The idea was to be radically tolerant of therapeutic approaches and understandings of reality, especially if they came from Asian traditions or from American Indian or other shamanistic traditions. Invisible energies, past lives, astral projection, whatever—the more exotic and wondrous and unfalsifiable, the better. Not long before Esalen was founded, one of its co-founders, Dick Price, had suffered a mental breakdown and been involuntarily committed to a private psychiatric hospital for a year.
His new institute embraced the radical notion that psychosis and other mental illnesses were labels imposed by the straight world on eccentrics and visionaries, that they were primarily tools of coercion and control. And within the psychiatric profession itself this idea had two influential proponents, who each published unorthodox manifestos at the beginning of the decade—R.
These influential critiques helped make popular and respectable the idea that much of science is a sinister scheme concocted by a despotic conspiracy to oppress people. And how before their frontal lobes, the neural seat of reason and rationality, are fully wired, they can be especially prone to fantasy? Practically overnight, America turned its full attention to the young and everything they believed and imagined and wished. If was when the decade really got going, was the year the new doctrines and their gravity were definitively cataloged by the grown-ups.
Reason and rationality were over. Its author was Theodore Roszak, age 35, a Bay Area professor who thereby coined the word counterculture. As turned to , a year-old Yale Law School professor was finishing his book about the new youth counterculture. But hanging with the young people had led him to a midlife epiphany and apostasy. He decided to spend the next summer, the Summer of Love, in Berkeley.
Revelations of a Young Researcher: The Future is Now
His class at Yale became hugely popular; at its peak, students were enrolled. At 16, I bought and read one of the 2 million copies sold. Rereading it today and recalling how much I loved it was a stark reminder of the follies of youth. Reich was shamelessly, uncritically swooning for kids like me. Consciousness II s were the fearful and conformist organization men and women whose rationalism was a tyrannizing trap laid by the Corporate State—your parents.
Simply by being young and casual and undisciplined, you were ushering in a new utopia. The machine has begun to destroy itself. The machine did not destroy itself. But Reich was half-right. Instead, Consciousness III was just one early iteration of the anything-goes, post-reason, post-factual America enabled by the tsunami. Granted complete freedom of thought, Thomas Jefferson and company assumed, most people would follow the path of reason. I remember when fantastical beliefs went fully mainstream, in the s. In came a sensational autobiography by the young spoon bender and mind reader Uri Geller as well as Life After Life , by Raymond Moody, a philosophy Ph.
The book sold many millions of copies; before long the International Association for Near Death Studies formed and held its first conference, at Yale. Many of the pioneers were thoughtful, their work fine antidotes to postwar complacency. The problem was the nature and extent of their influence at that particular time, when all premises and paradigms seemed up for grabs.
Reality itself is a purely social construction, a tableau of useful or wishful myths that members of a society or tribe have been persuaded to believe. The borders between fiction and nonfiction are permeable, maybe nonexistent. The delusions of the insane, superstitions, and magical thinking? Any of those may be as legitimate as the supposed truths contrived by Western reason and science.
The takeaway: Believe whatever you want, because pretty much everything is equally true and false. These ideas percolated across multiple academic fields. Meanwhile, over in sociology, in a pair of professors published The Social Construction of Reality , one of the most influential works in their field.
Not only were sanity and insanity and scientific truth somewhat dubious concoctions by elites, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann explained—so was everything else. When I first read that, at age 18, I loved the quotation marks. The book was timed perfectly to become a foundational text in academia and beyond. A more extreme academic evangelist for the idea of all truths being equal was a UC Berkeley philosophy professor named Paul Feyerabend.
Science, he insisted, is just another form of belief. It is the principle: anything goes. This was understandable, given the times: colonialism ending, genocide of American Indians confessed, U. Who were we to roll our eyes or deny what these people believed? If all understandings of reality are socially constructed, those of Kalabari tribesmen in Nigeria are no more arbitrary or faith-based than those of college professors. Her assigned task was to send her mind or soul out of her body while she was asleep and read a five-digit number Tart had written on a piece of paper placed on a shelf above the bed.
