Imagine this: You are in the backseat of your friend’s car, driving nowhere on a crisp Tuesday afternoon. There is still some sign of light outside even though the sun is disappearing into the horizon. You decide to roll the window down to try and capture the sun in your car, and your friend puts on Mac Demarco’s “Ode to Viceroy.” You close your eyes and drift into the happy laziness of the moment.
Only when you open your eyes and close the window do you realize that you have been listening to the same overrated white man with a guitar singing bedroom pop and slow jams for hundreds of years. Suddenly, nostalgia isn’t so sweet.
Earlier this week, I shared a book I was exploring on feminist theory with a friend of mine. He glanced at the title and with the remark, “not really my kind of book,” handed it back to me. He then immediately changed the subject, explaining how much he loves the music of Mac DeMarco.
The “conversation” was such an insult to me in ways that I am still trying to unpack. It was hurtful for someone to not only shut down my interest in reading theory on human equality, but also to then proceed in plugging in an artist who, though harmless, only accelerates the problematic gender dynamic in the music industry.
Having taken psychology in high school, I am all too familiar with the phrase “correlation is not causation.” Mac DeMarco as a man or musician does not inherently make men against a political theory of any kind. However, the predictable identity attached to Mac DeMarco and his target audience certainly fuels the barrier between music and gender, such boundaries we should constantly be trying to alter.
Interestingly enough, I happen to greatly enjoy the occasional Mac DeMarco tune. But, I struggle in defining what exactly Mac DeMarco does to make his musical career difficult and different. His quirky and unique character is appealing to many who want a fresh voice out of the sea of pop music, but with such an opportunity to reach a different crowd, why continue to market your music to those who have already been receiving it for centuries? Even if you are unfamiliar with Mac DeMarco, just insert any sad-boy, slow-jam artist into the blank and it is easy to see whose voice actually holds the power in the music industry.
Another unfortunate point is that there is nothing that I can say to my friend to make him realize that my book on feminist theory is not something that can be owned as ‘your thing.’ Theory in itself is there for everyone to take in and analyze, just as music should be. Shutting down someone’s fundamental curiosity in unexplored topics and forcing your own opinions down their throat only leads to a culture overexposed to the same mind-numbing music we have been entranced with for hundreds of years.
There is no way in fixing the issue I find myself struggling with due to the uncontrollable influence of the music industry. The least we can do is recognize that Mac DeMarco maybe is not the most groundbreaking and sincere artist out there. We should be allowed to listen to whatever we wish, but do not let that overshadow other unexplored fields. Recognize that there are other voices out there that deserve to be listened to.
Ellie M. is a Confusion Corner columnist who wants you to express your freedom to listen to music of all genres.