First of all, before we begin I’ve decided (arbitrarily) henceforth and forevermore that if you were born during or after 1980 you are not a part of Generation X. I’m sorry if this upsets you, I wouldn’t want to be a Millennial or GenY either. But I’ve met a lot of you 1980s babies. I’m related to some of you 1980s babies. You are not GenX. It doesn’t mean you aren’t lovely people, you just aren’t my generation. The 1990s you experienced were vastly different from the 1990s I experienced. It’s okay, we have different cultural touchstones.
So if you were born after 1979 and then try to make a case for how Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the GenXiest song of all GenX, I will condescendingly pat you on the top of your head and then suggest you go outside and play. I can do this. I am very tall, old, and cranky.
All the rest of you Xers, I expect passionate and vitriolic debate and many proclamations about how utterly wrong I am. In fact, I can’t wait to hear all your arguments and cries of “WTF? UR DUM.” Just kidding GenX, I know you can type in complete words. Anyway, there is nothing I love more about being a pop culturalist than the really pointless arguments. That’s not sarcasm at all, I really do love them.
So here it goes: “Misery” by Soul Asylum is the definitive Generation X song.
Now, I’m not saying it’s the iconic song. No, we will forever be stuck with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and I have accepted that fact, even though I don’t think the song pertains specifically to our generation and we get roped in with it just because it was so popular and grunge and blah, you remember.
And I am not saying that “Misery” is the best song. Hell, it’s not even the best Soul Asylum song (“Marionette”) or even my favorite Soul Asylum song (“Bittersweetheart”), but it is the most GenXy song of all the GenX songs. Here’s why: it deals with misery and slackery and factories.
The song is all about being in control of the sell out and sticking together in our shitty situation despite how frustrating it is. It’s SO GenX. And there’s a certain acceptance of our fate in it, the fact that we came of age knowing we would be the first generation to do shittier than our parents. We will always be busy making misery.
If you were born after 1980 you probably don’t remember that for a long time, during most of our 20s, GenX was referred to as slackers. We were the slacker generation. The no-good, do nothings, lay abouts, dubbed thusly by the Baby Boomers who, of course, hung the moon and lit the stars and generally made the Earth the pleasant place it has become (please detect the sarcasm there). And because we were a gaggle of unsure, low-self-esteems twentysomethings we’re all “Okay, whatever Boomers we’re slackers and we suck now would you kindly shut the fuck about Vietnam.”
See, they didn’t think we were paying attention but GenX is a lot smarter than they gave us credit for. We saw how their peace, love, and hippiness turned into Reaganomics. We lived through it. And it was frustrating and it put the fear of selling out into us. Did you satisfy your greed? Get what you need? Was it only envy? So empty.
GenX has always been about discovering something genuine. It’s why being called a sell out or a poser was the worst thing ever and why we don’t wholly understand the Millenials’ ironic hipster schtick.
Anyway. I’m getting a little long-winded here and I need to wrap this up. So to reiterate:
Soul Asylum’s “Misery” is the definitive GenX song because, as I see it, it pokes fun at the greedy Boomers while also accepting that we are going to be a generation forever busy, because we won’t be able to retire, and we’re miserable fucks because the 80s scarred us for life and we’re kind of cranky misanthropes now and well if we gotta we might as well make a buck off all this total bullshit.
So, whatta ya got? What song do you think is the definitive song of GenX? There’s a slim chance I could be wrong here, and I’m open to new proposals.
UPDATE: Something I forgot — it’s not just the sell-outty nature of the song that makes it the definitive GenX song it’s that coupled with the acceptance of the shitty future.
UPDATE II: Something else I forgot. Part of “Misery” getting the definitive nod is that it’s got that soft loud soft sort of grunge, guitar-fueled feel to it. Even though I poo-poohed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” I do, in fact, believe, the definitive song should have a grunge feel to it.
Update III: If you append “just sayin'” to your argument I am going to ignore you because I don’t know exactly what that little bit of word vomit means. So if you’re “just sayin'” does that mean you don’t care if I have anything to say in response? Is whatever you are just sayin’ rhetorical? Is it a snarky, passive-aggressive way to say “I’m smart and you’re dumb?” I have no idea.
Update IV: I get that a lot of you have never heard the song “Misery.” It shocks me. At first I thought it was just my midwest bias, but then I did a little research and according to Wikipedia, the song was pretty popular.