He reported that she succeeded. Other scientists considered the experiments and the results bogus, but Tart proceeded to devote his academic career to proving that attempts at objectivity are a sham and magic is real. The rules of the scientific method had to be revised. Later he abandoned the pretense of neutrality and started calling it the consensus trance —people committed to reason and rationality were the deluded dupes, not he and his tribe. They had so well learned that … research is subsidized and conducted for the benefit of the ruling class that they did not believe there was such a thing as simple truth.
Ever since, the American right has insistently decried the spread of relativism, the idea that nothing is any more correct or true than anything else. Conservatives hated how relativism undercut various venerable and comfortable ruling ideas—certain notions of entitlement according to race and gender and aesthetic beauty and metaphysical and moral certainty. Yet once the intellectual mainstream thoroughly accepted that there are many equally valid realities and truths, once the idea of gates and gatekeeping was discredited not just on campuses but throughout the culture, all American barbarians could have their claims taken seriously.
The term useful idiot was originally deployed to accuse liberals of serving the interests of true believers further on the left. In this instance, however, postmodern intellectuals—post-positivists, poststructuralists, social constructivists, post-empiricists, epistemic relativists, cognitive relativists, descriptive relativists—turned out to be useful idiots most consequentially for the American right.
Neither side has noticed, but large factions of the elite left and the populist right have been on the same team. As the Vietnam War escalated and careened, antirationalism flowered. In his book about the remarkable protests in Washington, D. At that point the war in Vietnam would end. In , Students for a Democratic Society adopted its founding document, drafted by year-old Tom Hayden. Then, kaboom , the big bang. Anything and everything became believable.
Reason was chucked. Dystopian and utopian fantasies seemed plausible. Its members believed that they and other young white Americans, aligned with black insurgents, would be the vanguard in a new civil war. Officials at the FBI, the CIA, and military intelligence agencies, as well as in urban police departments, convinced themselves that peaceful antiwar protesters and campus lefties in general were dangerous militants, and expanded secret programs to spy on, infiltrate, and besmirch their organizations. This furiously, elaborately suspicious way of understanding the world started spreading across the political spectrum after the assassination of John F.
Kennedy in Surely the Communists or the CIA or the Birchers or the Mafia or some conspiratorial combination must have arranged it all, right? Elaborate paranoia was an established tic of the Bircherite far right, but the left needed a little time to catch up. In , a left-wing American writer published the first book about a JFK conspiracy, claiming that a Texas oilman had been the mastermind, and soon many books were arguing that the official government inquiry had ignored the hidden conspiracies.
Kennedy complicit in the cover-up. The notion of an immense and awful JFK-assassination conspiracy became conventional wisdom in America. As a result, more Americans than ever became reflexive conspiracy theorists. Of course, real life made such stories plausible. The infiltration by the FBI and intelligence agencies of left-wing groups was then being revealed, and the Watergate break-in and its cover-up were an actual criminal conspiracy. Within a few decades, the belief that a web of villainous elites was covertly seeking to impose a malevolent global regime made its way from the lunatic right to the mainstream.
Each camp, conspiracists on the right and on the left, was ostensibly the enemy of the other, but they began operating as de facto allies. Conspiracy theories were more of a modern right-wing habit before people on the left signed on. A mericans felt newly entitled to believe absolutely anything. We wanted to believe in extraterrestrials, so we did. What made the UFO mania historically significant rather than just amusing, however, was the web of elaborate stories that were now being spun: not just of sightings but of landings and abductions—and of government cover-ups and secret alliances with interplanetary beings.
Those earnest beliefs planted more seeds for the extravagant American conspiracy thinking that by the turn of the century would be rampant and seriously toxic. The first big nonfiction abduction tale appeared around the same time, in a best-selling book about a married couple in New Hampshire who believed that while driving their Chevy sedan late one night, they saw a bright object in the sky that the wife, a UFO buff already, figured might be a spacecraft.
