A cultural drugs craze? How retro

From the rock and roll stars of the past, our current generation is left with the conservative tedium of Coldplay and Mumford & Sons. The possibility that any of them could roll a half decent spliff seems minimal.

Increasingly it seems the dugs play a decreasing role in mainstream popular culture. For instance, despite the increased popularity of electronic dance music, infamous for its links to drug culture, the vast majority of the clubs instead now all lumber either to Mountain Dew-infused Americanised dubstep or painfully formulaic Alco-pop songs.

The decreasing popularisation of illicit drugs is now manifesting itself into popular culture. It may just be a cultural cycle, a reaction against the unprecedented hedonism of previous decades. But in popular culture drugs seem ever more retro.

Yet at the same time, in many respects much of popular entertainment has never been more derivative, dull and downright depressing. And as much as one may wish to, this is something you cannot completely blame on the suffocating presence of parasitic commercial interest. Although cultural oligarchs like Simon Cowell are certainly partly to blame.

It would be wrong to draw a straight causal relationship here, however. You don’t need to drop tabs of acid or burn weed like Rastamouse to create great television or appreciate good music.

However, the smaller presence of drugs in popular entertainment does speak of a wider conservatism embedded within this generation that is sterilising contemporary popular culture. We are left with the monstrosities of Nicki Minaj and Towie to rule the zeitgeist without a significant enough challenge from something that doesn’t murder brain cells with such abandon. The cutting edge of underground counter cultures to permeate the mainstream consciousness seems increasingly blunt.

It is no bad thing it must be stressed that cases like Amy Winehouse are increasingly rare. But let’s also hope that something else can soon break the current malaise.


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Harry Edwards

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December 2021
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