Confusion Corner: Do not be afraid to explore new music options


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.


  1. Hi, just wanted to comment on a few things and ask a couple of questions.

    I’m just wondering what the full context is of your discussion with your friend? Did the comment ‘not really my kind of book’ arise in a conversation that saw your friend being quite rude about your interest in feminist theory (e.g. dismissive, ridiculing) or were they just commenting that they’re not interested in that kind of thing as a matter for reading? It’s hard to gather from ‘not really my kind of book’ as without context this doesn’t seem rude when considering the phrase’s purely semantic meaning.

    Also, were they abrupt when they changed the topic of conversation? I could understand being disappointed if you were wanting to share something you find interesting and take great pleasure in learning more about but again, it’s hard to see a change in topic as rude without the necessary context. It would seem reasonable for someone to change a topic of conversation if the topic had been fully exhausted, your friend had sincerely little to add to the conversation or didn’t want to talk about it. There are of course more polite ways of doing this, particularly if they simply didn’t want to talk about it.

    I’m also struggling to see what the central focus of this piece is. Are we discussing the merits and originality of Mac Demarco’s music and/or persona in the greater context of your views on the music industry and white men? Or is it looking to encourage people to try different kinds of music and/or interests (in relation to your interest in theories on human equality) and to not be rude or dismissive of other people’s views and tastes?

    There are of course a lot of white men in the music industry and that has been the case historically too. Do you not think people of other ethnic minorities or genders have had the same level of impact, exposure or appeal on the industry? I’d be interested in hearing your opinion or suggestions as to reading around this subject.

    Additionally, I am struggling to understand how an isolated incident of a person you are friends with sharing their interest in Mac Demarco’s music ‘accelerates the problematic gender dynamic in the music industry’. If I am completely missing your point than I do apologise but I don’t see the correlation between talking about your interest in a white male musician and the ‘problematic gender dynamic in the music industry’. Is there more context to this conversation that we need to see this connection or am I missing the larger point here? Was your friend the one who made this connections? Is it because not enough people talk about musicians who are not white males and your friend is unknowingly part of this problem?

    What other kinds of music does your friend listen to out of interest? Is it predominantly white males? Do you think white men listen mainly to white male music? If you do, why do you think this? Is this based on annecdotal evidence? Qualitative data? Quantitative data?

    I was also wondering if you have any data, Captured Tracks documentation/statements or quotes from Demarco or his associates and representatives to support the notion that Demarco’s target audience is male and white and that this is represented accurately in reality? I would be interested in seeing this as it would be a very odd, disappointing and troubling revelation if this were to be true.

    Finally, I disagree with your suggestion that people recognise Demarco as a very unique and groundbreaking artist and persona. He is very popular in the indie rock circles and has undoubtedly been championed by that part of the music industry as well as major outlets such as Pitchfork. However, I personally don’t think everyone sees his music or persona as completely new or groundbreaking. He has been very open about his admiration for Jonathan Richman (who i would argue was a genuinely unique perfomer and song writer, especially at the time) and how he was trying to be like him when being goofy and aloof on stage. He is hardly an innovator or genius in the moulds of a David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Marivn Gaye or Brian Wilson and I would be surprised to hear people descibing him in this way, as hyperbolic as those comparisons are. I personally would only go as far as saying Demarco is ‘refreshing’ given the indie and mainstream music scenes. Music can take itself very seriously and I think that Demarco’s supposed laidbackness and openness is what attracts people to him. You do doubt whether he is sincere though which I would be interested in hearing about. This is all, of course, just my opinion and I could be wrong.

    All the best and thanks for reading ?.


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