Last week I spent some time recording an audiobook version of these columns (cough, out in October, cough). One thing I noticed was the number of times I had extolled the virtues of 00s girl band Girls Aloud.
Music is an area where self-appointed gatekeepers decide what is cool and what is not. Pop music is rarely in the cool camp. I love many artists and genres; some would be considered cool, an equal number very much not. One of the best things about growing older is leaving behind that teenage concern about appreciating things that are considered uncool, or “basic”.
I read Pitchfork and listen to obscure mixes, revere Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar, and I do despair of MOR rock, or “landfill indie”, but I didn’t give up on boys with guitars when the zeitgeist moved on. I didn’t dump R&B when its chart dominance ended. And though some insist on categorising Adele as supermarket music, I think she’s fab.
Everybody knows the tedious fans insisting they liked an act “before they went mainstream”. And the grumblers who say an artist has “sold out” if they happen to change their style of music from one record to the next.
It’s not just music, either. Last month, the Guardian ran an excellent piece on Gen Z fashion v millennial style. I am slap-bang in the middle of the latter cohort. At first I was embarrassed that every single garment the late-teens group gently took the piss out of, I own. Oh God, I wear pastel shorts suits with a plain T-shirt. Oh God, I still use the cry-laugh emoji which, I am reliably informed, is as far from cool as the equator.
Then I realised perhaps I will never be cool again. Perhaps I am hurtling towards being a centrist basic. Perhaps I will never be photographed for a street style blog. And maybe that’s OK. Maybe I will stop living in fear of accidentally toggling my Spotify account to sharing. I will merrily mix with the hordes at blockbuster art exhibitions.
Admittedly, there are things that are immensely popular that I hate. But it seems odd to me that someone might consider not liking something popular as a badge of honour. I don’t watch reality TV and Love Island’s popularity depresses me slightly. But the fact that it brings much joy to people is surely a thing to celebrate.
I once asked a friend if she was cool at school. “I never considered it. So I suppose yes,” she replied. A perfect summing up.