February 03, 2010
New York City is for the rich and the young. If you”re not either of those things, get out. Those who stay are doomed to sitting in a tiny apartment all alone and bitching about rich kids in love. This is what the majority of my friends do. They gripe about mythical trust fund hipsters who are into fashion and partying and other shallow pursuits. It reminds me of tough guys from the 50s using “pretty boy” as a derogatory term. You realize you just called that guy young and attractive, right?
No group of flippant and successful kids sums up this vacuum of hate more than Vampire Weekend. They are a New York band from the right side of the tracks that sing about pretty girls and having fun and sometimes they even do it using African music! Can you even wrap your head around the blasphemy? “I miss old New York” the forgotten geriatrics moan before mumbling, “These guys are ripping off black music so they can do coke with socialites.” (Are there any American bands that aren”t ripping off black music?)
I personally never understood someone complaining about someone else having money. Music snobs vilified The Strokes because they came from money. The singer’s father owned a modeling agency and therefore their songs suck. The people who did this complaining were middle class kids from small town America who moved to New York for exactly the kind of scene The Strokes created. The real beef with these bands is “They made something and I didn”t so they must have cheated.”
In the case of Vampire Weekend however, there is a much bigger picture their critics don”t get. The band’s singer comes from Bronxville High School, which is in the affluent suburb of Westchester. Thousands of children lost their parents on 9-11 but this school was hit particularly hard due to the disproportional number of parents who worked in finance. On the actual day, the school became a temporary bunker where hundreds of kids waited for parents who never came. At that year’s graduation ceremony, almost half the kids were staring out at a proud mother who was also a grieving widow. This led to a whole new generation of hedonism and apathy. They didn”t kill themselves but they turned to a smorgasbord of prescription pills my generation never had access to. Cocaine regained a popularity it hadn”t seen since the 80s and friends disappeared into the city where they could really focus on addiction. Money often does a lot more damage to young kids than drugs and these kids were left with inheritances that meant they”d never have to work again. Why get sober?
In the midst of this limitless self-abuse, there was a group of kids who veered in the opposite direction and embraced an almost sappy optimism. They swore off drugs, went back to school and some even embraced religion. This scene is the opposite of punk rock and instead of screaming about “No future,” they sang, “You can turn your back on the bitter world.” I saw Vampire Weekend play at East River Park when they first started and although the turnout was paltry, every single person there was dancing. This is what people don”t get. This band is about young people enjoying life—no matter what. They aren”t simply saying, “Put down the champagne, let’s go play tennis.” They”re saying, “Put down the razor blade, let’s go play tennis.”
It’s almost impossible for bitter, old New Yorkers to feel sympathy for rich white kids, especially when said kids are successful and having fun. I find Vampire Weekend inspiring and thoroughly enjoy their carefree music and I”m not alone. The first single from their new album (the one about the bitter world) debuted at number one and the band is headlining the music festival Coachella with platinum-selling rapper Jay- Z. This success will only make the bitter backlash more furious but like all adults complaining, the kids won”t hear it. They”re too busy having fun.
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