She began having nightmares about being abducted by aliens, and both of them underwent hypnosis. The details of the abducting aliens and their spacecraft that each described were different, and changed over time. Thereafter, hypnosis became the standard way for people who believed that they had been abducted or that they had past lives, or that they were the victims of satanic abuse to recall the supposed experience. The husband and wife were undoubtedly sincere believers. That book and its many sequels sold tens of millions of copies, and the documentary based on it had a huge box-office take in By the s, things appeared to have returned more or less to normal.
Civil rights seemed like a done deal, the war in Vietnam was over, young people were no longer telling grown-ups they were worthless because they were grown-ups. Revolution did not loom. Sex and drugs and rock and roll were regular parts of life. The sense of cultural and political upheaval and chaos dissipated—which lulled us into ignoring all the ways that everything had changed, that Fantasyland was now scaling and spreading and becoming the new normal.
What had seemed strange and amazing in or became normal and ubiquitous. Relativism became entrenched in academia—tenured, you could say. This kind of thinking was by no means limited to the ivory tower. The distinction between opinion and fact was crumbling on many fronts. Belief in gigantic secret conspiracies thrived, ranging from the highly improbable to the impossible, and moved from the crackpot periphery to the mainstream.
Parts of the establishment—psychology and psychiatry, academia, religion, law enforcement—encouraged people to believe that all sorts of imaginary traumas were real. We had defined every sort of deviancy down. And as the cultural critic Neil Postman put it in his jeremiad about how TV was replacing meaningful public discourse with entertainment, we were in the process of amusing ourselves to death. The Reagan presidency was famously a triumph of truthiness and entertainment, and in the s, as problematically batty beliefs kept going mainstream, presidential politics continued merging with the fantasy-industrial complex.
In , as soon as we learned that President Bill Clinton had been fellated by an intern in the West Wing, his popularity spiked. Which was baffling only to those who still thought of politics as an autonomous realm, existing apart from entertainment. American politics happened on television; it was a TV series, a reality show just before TV became glutted with reality shows.
A titillating new story line that goosed the ratings of an existing series was an established scripted-TV gimmick. The audience had started getting bored with The Clinton Administration , but the Monica Lewinsky subplot got people interested again. Just before the Clintons arrived in Washington, the right had managed to do away with the federal Fairness Doctrine, which had been enacted to keep radio and TV shows from being ideologically one-sided.
Until then, big-time conservative opinion media had consisted of two magazines, William F. Buckley Jr. For most of the 20th century, national news media had felt obliged to pursue and present some rough approximation of the truth rather than to promote a truth, let alone fictions. With the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine, a new American laissez-faire had been officially declared. If lots more incorrect and preposterous assertions circulated in our mass media, that was a price of freedom.
If splenetic commentators could now, as never before, keep believers perpetually riled up and feeling the excitement of being in a mob, so be it. Instead of relying on an occasional magazine or newsletter to confirm your gnarly view of the world, now you had talk radio drilling it into your head for hours every day.
Utopia - Wikipedia
Fox News brought the Limbaughvian talk-radio version of the world to national TV, offering viewers an unending and immersive propaganda experience of a kind that had never existed before. For Americans, this was a new condition. Over the course of the century, electronic mass media had come to serve an important democratic function: presenting Americans with a single shared set of facts. And there was also the internet, which eventually would have mooted the Fairness Doctrine anyhow. In , the first modern spam message was sent, visible to everyone on Usenet: global alert for all: jesus is coming soon.
Over the next year or two, the masses learned of the World Wide Web. Before the web, cockamamy ideas and outright falsehoods could not spread nearly as fast or as widely, so it was much easier for reason and reasonableness to prevail. Before the web, institutionalizing any one alternate reality required the long, hard work of hundreds of full-time militants. In the digital age, however, every tribe and fiefdom and principality and region of Fantasyland—every screwball with a computer and an internet connection—suddenly had an unprecedented way to instruct and rile up and mobilize believers, and to recruit more.
