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Odd Future, My Daughter and the Art of Button Pushing

If anyone’s dying of overexposure, it’s Odd Future. Not that attention shouldn’t (or won’t) be paid to the most fresh-faced band of nihilists to hit the airwaves in pretty much ever. After all, if someone’s going to continuously press the “rape” button, you can’t be surprised if everyone comes running to verbosely attack/defend the button pushers.

I’m not going to rehash the million justifications or re-cry the millions of tears shed for the whole of humanity. My personal stance is basically that it’s artistic expression and as such, leave it the hell alone. There’s a ton of stuff out there I won’t put myself through but I’m not going to stop anyone else from trawling the outer limits of art, no matter how offensive it might be to myself or others.

My personal take on Odd Future and their lyrical transgressions goes something like this. (Not that you will or even should care necessarily, but I’m still on this side of the keyboard, so here it goes.)

I have kids, including a teenage daughter. For no logical reason, I would not have a problem with her listening to Odd Future. (Obviously, this would probably be cause for concern at her school, especially if she made a big deal out of listening to them. But schools are constantly concerned about one thing or another and ten minutes later, a student is talking to a cop because of a t-shirt they wore or for alleged stapler possession or whatever.)

The logical catastrophe is that I would have a problem with her hanging out with people who listened to Odd Future. Outside of a few vetted friends that have provided some context as Normal Human Beings, my instinctive reaction would be to cultivate a deep mistrust of these young nihilists in the making, who in no way are appreciating Odd Future on the same level I presume I am. No, they’d be all about the dirty words and vicarious thrills. I’d follow this bit of presumption by parking the vehicles in the garage (with the alarms on) and banishing her to her room until age 22 (release dependent on a useful college degree — none of this Art Major horseshit).

Even more illogically, I’d feel better about her hanging out with Odd Future fans if she was the one who introduced them to the group. This would still be the same set of people and yet, I would view her as a Forward Thinker bringing controversial culture to a bunch of directionless, hormonal teens.

Why is that OK? The vicarious thrill of latent music snobbery. Because I introduce her to Odd Future, it therefore follows that she introduced Odd Future to them, thus making me (once again) Correct About Music.

At this point, I’ve read more lyrical quotes than I’ve actually listened to and I’ve read a million more critical pieces, both pro and con, all of which have solidified my feeling that Odd Future operate better as a caricature than a Threat To Humanity.

Still, the underlying threat is not completely nonexistent. As a parent and a human being, the feeling that someone, somewhere will view Odd Future as guidance counselors rather than entertainers is unshakable. With that coloring my reaction, it boils down to Odd Future being OK for me and my offspring, but not you and yours because yours (as an unknown quantity) will always have a greater capacity for evil than my own, not to mention they are more easily swayed by peer pressure than mine. Obviously.

But, isn’t that the purpose of art? To provoke reaction? And if so, is just getting a reaction enough? Yes. Yes. And a qualified yes. The last qualification is that if provocation is all you have, you’re on the fast track towards “shtick.” Ask Serrano. Piss Christ annoyed a hell of a lot of Christians back in the day, but when it comes to pushing buttons, pounding on fundamentalists is kid stuff. Other religions will kill you for blasphemy. Beating up on Christianity just puts you into the opening paragraph of a million chainmailed petitions. And when Serrano states that his future endeavors will involve using “feces as a medium,” maybe it’s time to stop handing out the title “artist” so freely.

Odd Future have clearly stated that they want to piss off  “parents and old people who live in Middle America.” Trust me, you don’t need to go this far to piss those people off. The first group gets pissed off whenever someone suggests adding a vegetarian option to the school lunch menu and the latter gets pissed off simply because you’re “not from around here.”  If these are your targets, you’re painting yourself a pretty generous target.

If you want to push past the easy thrills of provoking the easily-provoked, you’ve got to take aim at your supporters and put them through the wringer now and then. You can transcend but you’ve got to aim higher. Musicians have been pissing off Middle Americans since the early days of jazz. Odd Future, I’m behind you but you’ve got to push harder. More importantly, you’ve got to push better.

(By the way, I take back most of what I said about your kids, readers. It’s the instant superiority granted by subjective parental views that turns your kids into criminals and sex fiends and mine into misunderstood saints who are just “going through a phase.”. I’m sure they’re all wonderful human beings who would be welcome to stop by my house during Normal Visiting Hours.) [I should also get over the idea that I can control what my teenage daughter will or won’t listen to.]

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