Influential pop music critics like Sasha Frere-Jones, Jody Rosen, and Ann Powers have put a lot of effort, in the last decade or so, into bringing down the general critical estimation of indie music, especially vis-à-vis hip hop. Frere-Jones has flogged a theory that indie music represents a sort of cultural retrenchment by middle class white kids in reaction to the cultural primacy of hip hop, the creation of a specifically white music, or, as Frere-Jones had it, whiteness music. This mode of theorizing blew up in Frere-Jones’s face when he called Stephen Merritt a racist and got so roundly slapped down for it that he didn’t even try to defend himself. But, even as Frere-Jones and Rosen seem to be rediscovering the virtues of brainy pop music, the urge of to pose as a friend of the oppressed by hating on the white indie hipsters remains. David Prince of Billboard.com was on Marketplace the other day talking about how the recession appears in contemporary music, and, well, note how glibly he gets to an explanation of why indie music is so “elitist”:
Ryssdal: What about indie music? I mean some of the folks out there just doing their own thing.
PRINCE: You know, I think of indie music in a lot of ways as the most elitist and the most ignoring the recession and the economic realities. Because if you have the opportunity to really pursue a music career in this day and age and do nothing else, then you probably have some expendable income.
Ryssdal: Expendable income. So it’s kids who have some money, basically.
PRINCE: Indie yuppies is a phrase I think of a lot when I’m reading Pitchfork.
Really? “Indie yuppies” is a phrase you think of? Maybe you should think of a different phrase, because that one’s pretty stupid.