False beliefs were rendered both more real-seeming and more contagious, creating a kind of fantasy cascade in which millions of bedoozled Americans surfed and swam. Because until then, that had not been necessary to say. Reason remains free to combat unreason, but the internet entitles and equips all the proponents of unreason and error to a previously unimaginable degree. Particularly for a people with our history and propensities, the downside of the internet seems at least as profound as the upside. On the internet, the prominence granted to any factual assertion or belief or theory depends on the preferences of billions of individual searchers.
Each click on a link is effectively a vote pushing that version of the truth toward the top of the pile of results. Exciting falsehoods tend to do well in the perpetual referenda, and become self-validating. When I Googled chemtrails proof , the first seven results offered so-called evidence of the nonexistent conspiracy. Academic research shows that religious and supernatural thinking leads people to believe that almost no big life events are accidental or random. Eric Oliver and Thomas J. Wood, confirmed this special American connection. As a year-old, I watched William F.
Today I disagree about political issues with friends and relatives to my right, but we agree on the essential contours of reality. People on the left are by no means all scrupulously reasonable. Many give themselves over to the appealingly dubious and the untrue. But fantastical politics have become highly asymmetrical. There is no real left-wing equivalent of Sean Hannity, let alone Alex Jones. Moreover, the far right now has unprecedented political power; it controls much of the U. Why did the grown-ups and designated drivers on the political left manage to remain basically in charge of their followers, while the reality-based right lost out to fantasy-prone true believers?
One reason, I think, is religion. The GOP is now quite explicitly Christian. A star is born. For Musgraves, performing alongside Dolly Parton at the Grammys, winning Album of the Year, presenting an award at the Oscars — all of this is unequivocally her dream. Wait, I can use my brain, sit on my ass and make a living? By the time Musgraves eventually located her particular voice, it was already honed to a sharp edge. Back on her bus, in Wisconsin, after playing to a couple thousand freezing fans who arrived lit and ready to party, Musgraves decompressed again.
I enjoy it! She puttered around her kitchen, making mugs of ginger tea. She might have scrolled through the looks her stylist had just sent through for the Grammys; she was still searching for something just right to match Dolly Parton. If I ever have a girl, it could be cute to give her P. Sparkles, or Makeup Beauty, or whatever, you know? Lots to do. She carries her Bluetooth speaker from room to room with the tender devotion of a mother cat ferrying kittens across a flooded stream.
Over the last year, an increasingly dominant voice in this mix has been Post Malone, a year-old sort-of-rapper from suburban Dallas. Like most other post-Drake stars, he is an amphibious rap-singer who likes to brag about his vast wealth and sexual conquests — except when he is spending long soulful interludes lamenting exactly those things.
But Post Malone, my daughter helped me understand, is popular as much for his persona as for his music. He is a superhero of silly, sloppy, irresponsible ease — a hard-living, cheerful goofball whose happiness makes everyone else happy. He seems to smile with extra teeth. Everything he does seems half-accidental. He first learned to play guitar because he was extremely good at the video game Guitar Hero.
He chose his stage name using an online rap-name generator. His real name is Austin Post. This sort of giddy misidentification is, in fact, the key to Post Malone. He is not exactly a rapper but is also not not a rapper. His musical roots reach down to country, metal, folk and rock — online, you can watch him play loving covers of Bob Dylan and Nirvana. And yet his megasuccess has mainly come under the umbrella of hip-hop.
He says he prefers to think of himself as beyond genre, which is convenient, because he has sometimes been head-slappingly inarticulate on the subject. Post Malone, in other words, is a big roiling mess of contradictions. No wonder he is so popular with teenagers. This also makes Post Malone a perfect fit for Spider-Man, the canonical story of awkward adolescent empowerment. We meet the teenage Miles Morales in his bedroom, alone, doodling and bobbing his head to the bouncy hit about a dysfunctional relationship. The awkward teenager is called, awkwardly, out into the world.
Amid all the cringiness, his unexpected superpowers will bloom. Adolescence, despite its obvious flaws, can still save the world. It is both a brazen bid for the big time and a disquietingly intimate glimpse inside a wildly idiosyncratic mind — in tantalizing, and occasionally maddening, chunks of tightly rationed time. Each track ends after no more than one minute: some segue seamlessly into the next musical idea, some cut off in what feels like midverse. Whack — as opposed to, say, Frank Ocean — is by no means a piner. Past romance is referenced from time to time, but largely in passing, as if the interesting stuff lay elsewhere.
