A Rose

United States

(She/Her)
heck, man, i don't know what to tell you.

Message to Readers

I will fight anyone who says anything against bedroom pop (as this essay clearly shows), but also...not sure if I quite got to the heart of my ideas here.

Ukulele Girl; An Essay

August 27, 2020

FREE WRITING

11
Like almost everything in our culture, becoming a musician is much easier if you are in the dominant culture. Lessons and instruments are expensive; many biases come roaring into play when you mention any sort of diversity in music. Altogether, an already competitive field becomes much more competitive when you aren’t a rich, cishet, white man. Being young only makes the situation harder. 
    A couple of years ago, the ukulele trend was born, because they are cheap, easy to play, and very cutesy looking. Teens took to learning them and began to post many videos of their progress on youtube. Many queer, female, and BIPOC young artists came to the forefront, such as Mxmtoon, Clairo, Chloe Moriondo, Cavetown, Conan Gray, Bebadoobee.
    Down the line, many of these artists have been seen not as musicians but as jokes. The term “Ukulele Girl” was born. This usually implies a teen girl with limited musical knowledge who prefers music in the popular culture and writes songs about almost only about boys or feeling like an outcast, then posts them on her Youtube channel. 
    Let’s flashback to Lilith Fair, in the 90s. It was a completely woman-run music festival, with an effort towards diversity. Everyone from Emmylou Harris to Erykah Badu to Fiona Apple was there, so long as they identified as a woman. However, over the years, Lilith Fair has become a joke about vegan lesbians who strum acoustic guitars. 
    Ukulele Girls and Lilith Fair Lesbians are comparable, in that sense. It was a movement that made music more accessible than was completely turned into a joke. Even though the amount of work even learning a “simple” instrument like ukulele is difficult. Writing your own songs is difficult. Putting them online is difficult. Additionally, a lot of this Ukulele Girl music is genuinely interesting. It’s not as straightforward and boring as alt-girls would leave you to believe. 
    Let’s take the song “cliche’ by Mxmtoon. Yes, it’s literally a song about being cliche, but all of its elements are what would traditionally be considered well-done. It tells a story; it keeps a melody; it’s witty, charming, and young; in other words, it knows what it’s doing.
    Or how about Crush Culture by Conan Gray? Yes, I understand that song might’ve been overplayed by indie teens in 2018, but it’s an interesting take on a culture that stigmatizes young people who aren’t in love, dripping in bitter sarcasm. Musically, it has a lot going on. Especially when you consider Gray was what 19, when he wrote and produced it. 
    My argument is that Ukulele Girls and all that relate to them are looked down upon less because of their music but because of their position in society. We’ve been taught that anything a teen girl likes has to be terrible, regardless of the heart put into it.
    Yes, I understand bedroom pop might not be your sort of music, But it’s the music of the new generation, GenZ. It’s my music--it’s our music. It’s self-made and DIY in the same sense as punk rock but at the same time avoids the loud screeching of that genre. It’s becoming popular, but the faces of this musical moment are not all white men. What I’m really getting down to here is that it is an exciting genre because it is not made for the dominant cultures. There are no bedroom pop songs from those angels. It’s music made for teens by teens.
    Adults often complain about how teens don’t act their age. It could be argued that this ties into the lack of celebration of music that does act our age. If you put teenagers down for being teenagers, in all their hormonal glory, of course they’re going to try to act like adults. Forcing millennial and baby boomer music down Gen Z’s throat is a little bit like renewing Riverdale for it’s 1000th season. It’s saying ‘don’t act like an actual teenager, grow up.” 
    Out of curiosity,  looked up GenZ musicians online. What came up was, frankly, a mess. Not a single article I could find acknowledged a single musician actually popular with the under-25 crowd. It’s about time we end the taboo against young self-taught musicians. It’s about time we let teens be teens without making it fit for adult taste. 
    
I'm gonna be surprised if anyone actually reads this...
Also, thanks @poetri for editing this thing. 

Print

See History
  • August 27, 2020 - 8:54am (Now Viewing)

Login or Signup to provide a comment.

5 Comments
  • SpookyC! (#Queenie’s Halloween)

    Replying: Hello! I saw your comment and thought I'd try to clear things up. I didn't take the piece down, WtW did. I'm assuming because the comment section was becoming heated. I will always try to be thoughtful and respectful, no worries there. But, I'd like to say, thank you for being considerate in your comment. I was hoping to keep the comments about that subject on I'll Stand With You, but seeing as that was taken down, it spilled over into my newer papers. I'm glad that you didn't try to create an argument with me.


    about 2 months ago
  • And_The_Stars_Laughed

    This was such a fun read -- it was wonderfully written! I don't play the ukulele myself but my dad has tried to teach me for years (he has a collection of guitars/ukeleles), and this piece made me want to maybe try learning again lol?! Anyway, have a wonderful day and great piece! :)


    about 2 months ago
  • Paisley Blue

    Yessss love this. As a female lesbian ukulele/acoustic guitar player, I can so relate ;) really well written!! <3


    about 2 months ago
  • sunny.v

    " It’s music made for teens by teens. " yessss as someone who's teaching herself ukulele im like. go queen. i love this gen z essay so much.


    about 2 months ago
  • outoftheblue

    gIRLLL this is what i live for!!!!! like brilliant defences of sometimes overlooked genres of music? yes please. and i definitely agree with the whole "hating everything a teenage girl likes" phenomenon (internalised misogyny ugh), especially when it comes to artists such as taylor swift. and bedroom pop is an amazing genre, with a lot of skilled and talented artists! also yess we luv to see the riverdale shade ;)
    ackk, i really hope this gets seen, bc imo essays don't always get appreciated on wtw (maybe due to the younger audience etc.) but this is really well done!


    about 2 months ago