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Generation-R(elevant)


So Robbie Williams is apparently no longer relevant for Radio 1’s 15-29 tweeny-pop demographic – despite just securing a #1 hit with his consummate pop-tour-de-force, ‘Candy’. The flagship station’s latest breakfast mouth, Nick Grimshaw, effectively branded Robbie as being hopelessly out-of-touch with today’s youth – the station finally, begrudgingly playing Candy when it hit the top spot. Bruised egos all around, then.

Losing relevance is a fact of life – especially so in the cut-throat world that is creative industries. On a level, it’s difficult to blame a youth-oriented station for attempting to maintain pace with the inevitable change, driven by the fickle and passing attention of youth itself. On the other, it’s hard to not feel a tad sympathetic towards Williams – or question Grimshaw’s discourteous, headline-grabbing attitude.

But is there perhaps a white elephant in the room? Is it that youth-culture itself is loosing relevance?

History is no doubt littered with know-it-all-thirty-somethings such as myself who felt that youth-culture was better in their days, but my gut tells me that the youth of today bring somewhat less to the table than in the past century. This is no fault of their own, I’d argue, just a natural by-product of our creative juices running out of evolutionary steam. Seriously: what genuinely ground-breaking youth-movements have we seen since the 90s? What genuinely inventive genres have reared their bizarre heads since the heady grunge and house days of old – or the new-romantics and punks further back still? Iconic acts of today’s youth-culture are undeniably talented performers, but the end product is invariably a polished version or mix-up of styles that we’ve all heard before. Much like fashion, film and literature before it: music’s palette has long-since been defined. Sure, the Internet and social-media have enabled ideas to spread like a virus, but the ideas themselves remain largely unchanged.

Age defines their relationship; it has little to do with our affinity with the characters themselves

Age defines their relationship; it has little to do with our affinity with the characters themselves

So is this just an age thing? Is it simply the case that young people expect to see less wrinkle and more acne in the presentation if their products, regardless of the actual content? Perhaps. Yet given the retro-remix-vibe that permeates creative mediums today, I’d argue that this philosophy exists more in the minds of fifty-something executives that witnessed genuine creative change in their youth than it does in the hearts and minds of their prey. After all: I’m guessing that Candy’s sales were not driven entirely by the 30+ audience.

Oh, and will someone please tell the now 29-year-old Grimshaw that, based on his own logic, age and target market, he’s less than a year away from being “irrelevant” himself?

Games, at least, seem to be largely unconcerned with such ageism, either behind or on-screen. Experience is earned and largely respected among developers and iconic characters range from the young and fresh to the raggedy and old – a point exemplified in the rather sublime The Last Of Us.

So, Radio 1: stop chasing your tails. The kids just don’t get it anymore.

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