In spite of its undeniable of-the-moment-ness, this is not a collection of music best served by Spotify or any other randomized and algorithm-driven playlist. And what a short, strange trip it was. Music has mourned the death of our planet for decades. How do we prepare for devastation, and can we reckon with how useless our efforts to stop it have been?
Such questions have largely gone unasked in the indie sphere, especially as the genre signifier has transitioned over the last decade from ethos to marketing term. We asked Grimes to elaborate. The lyrics are so worshipful. There's a subtext that they're kind of scared. But A. They made me. Just at random. And it will know everything about everybody.
So it will be angry and punish people who try to inhibit it. I'm not necessarily positive that A. Like with corruption in government, it's potentially worth taking the chance of having an A. Because at least it's objective and probably doesn't care about money. It can just get whatever it wants.
Maybe the A. But the main people who are going to be saved are the people working to bring it to fruition. Sigh, stare up at the ceiling fan and ponder the song as if it were a text? Or do what you do when some other tune catches you — flail your limbs, move your hips in weird little circles, bob your head rhythmically up and down? The world was built for pop songs: Public spaces pump the voices of stars through speakers the way air flows through ventilation ducts, and that sweet, consistent flavor — like Diet Coke or pamplemousse LaCroix — pairs easily enough with any modern pastime.
But if the territory of pop music is everywhere, how and where does a piece of art pop — something equal parts challenging and engaging — make its home? Julia Holter, a Los Angeles-based artist with a background in composition, answers this question by creating otherworldly spaces in her own work. From its opening — a cacophony of cymbals and anxiously pacing strings — the album is a study in creating a private dwelling place amid the chaos and uncertainty of the world.
The worlds glimpsed here are varied, sometimes wildly so, but what they share is the sense that they are not so much depicting reality as taking inspiration from it, channeling familiar features into new forms. Holter, in other words, takes the garden path to catharsis, allowing something uplifting to emerge from the tumult, making chaos resolve itself into something humane and beautiful and full of intention. And she has found, even at music festivals and rock clubs, hushed and attentive audiences for this. Her performances are absorbing: They highlight the organic beauty and authority of her voice, the way the meanings of words can be a sort of veneer over their untamed musicality.
The music rewards more than just hearing it. It rewards some other kind of listening, asking you to let yourself become porous. And lately it can fill an appetite that seems both modern and primal at once: to make whole a fractured attention span, to find a ritual that works. Our days are full of tiny slivers of time that we offhandedly cram with music, filling the gaps between tasks and places like someone idly coloring in a picture.
Though the song began as a demo by the L. Neither does Adam Levine who gets a writing credit or his happy-to-be-here sidemen who constitute the Maroon 5 touring entity. As the camera circles, Levine stands in the center of a soundstage, arms by his side, his voice skipping nimbly over the melody. As the verse-chorus unfolds, Levine is joined one at a time, their backs to his back, by the 26 women. Then, less than two minutes in, he suddenly disappears, as if ceding the spotlight.
When Cardi B delivers her final flourish, he returns briefly, but by the end of the video, the soundstage is occupied by only the women. Adam Levine is to a rock star as a rock star is to a rapper. At least in this moment, he leaves the pocket T-shirt on, keeps the guitar in the closet and hands the mic to the long-suffering women who have chosen to support him.
For the first time, maybe ever, he flashes some legit star-power potency. What in the world happened here? I was only gone for an hour! Some elements were familiar a crew of guys in front of a brownstone, drinking and mugging for the camera , and some were menacing the number of red bandannas and guns on display , but it was the man at the center of the video who startled me most; he seemed almost precision-engineered to make people feel old.
