Carly Rae Jepsen makes hipsters’ heads explode

April 12, 2015 Originally published on SFGate
That sound? Oh, that’s just 10 million alt-indie music fans’ heads detonating en masse, a dazed, confused, PBR-soaked megaton explosion dressed in an XXL hoody flecked with stale Skittles, all because, king of all things alternative/snarky/bearded/flannel/hipster/normcore/fixie bike/shut up dude, Pitchfork, the massively popular indie music-review website, just shocked their entire readership by gushing all over a new Carly Rae Jepsen song, even going so far as to adorn the mild, lightly sweet “All That” with their precious “Best New Track” award. And half of Brooklyn just punched itself in the face.

Pitchfork! Frequently smart, always viciously hipper-than-thou, forever freakishly over-erudite about obscure, lo-fi, nervous-looking bands only a handful of artisan brewpubs and tattooed barbers care about; it’s the awesome alt-rock megasite that’s become essential reading for an entire generation of music fiends long ago abandoned by Rolling Stone and Spin and, well, that’s about it.

It’s a great site. Unless it’s sort of pretentious and obnoxious. Which is very much sometimes is.

Thing is, about 90% of the time, Pitchfork is fantastically predictable. Their army of I-have-a-Masters-degree-in-ethnobiology-and-also-obscure-90s-German-synth-rock reviewers will never not offer sweet, sweet pablum to fans of just about any bearded, pale, flannel-tastic band you can name, (think: Animal Collective, Father John Misty, Arcade Fire), and they can always be relied on to introduce you to enormously odd, self-produced, barely listenable artists and genres you will hear once and then never hear from again.

But it’s not only their deeply researched, hyper-articulate reviews that make the site such essential reading (got an couple hours? Read their epic reviews of the Led Zeppelin remasters). See, the Pitchfork crew has a secret weapon, a special shock tactic they (clearly) love to unleash when they think no one’s expecting it.

It goes like this: Every once in awhile, they will veer far from their normal indie obsessions, and review a “traditional” pop act – what some might call a guilty pleasure – going so far as to casually hand their highly coveted “Best New Track” or “Best New Music” credential to a new release by, say, Sade. Or Beyoncé.

Or Carly Rae Jepsen. Boom, go the skulls of a million mostly stoned OMG WTF hipster readers.

It’s not really all that surprising, of course. Just a bit of cute hipster irony, actually.

After all, no Pitchfork reader is buying Carly Rae Jepsen records. And no Carly Rae fan worth her strawberry lip gloss and Canadian driver’s permit is reading a sentence like, “But underlying saudade built Carly Rae a more committed audience, one for whom innocence, backlit by the threat of its loss, sparks frisson” (really, David Drake?) and dashing off to the mall to tell her friends that Pitchfork is OMG you guys way super awesome now.

This swell little grenade of a review is not for them. It’s just a bit of self-congratulation, actually, more proof that Pitchfork really, really, really likes itself. Put another way: aside from giving Carly Rae a unexpected shot of indie cred, Pitchfork’s praise of the lightweight, likable-enough “All That” only exists to show just how Pitchfork Pitchfork can be. Thusly:

“Bro! Did you read our Carly Rae bit? Can you believe us? We are so meta! I bet no one saw that coming. How hipster can you get, but to like the least hipster act there is in this modern world right now? Someone punch me in the face!

“Next up, we praise a Kardashian. Shut up! Who wants a PBR?”

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Mark Morford

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