I have learned two things from radio this summer:
1. I shouldn’t be getting Cobra Starshop and 3oh!3 confused with each other. 3oh!3 are a watered-down poor man’s Mindless Self Indulgence (spaghetti misogyny) and Cobra Starship are pop pixy stix tastiness.
2. Leighton Meester (as heard on Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad”) scares the shit out of me.
OK, so it’s not just Leighton Meester. It’s all of them, the whole genre of emo kids from America’s suburbs. They hail from Nevada, Chicago, Michigan and Tennessee, but they all sound like they’re from exactly the same place. Like they were taught by voice coaches who told them, “you’re never going to make it in this business with an accent.” They speak perfect suburban white kid English; it’s like they come from some strange stepford-like planet where people have flat irons in place of left hands. (How do they play guitar with that flat iron hand?)
Exhibit A being Paramore. I have no problem with Paramore in theory; their first album was beautifully produced and it’s great fun for a sing along. However, I know that those kids are from Tennessee, giving them an inborn right to be ornery, grungy, and generally cantankerous. (And to use words like “ornery” and “cantankerous.”) We helped invent the blues! We helped invent rock! We’re marginalized! Granted, we stole most of those things from the even-more-marginalized African-American population, but let’s not nit-pick.
Then again, Paramore aren’t from the south, per se.* They are from Brentwood. Brentwood is not the south so much as it is The Suburbs. Everything looks the same in the suburbs, no matter the state. In the words of Christian Slater in Heathers, “no matter what city you’re in, there’s always a Snappy Snack Shack just around the corner.” The suburbs are the same. Brown brick, short signs, and people who don’t have accents but do tend to enjoy Volvo products.
The Leighton Meesters of the world are unsettling because they’re hard to pin down. They are everywhere, coming from nowhere. They have taken on the image of America: non-regional, homogenized, and a little unsettling.
*When you see the phrase “per se,” does it remind you of the “goths vs. vampires” episode of South Park? Me too.