In an era when most young rappers have a couple of face tattoos, 6ix9ine had the number 69 inked above his right eye in point type. He had the same number spelled out in cursive over his left eye. It was everywhere on his body. Within about a year, he would be in federal custody, a year-old facing life in prison for a number of charges, including racketeering and attempted murder. Normally this sort of arrest leads to an outcry about literal-minded police overreach. Not this time. People generally seemed pleased to see the rapper in cuffs.
This was partly because 6ix9ine was universally reviled by music critics and journalists, on account of a crime he committed before he became famous: In , he pleaded guilty to the use of a minor in a sexual performance, for having filmed and shared on social media a video of a girl performing oral sex on his friend. But it was also because he had spent the past year living the life of a Looney Tunes character: courting danger, narrowly escaping it, then taunting his foes.
This genuinely incredible run netted him more than stories on TMZ: gang members in San Antonio threatening his life; a shootout at the Barclays Center; shots fired at a video shoot in Brooklyn; more shots fired at a Beverly Hills video set. Through it all, he posted on Instagram, usually wearing red, often handling bricks of cash, sometimes clutching extremely illegal-looking guns, but never betraying an ounce of concern for his well-being. Cultivating this sort of personal mythology is not at all new; it dates back to the earliest days of gangsta rap.
Ever since Eazy-E bankrolled NWA with drug money, a certain proximity to criminality has been expected of certain rappers. Not long ago, rappers had just a few limited channels through which to prove that they did: lyrics, album art and, if they were famous enough, music videos. Like Old Testament gods, they willed whole universes into being through their words.
Now they have social media. This sort of online mythmaking is second nature to SoundCloud rappers, so called for the streaming service that birthed the scene. SoundCloud rap is not characterized by a particular sound so much as its anarchic energy — the face tattoos, the prescription drugs, the orthographically complex handles. The problem, for 6ix9ine, was that a big part of his adopted persona, both on Instagram and in his music, involved being a member of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods.
According to a Rolling Stone profile that came out after his arrest in November, this was essentially an act: Danny Hernandez, in the years leading up to his fame, had been a trollish and goofy Bushwick deli employee; his industry blacklisting had pushed him into the hands of an apparently gang-affiliated manager, who also provided him with a new edge.
Maybe the whole thing really was a put-on, but also, he really did it. The Rolling Stone article recounts how, at his arraignment, the presiding judge asked the prosecution how it knew Hernandez was at real-life crime scenes. A liminal space has always existed between rappers and their personas. The gap between 6ix9ine and Danny Hernandez was considerably wider, but he snapped it shut with his phone, merging fantasy with reality through a front-facing camera. It was reported in February that 6ix9ine, who pleaded guilty, agreed to help prosecutors in their case against his co-defendants, hoping for leniency: a reduced sentence and possibly witness protection.
But helping 6ix9ine disappear into some corner of America might prove difficult, and not just because of the tattoos. In , the Swedish singer-songwriter Robyn turned 14 and finished middle school; then she signed a record deal. A feeling of healing from sadness and wanting to share that with the world and with myself — a sense of self-love, excitement, some kind of peace of mind.
Like when your strength is coming back. Intimacy, definitely, but it could be with yourself. Any experience you have that will give you a new point in your scale of emotions will make any other experience richer because you have a new point of reference. Not reserving that deep pleasure for a sexual sensation, but something you could experience day to day.
Intimacy in every little thing. I feel like I have to work for it every day. You get it going and then you can use it and tend to it and start it back up again. Is your fire well tended? Not at all. I maybe need to go back and listen to some of my songs myself to figure this out. Your songs are known for intermingling sadness and euphoria. I used to believe it would all make sense if you just powered through. Post-recession capitalism has glorified the hustle so much. But you can actually use a story that relates to something more real than buying yourself out of anxiety.
Definitely: Pop at the moment is depressing. Hip-hop is really dark. The music kids are listening to is heavy! Is the industry set up for artists to be able to share their pain but protect themselves? People want you to be vulnerable. You turn 40 this June. I think it can be that, for sure. It was hard to tell how many people in the club liked flamenco, an art form not much associated with young people anymore. Some of the younger girls even twerked.
