THE BLOG
22/11/2013 10:36 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

What Moving to the UK Has Taught Me About Music

All in all, it was a lonely existence in which no one ever wanted to put my iPod on shuffle at gatherings. And then I moved to the UK.

So there's this thing about my generation and music. For the most part, it seems to me that a huge portion of 20-somethings are delving deeper and deeper into the realms of "Top 40" pop, to the point where anything else is almost nonexistent or irrelevant. Miley Cyrus is everything. Justin Bieber is godly. Beatles references go over heads. Mentioning Paul Simon is met with perplexed expressions. Don't even think about playing Billie Holiday - what is this grandma music?

Maybe that isn't entirely fair. There's the new generation of hipsters who make it their goal to find obscure indie bands that no one's ever heard of either. But even they are in a minority. And punker kids? Far and few between. The majority of millennials I came across whilst living in the states had musical spectrums limited to MTV's weekly hit list. At parties, there was Lady Gaga. At university events, you could always expect some Brittney ('90s and today). This isn't an exaggeration or the belittling of an entire generation. It's just an observation.

For years, I knew one person my age (two at most), who I could talk to about music. There was my one friend who worked for Village Voice as a music writer, so that was convenient. And there was a roommate who was pretty into new folk (but couldn't name you any just folk. Recently, she thought Marcus Mumford's cover of "The Boxer" was an original piece and I may have shed a tear). All in all, it was a lonely existence in which no one ever wanted to put my iPod on shuffle at gatherings.

And then I moved to the UK.

I won't say the "Top 40" craze isn't a thing here. It is. But it appears far more marketed toward the 11-14 age bracket than at GenY. And even at 13, the kids seem to start growing out of it and branching out to other genres and decades. I spent some time with my boyfriend's 13-year-old cousin recently, and yeah, her iPod had some Ke$ha in it (yes, her name truly has a dollar sign in it), but it also had Dolly Parton and Nick Drake and Tom Waits - where as before if I ever played Tom Waits, it was assumed I was watching one of those "this is what happens if you smoke" advertisements on the telly, and was promptly asked to shut it off.

For the first time in my life, people my age have not only heard of the musicians I love, but they love them too. I'm doing an MA course at uni in modern literature and culture - in a group of about 16 - and the solitary source of common ground between myself and my peers has been music. Music. The same thing that made me an outcast for two decades in my homeland.

It's funny, I took a journalism class purely on GenerationY at N.Y.U. and one of the things so often said about millennials is that they are self-obsessed, trend followers with no individuality. Overall, I think that's rather harsh. If there was anything to be said about 20-somethings in Manhattan, it's that the diversity was immense - in cultures, in fashion, in hobbies. But diversity in music - not so much. The billboard trends were the way to go, and if you didn't subscribe to that, well, you were the weirdo.

I almost don't believe it. But then again, I do. The folk revival basically originated in the UK. If it hadn't been for Paul Simon's move to England in the '60s, who knows what direction his music would have gone in. And maybe good old rock n'roll began in the states and produced legends like Johnny Cash, but all the Sun Records crowd if sort of deemed "our parent's music" these days, and thus ignored. Not here, though.

I guess what moving to the UK has taught me is that my generation isn't totally hopeless when it comes to their tastes in music. I live in Hebden Bridge, and it's more than common for 20-somethings to spend their free time at open mic nights or folk festivals (festivals whose rave tents play dubstep as opposed to the Top 40-based ravers I was previously accustomed to). Maybe I'm a little pretentious about music - maybe. But when you spend 20+ years waiting to meet someone your age who owns a Nick Drake album (and you fail time and time again) and then move to a country where most people your age at least know who he is even if they don't fancy his music, you're sort of thrown off guard. People liking lyrics that mean something? Could it be?