I haven’t read most of the interviews ever, so the title is hyperbole, based on this series of posts from Gevinson’s Rookie Magazine. But reading this conversation between two teenage girls at the top of their respective games and industries makes me feel better not just about Kids These Days, but also about my own recent past as a Kid, and about the power of journalism to create transcendent moments.
Some choice excerpts:
TG: I want to start out by saying that what I want to do with this is…I’m in a unique position in interviewing you because we’re the same age–
TG: And I feel like everything I read about you is like grown men writing—
L: Oh my god, that tweet you made where you were like, “She laces her Converse…” I was like, “This is so accurate!” There’s a definite viewpoint of the think piece by an adult writing about kids.
“She giggles, lacing her Chuck Taylors. She may be famous, but she’s still just a kid.” -end of every profile of a well-known young person
— Tavi Gevinson (@tavitulle) November 4, 2013
TG: Some guy on Twitter said, like, “Oh, I’m so sad for your generation that you don’t have the Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden.”
L: I saw that! [Laughs]
TG: I was like, “Ugh, no, we’re fine. We don’t need testosterone-y bands to worship…”
L: [Laughs] People always say I was born in the wrong era. And I’m like, just don’t. Stop.
L: This sounds so lame, but I grew up reading your blog, man! [Laughs]
TG: Oh no! “Ugh, that’s so LAME, shut up!”
L: [Laughs] But no, I am into that whole Virgin Suicides vibe of making even the bad parts bearable. I hate high school so much, but there’s something kind of cool about walking around on the coldest day listening to “Lindisfarne” by James Blake or something and feeling like something has happened, even though it’s the worst thing ever […] You’re asking about stuff I’m not used to talking about in interviews, so I don’t have a stock way of driving the question.
TG: OK, then: “Do you feel 17?”
L: AGHHHH! What do you even say to that, honestly?
TG: It’s kind of a trap, because if you say yes you’re shitting on their question by making it seem obvious, but if you say no you seem like you think you’re older and better.
L: I always get these weird people being like, “Oh, she’s growing up way too fast, she looks 30.” Oh, god.
L: I’ve had probably 200 adults in my career say, “We know best,” pretty much, and it’s been bullshit. Right down to when I started my social networks and I would get an email from one of the record companies saying, “Just realized that you’re not social-networking to your fullest potential. Here’s how! Use lots of hashtags! Only focus on the music, like ‘I’ve cooked something up in the studio, you guys, can’t wait for you to hear it!’ Do ‘follow sprees’ and constantly reply to fans!” I was like, “You’ve just got to trust me. Everyone will hate me in two months if I do that.”
TG: I was just thinking, your fans are too smart for that.
L: Exactly. But now it’s gotten to a good place. Stuff like advertising on social networks, I try not to make that about constantly having to promote something that I’ve done.
TG: A lot of your lyrics use functional shifts, where you use one part of speech as another—a noun becomes an adjective or vice versa. Like in “World Alone,” when you say, “this slow burn wait,” or in “Buzzcut Season,” “It’s so easy in this blue, where everything is good.” And I love this, and Shakespeare did it a lot too, so you’re like Shakespeare.
L: [Laughs] That’s so nerdy, Tavi. I love it.
TG: It gets nerdier! I took a standardized test last weekend where one of the passages we had to read from explained how these functional shifts trigger things in different parts of your brain.
TG: So, your lyrics stimulate multiple parts of the brain. Do you do this consciously, when you go more for how something feels than how it might typically be described?
L: I know that’s something that I have always, always done. I didn’t even know it had a name, but it’s not something I’ve ever thought about—“Ella, stop using so many functional shifts!” [Laughs] But when I do those little things that you’re talking about, a phrase will click into place and it will mean something to me. Like, I know that that’s a good mechanism for me. I don’t know the context for using them, but I’m conscious of the fact that it lights up a different part of my head, and sometimes a phrase like that will feel incredibly visual to me—I can see it as I’m writing. That is really important to me, and that’s how I know that I have done something cool.
Lorde, on “Royals”:
I wrote that song a few months into being 15, and now I’m a 17-year-old looking back on that, and I didn’t know then what I know now, so I kind of am not too hard on myself.
Brief commentary: The piece has the rhythm of a very good college conversation, and what could be better? Two young adults beginning to realize that “real adults” don’t know all that much, but still developing deep respect for the older artists who deserve it. Taking genuine interest in the parts of teenage life most of us tune out—that “functional shift” bit came from an ACT exam. Dismissing reflexive nostalgia and making the most of their Millenial status.
Using life as a lever to make art that appeals to non-artists, because teenagers slip more easily into the feeling that if they explain themselves properly, everyone might just understand them. It’s the kind of feeling that leads to a lot of humanity’s best work.
Would that I were young enough to write something like this. But if I’m lucky, I won’t be washed-up for a few more years.