Singer-songwriter Father John Misty spoke with British music journalism magazine NME on February 11th about an opinion of his that can easily be identified as metamodernist. Misty was discussing his opinion on the comparison of EDM duo The Chainsmokers to rock band Nickelback.
Nickelback are victims of a cultural vortex born of postmodern cynicism – it’s become almost taboo to not spit vitriol towards the band at every given opportunity. Negativity regarding the quality of their music is now inseparable from a discussion about them (and many other bands, films, books or other areas of popular culture). The relation of Nickelback’s reputation to postmodernism is best described by author David Foster Wallace: “Postmodern irony and cynicism [has] become an end in itself, a measure of hip sophistication and literary savvy. Few artists dare to try to talk about ways of working toward redeeming what’s wrong, because they’ll look sentimental and naive to all the weary ironists. Irony’s gone from liberating to enslaving.” And this isn’t limited to Nickelback, or even “bad” artists. Well respected artists and polarizing artists receive the same treatment of being shut down by the people who believe their opinions are truth. Saunter onto a music message board and talk about why you don’t like Radiohead, see what happens.
Misty had this to say about Nickelback: “I will ride for Nickelback, OK? … Because this whole Chainsmokers thing I read about recently, when I was wasting time on the internet, and someone wrote some article about how horrible Nickelback is or something. … ‘How You Remind Me’ … That’s a fucking great song. Have you heard that song? It’s great.” Upon being asked what about the song appealed to him, he said: “I don’t know. That’s the problem with the internet and social media and stuff: the stuff that you like, you can’t say what it is that you like about something. If you like something, it’s supposed to be beyond the intellectual. But I will ride for Nickelback – I want that on the record. ‘Farmer John Misery – I ride for Nickelback’.”
Postmodern cynicism has largely contributed to the current climate of an almost dialectic attitude in music discussion. Widespread opinions have come to represent truth. There are artists you’re supposed to like and artists you’re not supposed to like. This could come from consumers of art putting too much faith in critics, but it most likely stems from an emphasis on dialectics over dialogues. This problem reaches its way into many aspects of our lives but a good example of how it functions can be found in online music communities and discussion. People banding together to force their tastes upon one another, operating under the assumption that there are two opposing forces fighting each other – for example, Nickelback fans and non-Nickelback fans, is dialogic thinking. It rejects the idea that there are is a middle ground. Metamodern dialogue doesn’t pave over the fact that there are differing opinions at play, it emphasizes areas of overlap between opinions and encourages honesty and discussion rather than overpowering cynicism that gets used as an excuse not to have a discussion.
This is not a defence of Nickelback or an attack on Radiohead. This is an attack on the atmosphere we’ve created for ourselves in which honesty is frowned upon and a defence of honest expression in art and discourse. Father John Misty speaking out against this is valuable in a world where many artists do nothing but perpetuate it.
Father John Misty’s third studio album, Pure Comedy, is out April 7th. Listen to the eponymous first single here.