Indie Music: The New Pop?

Written for my COMM100 class (Fall semester 2009) in October 2009, as part of a blog entry assignment.

The indie music genre, named for it’s disconnection from the mainstream, is, ironically, filtering into the popular sphere.

Playing lesser known artists in mass audience media is nothing new. In current memory, the teenage soap opera The O.C. perfected the incorporation of low-key, hipster music into their scenes to achieve the extra dramatic effect, while giving the show countless cool points.

After The O.C., ABC’s prime-time hit Grey’s Anatomy is also noted for it’s use of alternative and indie music in emotional scenes and promos. Not to be outdone by The O.C, whose six soundtracks fantastically compiled featured music from artists like Phantom Planet (who play the show’s now-iconic theme song, their break into fame) to singer-songwriter Ben Kweller, to alternative electronic band LCD Soundsystem, Grey’s released three soundtracks filled with it’s own collection of indie music.

However popular television and film is abusing independent music in hopes to achieve hipster credibility, too. The O.C. has set some sort of precedent for teenage dramas and their use of indie music. Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, 90210 prominently feature alternative music in O.C. fashion, yet much less successfully—a lingering sense of “trying too hard” to gain the hipster credibility is difficult to overlook.

In film, most recently the melodramatic and mindless vampire teenybopper craze, the Twilight series, jumped on the indie bandwagon. For the newest flick, the producers somehow managed to convince indie rock kings Death Cab for Cutie to write and record a new song specially for New Moon. Also featured on the newest soundtrack are noted artists in the alternative and indie communities including Thom Yorke, Anya Marina, Muse and Grizzly Bear.

While it does widen the audience of these musicians and allows them to reach out to music lovers who might not otherwise hear their songs, it could also creates a less genuine fan base who might only know a band because they heard that one song on that one show. Yet the real issue is with the quality that this music is used in media. Are music producers picking these songs because they fit best in the scene, or are they out for cool points of their own.

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