Monday, October 9th, 2017

Shamir – 90’s Kids

Your editor is in his thirties, which might be why he’s really mad at the apostrophe placement in this title…


Tim de Reuse: It’s all true, every bit of it: my anxiety is a daily slog, the prospect of self-love fills me with abject terror, and I can never get enough vocal fry! Despite the laser-targeted relatability, I don’t feel that listening to this was any kind of emotional release. It would be petty and pointless of me to criticize it for not showing up with a thorough, thoughtful examination of the issues that we the modern twenty-somethings of Western civilization face; surely, a middle finger directed to the powers that be doesn’t need deep insight to be thrilling, right? Well, it doesn’t, but this is such a limp effort that the message of defiance barely registers at all. We’re given a scant four rhyming couplets of evidence for Shamir’s thesis statement, and three nearly-identical repetitions of an unreasonably long chorus that each serve as a running start for a “fuck you” that’s delivered in an anticlimactic croon. Other than a few brief lines (the part about going to hell does hit home), the lyrics contain no topical sucker-punches or surprises and their presentation is too smooth and straightforward to communicate any kind of genuine frustration or anger. The only truly memorable part of it is the baffling ultra-lo-fi production, which places the vocals right next to your ears to make sure you can’t ignore their every dry, agonizing pop, crack, and sibilance, as if they were somehow run through a de-esser in reverse. If I’m being harsh, it’s because I’m squarely in the center of this song’s target audience, but it only made me feel irritated, tired, and disappointed. I get enough of that stuff worrying about my future employability.

Julian Axelrod: Shamir flips the starry-eyed refrain of a thousand BuzzFeed listicles into a lament for a generation without a future. By eschewing nostalgia, he aligns himself with decades of disenfranchised youths realizing their parents have fucked them over. But when artists back up their Major Statement with a Serious New Sound, they often drain their sound of any bite or bounce. After all, Shamir had already recorded a slew of millennial anthems — “Demon,” “Darker,” “Make a Scene” — before he set out to write one.

Scott Mildenhall: So intent on being on-the-nose that it misses the nose and ends up hitting itself in the face. The use of arbitrary generational cohorts as a framework not for making money through clicks or data, but instead for rallying self-identification is always intriguing. If Shamir feels it, and if listeners feel it, then great. But multiply the certainty of synchronic and diachronic differences between people between the ages 17 to 27 by the reality of trying to speak to (if not on behalf of) a far  larger audience than those inside the idea of America you’ve implicitly constructed, and you really will be struggling. Perhaps every decade has such a song foist upon it, but better not one so sickly.

Rebecca A. Gowns: I think it’s supposed to be a reprimand to an older generation, or a reassurance for a younger generation, but in both form and content, it’s just a snooze. The young vs. old culture war is boring, really. Why do we always circle around the same old generational battles when there are far more interesting (and pressing) divisions?

Jonathan Bradley: Shamir’s talking about his generation, and as millennial manifesto… well, at least “90’s Kids” does not rhyme “New Americana” with “Biggie and Nirvana.” A writer who has disarmed with his fey willingness to sound unstudied, he could never be earnest enough to make this trend-piece double-whammy opening couplet of “We talk with vocal fry/we watch our futures die” large enough to capture the Zeitgeist. But better than his words are how he delivers them, in a wandering and fragile falsetto that tiptoes along a Motown melody cobwebbed with lo-fi K-Recs fuzz — the kind we used to listen to during the 1990s. In its faltering misery, it’s more powerful a refrain than “We out her strugglin'” or “put a drink in the air for the college girls and boys” could ever be.

Alfred Soto: The rinkydink production hearkens back to ’90s Magnetic Fields, albeit with awkward cadences. Shamir is subject and object, mocker and bullied, and, as usual, not as compelling as I want him to be.

Anthony Easton: The piano reminds me of Tori, and the falsetto floats against and across gender. The best lyrics are axiomatic, and when other production is played through the piano it centers the possible strangeness of the whole exercise. Nothing says millennial to me than pop hits filtered through explicitly cooked formalism, a formalism that cannot think of the future and barely knows the past. 

Ashley John: I thought my playlist got taken over by a musical’s soundtrack when this first came through. Shamir’s voice centers the song in way so pressing it feels like he’s at the center of the stage with a spotlight cast on. If it were a musical I’d picture the stage empty of props or backdrops, just him speaking to the audience and us all watching without comment. “90’s Kids” is passionate, a little scared, and a bit clunky, but it’s a thesis statement for this moment in time, so maybe that makes perfect sense. 

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One Response to “Shamir – 90’s Kids”

  1. couldn’t come up with anything in time for this but it is BAD and pretty embarrassing and why Shamir whyyy

    also the music video is layers upon layers of wrong

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