It’s time to accept that Gen Y and Gen Z are the same generation

Earlier this year Olivia Rodrigo released her debut album, Sour, which earned him not only the no. 1 place at the top of the Billboard 200, but the intense affection of millennials, as evidenced by dozens of essays and memes proclaiming her as the voice of teenage nostalgia. She is an 18-year-old singer-songwriter who has become a superstar zooming in on the strength of her first single, “Drivers License”, a piano ballad that inspires teenage grief. Rodrigo grew up listening to Taylor Swift, Green Day, No Doubt and Avril Lavigne. Her second single, “Deja Vu”, credits Swift, and her third single, “Good 4 U”, her greatest song to date, credits Paramore. Sour splashes pop punk, emo and grunge on a few songs; overall it’s a sweet, sad pop album, more in the spirit of “driver’s license”. It was this kind of lush and diaristic song, despite its pop-punk flourishes, that got fans and critics to position Rodrigo as “the next Taylor Swift.”

She just might be the next Taylor Swift. She just might be a generational talent. But which generation are we talking about here? It’s surprisingly easy to chat Sour at length without stumbling over any sign of the start of the millennial culture. On some level, the album marks Gen Z’s broader advance into adulthood. Critics engaged with the idea of ​​a succession of pop culture zooms clearly expect to see a big clash. Write for the Washington post, Molly Roberts, a millennial, describe Rodrigo as “a new avatar” in “the war between the generations” despite his own pertinent observation on Sour: “We recognize ourselves in music.” This is not a coincidence or a testament to universal appeal. Olivia Rodrigo is a Swiftie with Riot! characteristics. She doesn’t seem particularly interested in the creative emancipation of her ancestors. It does not seek or represent any kind of generational break in popular music. In fact, she seems rather determined to sound out how pop radio has played since I – a critic twice her age – was in high school.

I can extend this observation to other prominent zoomers, such as Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X, artists often described as representatives of a burgeoning zoom culture despite their seamless continuity with millennials. Billie wasn’t the first teenage girl to go green, to prefer baggy jeans, and to write sad songs of this century. Yet her flagship song, “Ocean Eyes,” released six years ago on SoundCloud, marked the first transition from talking about millennials to zooms, as if the difference was drastic and obvious. Lil Nas X stands out as a cheerful provacateur and also the first openly gay rapper nominated in the best categories for the Grammys, but even he sounded more or less contained on his debut album, Montero, to warm up the sounds and tropes of every big-budget rap record released for nearly 12 years Thank me later. The extreme changeable mood in so much zooming music, especially zooming rap, is not a new and novel divergence. It’s the continuous echo of millennial idols Drake and Kanye West. In fact, the zooming philosophy so far is reminiscent of the late hypebeast pioneer Virgil Abloh and his “3% approach” to fashion: only slightly revising old pieces to create new, original designs. This mindset has so far spawned a new generation of assimilationists, eager to co-opt every bit of the crop once embraced by millennials. They listen to the same music, watch the same cinematic worlds, and are obsessed with the same apps.

How did “the war between the generations” become so peaceful? Why do zooms seem so unlikely to ever contradict millennial culture? You could say that it is simply too early to assess the cultural integrity of a cohort that has just entered the workforce. The childhoods were a little different, but barely: Zoomers grew up on the dawn of music streaming and social broadcasting, a series of technological advancements that blurred the whole notion of genre and reinvented the whole notion of celebrity. . These changes started with millennials, and zoomers are best understood as partners, not rivals, in these transformations. The transformation from three-network broadcast television (baby boomers) to cable television (Gen X) is far more important than the difference between Vine and TikTok.

Now remember the many heresies and rebellions that millennials alienated Gen X and Baby Boomers at the zoom stage. Millennials have complained about “unsatisfactory” work and reassessed traditional values ​​around homeownership, marriage, and children. Millennials even moved the hip-hop capital from New York to Atlanta so they could spend a few decades producing music that proved incomprehensible and infuriating to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. closest to the badly taken millennials? Jojo Siwa? Word “Cheugy”? White girls who dress like Kid Rock and Juelz Santana?

Millennials and zoomers are not ancestors and descendants, respectively, but rather siblings, one older and one younger, both forged by the Internet; both rightly considered to be one generation with a few minor differences of opinion regarding slang, emoji, and hashtags. This is a young generation aware of the Web, forged by the development of a digital monoculture animated since the turn of the century. And yet, the “bigger generation”, the “silent generation”, the “baby boomers”, the “generation X”, the “millennials” and now the “zoomers”: these terms present several demographic cohorts as distinct caricatures. , each identified by a variety of political, economic and technological developments as well as their respective statements in popular culture.

The Pew Research Center publishes a quarterly magazine, Confidence, and a few years ago the magazine published an introduction to the organization’s early research on Generation Z. “Baby boomers grew up with the expansion of television. Generation X grew as the computer revolution unfolded, and millennials came of age with the expansion of the Internet, ”writes publisher Daniel LeDuc. He describes zooms as “the first generation to come of age with technological advancements such as the smartphone not as something new to embrace, but simply as an accepted part of everyday life.” Kim Parker, director of social trends research at Pew, adds that zoomers inherit “a different kind of economy” (compared to millennials who graduated in the Great Recession) and “an environment different politics ”(compared to millennials who might remember the political order before the current era of hyperpolarization). Literature never gets much more specific than that.

These reasons for differentiating zoomers from millennials seem rather soft and vague compared to the impetus to group baby boomers apart from other generations. It looks like we’re being asked to equate the conclusion of the deadliest war in human history with the popularization of the iPhone. Writing against generational labels for Atlantic, Joe Pinsker highlighted the concept moves from the silent generation to the generation Z. “Baby boomers are the only currently living cohort defined by an actual demographic event,” he writes. The trivialization of these terms begins with Generation X, a generation entirely defined by their favorite musicians, films, authors and drugs. This is where generational sorting becomes less of a political concern and more of a recurring pseudo-crisis for art critics. Like many critics of the generational sorting, Pinsker sees pundits and pitchmen pushing these terms and pitting the so-called generations against each other in order to captivate a target audience with age-related insecurities. It is often a click trap.

It’s trivial to note that zoomers, unlike millennials, were too young to witness 9/11. It is apparently much more difficult for investigators to articulate what this essentially means or why this type of observation should form the basis of a new demographic identification. There is a certain seizure in these terms, so easy to sound, like Louis Menaud Remarks in the New Yorker, like astrology. Pinsker quotes Bobby Duffy, author of The Generation Myth: Why When You Are Born Matters Less Than You Think, which sets aside generational labels at length in his book. But Duffy sympathizes with the urge to make such accolades – “We like to tell each other these stories about who we are and aren’t,” he tells Pinsker – and Duffy resigns himself to the rapid ubiquity of such terms. “They’re out there,” he says, “and our job is to improve the analysis. “

Perhaps it is too much to ask social scientists to invalidate half a century of demographic assessment of baby boomers. But what about “Gen Z,” a term that has so far struggled to make a meaningful difference between millennials and zoomers? Are we really, just stuck with these terms? What do we lose by rejecting the “zoom”? We can gain a much more precise and meaningful understanding of our culture and of ourselves. We can talk about Olivia Rodrigo without going in circles. We can begin to understand why two supposedly divergent generations both echo Drake, Kanye, Taylor, and others. It is not too late to improve the analysis. We are only a few decades – and a generation deep – into the millennium.


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