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David Turner

David Turner is a freelance writer based in New York City. He got his start writing on Tumblr and since graduating from that platform has been featured in the Fader, Paper Magazine, Pitchfork, and Rolling Stone. He's fought being thought of as a "rap writer," "writer on Black artists," and "music writer"—though he likes doing all three—and continues pitching about mindless social media apps until he's no longer bound by any tag.

“Roundtable: The Voices in Our Head”
Download the fear. In a striking and perhaps notorious study from five years ago reported in the journal Neuroimage, an Emory University professor using an MRI scanner on a group of teenagers was able to track the anxiety coursing through sectors of young brains while teens listened to music that social media told them was wildly popular among their peers. Not liking things “everybody else” likes, especially today, might not just make you a pariah—it could be hazardous to your mental health. Shame, perhaps, never loomed larger than it does when the masses tell you to side with Drake over Meek Mill or be cast out of the village forevermore.

After last year’s “Poptimism” moment, some of us one night were pondering the extinction of “guilty pleasures” in an age when (it is argued) charts are the most reliable barometer of critical consensus. Where previous generations once felt trapped by the hallowed ’60s/’70s Rolling Stone canon, younger Internet-savvy critics now reject the perceived indie-yuppie elitism of the Pitchfork cognoscenti. What we are left with, perhaps, are guilty displeasures. (Hat tip to Carl Wilson, who while not coining this phrase, has certainly made more of it than anyone else.)

The moment that followed our pondering—full of awkward confessions that we’d never really liked a variety of peer/critically favored music—raised a host of questions/topics/thoughts. Has taste become irrelevant, or, rather, is it being contested by younger social-media schooled critics who refuse to be intimidated by it? Are we snobs if we prefer the raw-throated, soulful classicism of Chris Stapleton over the hip-hop-influenced summer beer busts of Florida-Georgia Line, since the latter is far more of a commercial success? Should we question the experimental, lyric-drunk excursions of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly because they don’t tear up the club or top the Billboard charts past its release date? Is it really a problem if Gwen Stefani is now a more relevant pop reference point than R.E.M. or Pearl Jam? What if we like everything about a band’s politics, style, and attack—say Sleater-Kinney—but we just don’t want to listen to them? Where do politics fit in?

This is what happens when the voices out there become the voices in our head. In this panel we will wring our hands and invite the empathy/scorn of our peers by confessing to how a critically championed artist or song has left us cold and unconvinced, then ponder the influence of the subsequent shame; suggest why what you call “Staff Picks” we call cyber bullying; relive that episode of Portlandia where the parents fight over the merits of Mike & the Mechanics at a PTA meeting.

When the decontextualization of music in streaming media collides with the “public shaming” amphitheater of social media, we writhe in humiliation with every Twitter misstep, and twist in guilt at having unleashed an errant idea into media at once ephemeral and permanent. As explored by writers from Raymond Williams to Ann Powers, what does shame as a structure of feeling, "actively lived and felt," tell us about our inter-webbed moment and the perils of critical consensus?


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