She sounds and feels cosmopolitan, cool in a sophisticated and almost foreign way. Her own aesthetic is polished, globally recognizable, informed by hip-hop and trap music. Maybe this is the price of success in a culture that looks askance at overt displays of ambition or self-actualization, especially by women. The local fascination tended to focus less on her art and more on her as a phenomenon, on the extraordinary speed of her rise to stardom.
It would spark arguments too, about cultural appropriation and the Romany community, who have always been closely associated with flamenco. A woman gets married to a man who later grows jealous and imprisons her. What sort of place were you at in your life when you wrote this song? Obviously I was working a lot. I had already toured Europe and the U.
I wanted to make a banger to play live — I just picked up my microphone and started talking. The song came out in a funny way, but the undertone is serious. Whatever you do, whatever amount of energy you put into something, you have to do it for yourself and not to please others. Not to build this facade or this persona or achievement. Do you think people base too much of their self-worth on their work?
We live in a society that is based on work — goals, achievement, money. Of course! But I think you become a much more useful person if you learn how to love yourself. It would be hard to know. It looks really fun and glamorous. And it is, sometimes, for a few hours. I wish I had your life. Do you think I woke up one morning and became who I am? People think of the dance floor as this freeing space. For me, at least, it is. It used to be different. When I was 16 and I started going out in Montreal, going to underground parties and raves and clubs, it was magical.
I was going there for fun. Even if I was playing, it was special. That space is now a work space for me. Now if I want to feel something mind-blowing or magical, I have to look for it outside of club culture. The music never loses its magic, but the social thing happening at a party or something like that?
It sounds as though the song stemmed from your personal experience, but it feels universal. When I made it, I knew anyone could relate. Because this is the time we live in. Everything goes really fast now.
People are expected to produce and achieve. So how do you make art under capitalism? I never did. Blake, a Grammy-winning avant-gardist with an ear for pop, who has been playing the piano since he was about 6, has a long list of heroes whom he has studiously copied in pursuit of his own sound. Copying the virtuoso jazz-pianist Art Tatum, the protominimalist French composer Erik Satie and the midcentury gospel maestro the Rev.
James Cleveland taught Blake novel ways of opening up complex chord structures and fitting them — to gorgeous, aching effect — around deceptively simple melodies. Copying singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder emboldened him to write and sing pop songs with increasing emotional candor. Blake stands at an imposing 6-foot-6 and carries himself with the deliberateness of a man at risk of scraping his head on doorways. At their feet, black cables snaked and cloverleafed among clusters of red-, blue-, silver- and cream-colored effects pedals, like tracks connecting villages in a model-train set.
When I recorded it, I broke the vocal up. The extent to which Blake has digested the lessons of his musical heroes is illustrated not only by his decade-spanning run of singles, EPs and albums but also by the number of pop auteurs who have collaborated with him. As an influence and a collaborator, Blake has helped shape two of the more striking trends in contemporary pop: beats that mutate over the course of a song, resisting any traditionally identifiable center, and an emotional atmosphere in which the line between hedonism and melancholy, bliss and despair comes undone.
In , I visited Drake — a pop giant whose entire musical project has been about smudging the line between hedonism and melancholy — at a converted Toronto warehouse, where he was working on his second album with his musical right hand, the producer known as Five-odd years ago, Blake suffered from a depression so severe that he considered suicide. Blake was two and a half weeks into rehearsals for a tour that would take him around the country and then around the world.
Blake furrowed his brow. As its lyrics switch between optimistic vows of commitment and confessions of insecurity, this duality is echoed in the music, which consists of two alternating piano motifs — one shimmering, the other overcast. The track began as a long, meandering improvisation from which Blake eventually sampled two disparate chunks, putting them into jarring conversation.
The first section has the tonic as the bass note, which gives it this firmly rooted presence, whereas the other section has the third in the bass, which makes it feel suspended — which is when the lyrics turn to self-doubt. Blake was raised by his father, James Litherland, a singer-songwriter and guitarist with a prog-rock pedigree, and his mother, a graphic designer and cycling instructor, in Enfield, a North London suburb. He described his life from adolescence on as largely unhappy, warm and supportive parents notwithstanding. Romantic and personal betrayals. And just a feeling of persecution.
