How to Have a Number One the Easy Way

Little makes me feel that I’m in my 50th year on this planet as surveying the music scene and thinking to myself that I have almost no idea what the fuck is going on anymore.

This is, let’s be honest, the natural order of things: I’m 49 years old and therefore intended to be someone who should complain about whatever the kids are listening to these days and how it’s all just noise. That’s surely my role in pop culture at this point. But, as I look down the listings for upcoming concerts here in Portland, I’m struck by how uninspired and boring it all seems.

I don’t mean that in the sense of, who are all these whippersnappers with their newfangled sounds — if only that was the case! Instead, there are countless tours by bands that were around during, or worse, before “my time.” And those few new acts playing are described in ways that reference their predecessors in such reverent, glowing terms that they feel, if anything, even older.

I’m reminded of asking people what they were listening to during my UK trip in an attempt to find something new and unexpected. One friend excitedly told me about “the hottest act in the country right now” and how groundbreaking her music was, but upon exploration, it was banal pop sounds with someone’s confessional overlaid over, as if Olivia Rodrigo’s “bad idea right?” had been taken as a signpost by people who frown in photos because they think it makes them seem interesting. Worse yet, asking my teenage nephew — himself a musician — offered up a list of bands I’d listened to myself at his age.

(I’m referencing Olivia Rodrigo; does that make me contemporary? Am I secretly hip after all?)

My ears are restless, still, and seemingly more restless than other people’s. I scroll through apps and music reviews online, looking for things I’ve never heard before. It’s not novelty I’m looking for as such, but just something different. Maybe this is how it’s meant to be at this age, as well, but I kind of doubt it.

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