Glut of talented young musicians show poise as well as potential


By John Lavanga / A&E Editor

I knew that I’d begin dreading getting older eventually. I just didn’t know it’d be this soon.

For the first decade or so of my life, each and every birthday was special. It was the one day (well, two really — one of the many benefits of having separated parents) each year that, for whatever reason, forced everyone in my life to pretend that by simply existing I was doing something totally awesome. Even more intriguingly, people gave me things that I had apparently earned by continuing to exist. Those factors, combined with the fact that getting a year older feels sort of like leveling up, made growing up the third-best occurrence each year — right behind Halloween and Christmas.

Once the joys of pizza parties and Spider-Man themed cakes faded, however, the number of birthdays worth actually celebrating tapered off, leaving only a handful of ages to truly look forward to. Sixteen, 18 and 21 became the birthdays that I circled on the calendar. Each one corresponded to a new level of freedom. Each one approached at a torturously languorous pace, as though each passing day were another grain dropping through the world’s slowest hourglass.

Finally, 21 arrived, and with it the ability to legally imbibe and pretend that I was a full-fledged adult.

However, with this new age came another, fairly unexpected, burden — I’ve finally reached the age where there are incredibly talented musicians, actors and athletes younger than I am.

Nothing punctuated this new revelation more than the barrage of album releases this past summer. I helplessly watched as Earl Sweatshirt (age 19), Chance the Rapper (age 20) and King Krule (age 19) all exploded onto the music scene with utterly spectacular albums that displayed not just potential but polished talent that had presumably been developed while I was bumming around reading comic books and trying to figure out how to work a stick shift.

Though the Miley Cyruses and Justin Biebers of the world had been around for a long portion of my teenage years, their presence in the world of celebrity was somehow far less discouraging than the emergence of the aforementioned trio of artists.

After all, Bieber and Cyrus were child stars. The world always needs more child stars, and their meteoric rise to the top of the pop charts and the stages of sold-out arenas could always be chalked up to the workings of a music industry that makes bank on kiddie-pop idols. I was expecting to spend the next year or so kicking back, sipping good beers and basking in the warm glow of schadenfreude as I watched them both go the way of Macaulay Culkin. I’m not proud, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about it.

Judging from the recent antics of both Bieber and Cyrus, this route may still be an option for me. However, it’s impossible to argue that the likes of Earl Sweatshirt or King Krule are coddled child stars churned out by the pop industry. Their music is too original and their appeal has nothing to do with age.

King Krule’s debut LP 6 Feet Beneath the Moon has the sort of contemplative pacing and disconcertingly deep, emotive vocals that would earn a middle-aged musician Artist of the Year consideration. It’s an album that makes listeners turn to stare at their sound system, and it makes their jaws drop when they find out that the creator is a 19 year old British kid who by all appearances can’t grow a full beard. King Krule isn’t great for a 19 year old — he’s great, period.

So what’s a 20-something to do in a world where some of his favorite albums are being put out by artists younger than he is? In all likelihood, we’ll all have to just swallow our pride and pay respect to these precocious artists that are shaping music’s future.