the fact that I regularly listen to both. In hip-hop, especially the ‘oldskool’ genre, there is a huge emphasis on originality and creativity. Being a ‘real’ rapper—not a sell-out, commercial, in-it-for-the-money-MC—is one of the most important conditions for having the hip-hop audience take you seriously. Rappers cannot admit to being ‘produced’ instead of being ‘authentic’, for this will damage their reputation seriously. MCs should not be merely a product of their record label, but have their own voice. In K-pop—which many people see as the epitome of formularized, ‘bad’ music—we see total recognition for the fact that these musicians are made by companies and are not much different from being a consumer good instead of an artist. The audiences, as well as the musicians, are fully aware of this fact and nobody tries to pretend otherwise. By comparing these two music genres I hope to gain more insight into the way authenticity in relation to music is constructed. Continue reading

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Beyond hipster: The meaning of style in an elusive subculture

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By Keesje Heldoorn

There are many definitions of the hipster, however rarely do two writers agree. Most articles about hipsters provide a list of characteristics and interests. Fashion items such as thick-rimmed glasses, skinny jeans and trucker hats are mentioned. As are preferred modes of transportation (fixed gear bicycle and used sedans) and favoured beverages such as locally brewed organic coffee and PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon, a brand of beer). Based on these characteristics everyone seems to be able to point out a hipster when passing one on the street, but when asked to give a definition no one really knows. The hipster seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once. When turning to the internet for some clarification this is what I find: ‘Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence and witty banter’ (Urban Dictionary). According to Wikipedia, Hipster refers to a subculture of young, recently settled urban middle-class adults and older teenagers that appeared in the 1990s. The subculture is associated with independent music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility, liberal or independent political views, alternative spirituality or atheism, and alternative lifestyles. Whatever definition used, when googling the word hipster it seems as if everyone agrees on one thing: they all hate hipsters. Continue reading

Two cities, one genre, countless vibes: Exploring the hip-hop community in Amsterdam and Los Angeles

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By Ariella Abrams and Andrew Frantela

Growing up in Los Angeles has provided us with the ideal environment to be avid consumers of hip-hop music. Prior to exploring Amsterdam, we had never been exposed to anything but the American version of the genre. Conducting this research while on exchange in Amsterdam, it was intriguing to see a starkly different perspective of the hip-hop genre—the Dutch perspective, or ‘Nederhop’. Furthermore, we were particularly interested in the opposing concepts of ‘underground’ hip-hop and ‘mainstream’ hip-hop. The underground scene seemed more authentic to us, not to mention the fact that underground hip-hop is just cool. We delved into research that would enlighten us about what causes the differentiation and how the players in the scene interact with the genre. Since we both have our own experiences with the underground hip-hop scene in Los Angeles, we decided to compare underground hip-hop scenes in Los Angeles and Amsterdam. While approaching our research, we were mindful not to employ any prior biased opinions on hip-hop or particular artists. We allowed for our interviewees to come to their own conclusions about the purposes of the genre and the way they feel when listening to hip-hop. This resulted in many of them having very different opinions on the subject, and not hesitating to voice them passionately. Continue reading

‘You let me know like no one else, that it’s okay to be myself’: Youth and the emo scene

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By Michelle Neleman

Inspired by the letters received over the years, the Canadian band Simple Plan decided to write a song based on the experiences of their fans. On Twitter, they posed the question: ‘Can you tell me how our music has made you feel through the years?’, which launched the responses that ultimately would make up the lyrics of This Song Saved My Life:

I want to start by letting you know this
Because of you, my life has a purpose
You helped be who I am today
I see myself in every word you say
Sometimes it feels like nobody gets me
Trapped in a world, where everyone hates me
There’s so much that I’m going through
I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you

[Chorus]
I was broken
I was choking
I was lost
This song saved my life
I was bleeding, stopped believing
Could have died
This song saved my life
I was down
I was drowning
But it came on just in time
This song saved my life

Sometimes I feel like you’ve known me forever
You always know how to make me feel better
Because of you my dad and me
Are so much closer than we used to be
You’re my escape when I’m stuck in a small town
I turn you up, whenever I feel down
You let me know like no one else
That it’s okay to be myself

[Chorus]

You’ll never know what it means to me
That I’m not alone
That I’ll never have to be

I decided to open this paper with these lyrics, because many of the lines describe the responses of my interviewees spot on. Furthermore, the method of creating the song resembles the aim of my paper. Based on ethnographic research, this paper reveals the meaning of the emo scene as given by those who are part of it. Specifically, it will show how the scene contributes to the identity formation of the young participants, by examining the values the emo culture represents, the common features the emo youth share, and the meanings they attribute to the scene’s distinctive (music and fashion) style. Continue reading

The world of vintage bloggers

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By Stevie Michelle Greenleaf

Abstract: The vintage scene has exploded in recent decades, riding a wave of fascination with many desirable aspects of the past. Some of the most dedicated followers of this trend are vintage bloggers, who devote their time and resources to creating an accurate revival of the previous decades. In this paper, I question where this motivation for living a ‘vintage-lifestyle’ comes from, and whether it arises as a response to disappointment with aspects of modern life. Through in-depth interviews with a selection of such bloggers, and an analysis of their online posts, I seek to identify the extent to which the emerging vintage scene is fuelled by a sense of ‘loss’ for a time gone by, exploring: the appeal of vintage; sentiments of nostalgia; the search for authenticity; resistance to mass consumerism; and technological anachronisms within the subculture. Continue reading

Show-offs, stories about sleeping on the steppes and stereotypes: A closer look at the stereotypical backpacker, traveling around today’s increasingly less lonely planet

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By Janne Cress

Abstract: In this essay I explore the backpacking culture in a context of stereotypes, identity construction and self-enrichment, and I relate these concepts to topics of authenticity and ‘realness’. My main focus is the extent to which the archetypical, stereotypical image of backpackers corresponds with the self-identity and experiences of backpackers nowadays. At the time of writing, I was in my second year of anthropology. If I would be asked to write the paper again, with all the knowledge that I have gained in only one year, it would probably become a very different paper. But that, of course, is part of the (fun) deal of being a student. Continue reading