So that was my childhood, that reflex being stamped out of me. And it stayed with me well into my 20s. As important as his classes were the nighttime excursions he took to clubs like Plastic People and Mass.
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There, Blake discovered a community of producers and D. Whereas an amped-up version of dubstep soon grew into a global phenomenon, throbbing in GoPro commercials and glitzy Las Vegas clubs, it was more subtle in its dynamics at first. Its architects assumed gnomic pseudonyms like Coki, Skream and Loefah and tended to direct attention away from themselves and toward the dance floor.
On small but influential labels, he began releasing his own dubstep-inspired songs marked by his sophisticated harmonic sense. The screen stopped being the game and started being the void. I had physical tremors and panic attacks and had to go to my room and just lie there. He was having trouble writing new music, which inspired an existential dread in him.
Thinking about nothingness. I was just despondent. So I was at that point. And I was caught just in time. It was Jamil who caught him — she, more than anyone else in his life, Blake said, helped him to break free of his self-destructive tendencies, prodding him to speak up when he grew sullen and requiring complete emotional transparency.
It would be important, Blake said, when playing these songs live, to carve out room for improvisatory runs. The trio rode out the song with a jam session, adding layer after layer of noise on their way to a squalling crescendo. You will consider it a statement that mimics the nonstop rattle of social media and the slow drip of Trump-era anxiety. Perhaps Greta Van Fleet should have called themselves the There was no such thing as logging off back then, so his symbol of freedom and release was an old-fashioned one: bicycling.
The is trying its hardest. For Mercury and his bandmates, there was no line between stupid and clever; in many of the best Queen songs, stupid is clever. Part of the thrill of listening to Queen is hearing them get away with this sublime silliness, again and again. There may be no other way for a proper rock band to act. When one of them quits, Michael pleads with him.
It can still conjure sense memories of decades past — windows down, crooning out into the forgiving dusk. The image comes from the filmmaker Katherine Dieckmann. Van Etten recalled in a Vanity Fair interview that when she told Dieckmann she was pregnant and worried about how she was going to make motherhood work, Dieckmann pulled out her phone and pulled up the photo. Every minor variation of the refrain seems to offer a new perspective.
In the video , Van Etten stands singing as old photos are projected onto her face and body and the wall behind her. They just look like the past in general. The world shifts; you look at the past; you look at the future. And then what do you do? You figure it out. The whole operation sounds like four people piled into a wagon tumbling down a hill, just barely in control.
Each element contributes equally. Because the bass comes from an instrument powered by breath, the darting low end is less of a woofer-pumping presence and more of a song-within-a-song, a melody that you can hum on its own. The saxophone shouts back, offering growling rhythmic lines with just a pinch of melody. And the dueling drummers build one intensely syncopated beat from parts of several — the foundational Caribbean rhythm of the Cuban tresillo , martial snare rolls, pinging metallic percussion reminiscent of the roaring Afrobeat of Fela Kuti.
Listen without knowing another thing about it, and this is a viscerally overwhelming piece of music. Maybe that knowledge gives the burning intensity of the song — its feeling of joy streaked with struggle — a new dimension. Let even more into the frame — say, that Hutchings has performed with the Sun Ra Arkestra and is now signed to Impulse! All this history is carried inside the song and transmitted by these master musicians thorough their instruments.
Mark Richardson is the former executive editor of Pitchfork and a writer and an editor in Brooklyn. Please upgrade your browser. The Music Issue The 25 songs that matter right now. Nitsuh Abebe is a story editor for the magazine. Read more. Read with Audio? Things telescope from there … 5A.
XXX Sam Anderson is a staff writer for the magazine. Larry Fitzmaurice is a writer and an editor in Brooklyn. This interview has been condensed and edited. Charles Aaron is a writer in Durham, N. Willy Staley is a story editor for the magazine. Marta Bausells is a writer in London and Barcelona.