Vibe Shift

“A vibe shift is the catchy but sort of too-cool term Monahan uses for a relatively simple idea: In the culture, sometimes things change, and a once-dominant social wavelength starts to feel dated. Monahan, who is 35, breaks down the three vibe shifts he has survived and observed: Hipster/Indie Music (ca. 2003–9), or peak Arcade Fire, Bloc Party, high-waisted Cheap Mondays, Williamsburg, bespoke-cocktail bars; Post-Internet/Techno Revival (ca. 2010–16), or the Blood Orange era, normcore, dressing like The Matrix, Kinfolk the club, not Kinfolk the magazine; and Hypebeast/Woke (ca. 2016–20), or Drake at his Drakest, the Nike SNKRS app, sneaker flipping, virtue signaling, Donald Trump, protests not brunch.

You can argue the accuracy of Monahan’s timeline or spend hours over dinner litigating the touch points of each vibe era — it’s kind of fun debating which trend was peaking when, or which was just for white people — but the thing that struck fear into Ellen’s heart was Monahan’s prediction that we were on the cusp of a new vibe shift…

…This is to say, not everyone survives a vibe shift. The ones still clinging to authenticity and fairy lights are the ones who crystallized in their hipsterdom while the culture moved on. They “bunkered down in Greenpoint and got married” or took their waxed beards and nautical tattoo sleeves and relocated to Hudson. And by that law, those who survived this shift only to get stuck in, say, Hypebeast/Woke — well, they’ve already moved to Los Angeles to houses that have room to display their sneaker collections worth a small fortune.

Unfortunately, I ate this social analysis up with a big-ass spoon. It’s chilling to realize you may be one of the stuck, or if you aren’t, you may be soon.”

-Allison P. Davis, “A Vibe Shift Is Coming: Will any of us survive it?” February 16, 2022

I think the funny thing about this article is its time frame. After spending time in the military, I went to college in the early 1990s. I remember going out one night to the clubs in my college town, something I didn’t usually do, and everyone was wearing bellbottoms and platform shoes. I was so out of touch. I thought it was a retro 1960s event at the club I went to but it turned out to be everywhere.

So, if you were to extend this timeline back further, you’d probably wouldn’t cut it so fine: Grunge, 1980s, Disco and the Hippie era. But, even there, if you grew up in, say South Florida in the late-1980s, you’d have associations with the early “Dirty South” music of people like DJ Magic Mike than people that lived elsewhere.

And, of course, there’s sub-cultures within the larger culture beyond geography: hip-hop, emo, electronic music, and so forth all have different vibes, which also shift every 5-10 years.

Yes, there are people that get stuck in an era. There are people that listen to the music, dress in the fashion, and so forth that were important in the forming of their tastes in their teenage years (or older), which become their lifelong tastes, at least until they have children. This idea of a crystalized chrysalis, where you are stuck in a particular kind of development, is interesting, and perhaps the opposite of empty tombs.

Anyway, I find the point interesting, if not very well developed. We are all losing our edge. Mostly because at some point you stop caring about being part of a cultural vibe. You like what you like and you want to create your own vibe. Obviously, you still need to grow as an individual and freezing your development at a particular stage isn’t something you want to do. But, ultimately, you have to drop off the bandwagon and go off in your own direction. This is a variation of the Helsinki Bus Station theory.

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