I Don’t Have Any Deep Thoughts About Beyonce or Drake and That’s Okay (I Think)

I’ve listened to Drake and Beyonce’s new albums, but I don’t know how I feel about them yet. I don’t know if I will ever feel that strongly about either of them, really. I suppose I will feel something — I guess they’re good? — but more than that, I don’t know.

It is very easy these days to get caught up in the internet hype cycle, to feel that something is far more important, even better, than it actually is. I don’t mean this to say that a new Drake or Beyonce LP isn’t important, because you can hear the conversations about these records happening in the real world, not just the internet. As if the two aren’t one and the same now.

But I suppose that, like the lunchroom cafeteria back in high school, social media allows one to peak in on a conversation in real time, to observe a kind of collective celebration about this thing or that thing, and it in turn makes you think: wow, this is really big. And when things are big, you can’t help but ingest some of that, internalize it, feel its weight.

You do this with music just as you might with a meal at a favorably-reviewed restaurant, one with a lot of hype behind it. You get temporarily obsessed with eating at this place, having this meal — indulging yourself — and it’s only after you’re done that you think: Gee, it was good, but was that it? Fuck, I need to go to the gym.

There is definitely something to that — to hype. How it affects the audience’s reaction to something. For me, when something doesn’t have any hype behind it, I tend to regard it differently. Maybe even more carefully. It’s like, my expectations are low. One needn’t do much to impress me.

But when it’s the opposite, you expect explosions in the sky, seas boiling and all kinds of crazy stuff. And that’s impossible, because only very rarely is music — or any art, really — going to shock and awe in that way. Once every few years, if that.

And usually, I find, the albums we fall in love with, the ones we regard so fondly as we get older, they’re not even the ones anyone ever really cared about. They’re things we didn’t expect to like, got to listening offhandedly, then wound up feeling deeply about.

If I have any regrets about all this, they’re that I wish I could feel the excitement other people have about these records. In truth, I feel a little left out of the conversation; not for not wanting to participate, but for feeling inauthentic by actually doing so. Few things are harder to pull off than feigned excitement.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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