I’m in love with Françoise Hardy. I don’t mind that she’s married, and sixty-eight, and way out of my league. I live in the age of YouTube, and it’s made me come unstuck in time: it doesn’t matter who she is or what she looks like now, I can pick my Hardy as I like her. And it’s a matter of a few jabs of a forefinger before the cute kitten of forty years ago is here with me, in a little box in my hand, cooing about how she’ll never find a boy.
Her husband doesn’t know.
To be fair, neither does she, which makes this a little one-sided.
But who cares? I can do the talking for the both of us.
Life has never been so good. Ten years ago, Napster freed me, and my lot, from having to rely on the whims of record labels and stock managers to determine what I could listen to and what I couldn’t. These days, a lot of people argue that there was some innocence and romance attached to that, to tramping down to the record shop with the wishlist you’d lovingly put together all month, holding your breath on the bus back home with your new CDs in a shopping bag. That’s sentimental rubbish, and I don’t buy it for a minute. My most abiding memories of those years are of being made to pay dearly even for idle curiosity (fifteen dollars for McCartney II, for fuck’s sake!), being hassled by floorwalkers for taking too long at the listening booth (listen, twatface, I don’t get to come here every day, so leave me alone while I decide which record you’ll be bleeding my savings account with next), and, on one unforgettable occasion, getting into a fight with an ignorant puppy of a salesman who insisted that Be Here Now was a better album than Parklife, because “everyone wants to buy Be Here Now.”
I was all for Napster, and I was all for Audiogalaxy, and eDonkey, and all those other sites and networks which let me listen to what I wanted, when I wanted. And I am all for torrents and Soulseek and Bandcamp and YouTube today.
And it’s not about the money. It’s about convenience, it’s about having choices, and it’s about lack of scarcity.
I mean, think about it: the Invitations, the Dynamics, and King Khan & the Shrines are all exactly the same distance away from me now, no matter where I might be. And the only reason I know these bands – none of whose records I’ve ever seen at a store, or named by Rolling Stone and their ilk – is because, in this great new century, we don’t need those middlemen to do our thinking for us. These were the same middlemen who pushed the self-important folly that was Chinese Democracy over the stoned sunshine pop of Persephone’s Bees, remember? They’re cordially invited to suck my dick now, and I’ll be the first to cheer when they die.
That leaves the final Luddite lament, that listening to music is no longer the communal experience it once was, that we’ll never have another Beatles or a Michael Jackson: to this I say, good riddance. No one should be so needy that they have to have mass approval to validate their choices. I wholly look forward to giving free reign to my misanthropy and my personal compulsions, and spend hour upon hour trawling through YouTube to find the one gem that I’ll keep forever. The internet has flattened the barriers between the obscure and the popular, and the old and the new, and the only fitting reaction to it is to welcome it with open arms.
So I can swoon over Françoise Hardy if I want, and you can have Janelle Monae do the soundtrack for your house party the coming weekend. It’ll be exactly as easy for me as it will for you, and this is absolutely the most precious thing the world has given either of us.