Courtney Barnett's new song "Depreston" is great because of the Australian musician's endearing, deadpan drawl, but also for its topic. Two potential home buyers are searching for a place to live in a depressing neighborhood, far away from trendy coffee shops, because it's more affordable. "Now we've got that percolator, never made a latte greater/And I'm saving 23 dollars a week," she sings, echoing the sentiments of those of us who moved to New York City only to realize we had to choose between a hip atmosphere to sip our espresso or buying an adequate amount of groceries.
It's refreshing after hearing so many mainstream artists spout off about wealth, and all the glitz and glam that goes with it. In her song "Fancy," Iggy Azalea bragged that she should be admired for having "High heels, somethin' worth a half a ticket on my wrist" and that she's too fancy to "shop at no department." In Drake's song with the same name, he admires a woman for her confidence and smarts, but also because she has a "closet full of brand new clothes and hand bags/Alexander McQueen, Prada, Gucci, Chanel/D&G, BCBG, Versace, Louie and BeBe." In Lady Gaga's "Fashion," she connects power and self-esteem to designer clothes. Beyoncé sings about gettin' down in a limousine. How many of their listeners can actually relate to these lyrics?
Barnett isn't exactly starting a new trend: Artists have sung about barely scraping by for decades, as exemplified by The Kink's "Dead End Street," Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City," and Donna Summer, to name a few. But now more than ever, money and how it's spent is carefully considered. After past disasters with loans and credit, those who are coming of age now have seen their elders buried under mountains of debt. With rising tuition rates and a job market that could be better, we've (hopefully) realized we have to live within our means. More than ever modern music is acknowledging that, whether through Barnett coming to terms with living in an undesirable neighborhood or Father John Misty's satire song on living in debt and receiving "a subprime loan on a craftsman home." Instead of name-dropping brands, Parquet Courts is dissatisfied and overwhelmed by "one more thing you have to buy/Just one more thing to replace/One more way to block your face."
Music has always been used to make bold statements about peace, love, war, politics, and so on. Artists like Barnett make the point that it's ok not to be buying fur coats or diamond earrings, because the artists you admire aren't either. They're giving up lattes and living in cheap neighborhoods like the rest of us.
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