Mac DeMarco isn’t just a musician, he’s a lifestyle. With his typical “deadbeat” outfit of a ratty old baseball cap, dirty jeans, dishevelled Vans, and that tooth gap big enough to stick a cigarette in, DeMarco’s vintage vagrant aesthetic is both unique and easily imitable (except for the iconic tooth gap of course). His music, a mix of breezy beats, dreamy melodies, and that distinctive smoker’s voice, portrays the best of both youthful abandonment and the drags of growing up in an ill-disposed world.
Millennials are sometimes unfairly referred to as the “lazy” generation, but DeMarco has both embraced and defied this stereotype, proving it’s possible to have an indolent persona and a successful music career. Even though he’s known for his haphazard aesthetic, childish onstage antics, and goofy personality, he’s still released a variety of albums, EPs, mini LPs, a multitude of music videos, as well as gone on an array of tours. There’s no doubt DeMarco has an admirable work ethic, but it’s the consilience of this work ethic and his laid-back personality that makes him appealing to a generation stuck in the pages of the history book.
Dubbed by many as the “Prince of Indie Pop,” DeMarco has aided in breaking the mould for how music is made and released.
He’s known for recording his albums, while playing all the instruments, on his own. Being a home-produced artist, DeMarco is able to have a freedom that most artists don’t experience. This kind of home production has led to an influx of similar artists paving their own way and finding a new kind of success in the music industry. DeMarco’s independent style may have influenced a new wave of indie sound, what some have dubbed “bedroom pop.”
Many artists are experiencing independent success because music streaming sites that allow one to upload music, such as YouTube and SoundCloud, allow for their music to be heard by a mass audience. Many famous contemporary artists got their start online, such as Justin Bieber and Post Malone. Music producers recognize the influence these young online artists have on their audience and decide to sign them onto their record label. However, there’s a distinctive difference between singers that get discovered online, and lo-fi artists like Mac DeMarco.
Artists like DeMarco possess an aesthetic appeal that can’t be found in the normal music industry. Their DIY style- the lo-fi quality found in their music- invokes a multitude of emotions from their listeners- nostalgia, inspiration, and a general sense of peace. There’s an authenticity to a modern low fidelity produced song that allows the listeners of such- usually the late millennials or Gen Z’s- to embrace their idealistic values of anti-consumerism, minimalism, and ingenuity. The lyrics and melodies of this style of music represent some of the concerns of this age group. They’re just getting into the workforce and having to deal with the harsh realities of life. The soothing quality of DeMarco and other lo-fi artists allow for these young people to live in the moment for a bit and de-stress with some nostalgia-soaked tunes.
Young people, many of whom do not have the means to professionally record music, see a “normal” guy like DeMarco making a living playing guitar, and feel encouraged. The resources need to make music like DeMarco’s is simple- a laptop and some cheap recording equipment is all that one needs- and the low fidelity quality heard when using such equipment is the style one wishes to achieve when immersed in this style of music. Mac DeMarco has said:
I was just a kid in a weird prairie town in Canada who wanted to play guitar and be in bands, while working shitty jobs, so I know there are plenty of other kids out there like I was, who wanna do it too. Hopefully us being kind of sloppy and fat and unshaved makes them think that they can.
Based on the recent rise of bedroom pop and lo-fi music, it seems young people have once again embraced this DIY way of creating music, perhaps partly because of 28-year-old Mac DeMarco’s influence, who released his first mini LP, Rock and Roll Night Club, in 2012.
With DeMarco’s online presence in interviews, his offbeat, yet lovable, personality shines through. As simple and laid-back as he is, DeMarco possesses a unique sense of humor that sets him apart from the myriad of indie-pop artists. His unwashed, uninhibited, relaxed vibe may appeal to the disenchanted millennial or Gen Z’er, both of whom have grown up in a world that doesn’t guarantee financial security or the typical “American Dream.”
DeMarco’s tongue-in-cheek humor may be the voice of a disillusioned generation: apathetic, and too happy with the moment to care about the worries brought onto them by the previous generation.
DeMarco’s self-described style of music, “jizz jazz,” perfectly demonstrates his peculiar wit. Besides his crazy onstage antics and goofball answers in interviews, one may notice his humor in his songwriting style. This kind of offbeat humor appeals to some millennials and Gen Z’s because the lo-fi aesthetic is reminiscent of the retro, and his lyrics are easily relatable and relevant to this generation, making his tunes something younger people with old souls proud to call their own. He sings about growing older and modest love, in a brutally honest way that let you take an inward look into yourself, without taking life so seriously.
For example, DeMarco’s Neil Young-esque song, “My Old Man,” deals with the frank observation of recognizing more of his father in himself, with is something most of us can relate to; as we grow older, we become more of an adult, and realize why our parents acted the way they did. The whole vibe of this song, however, is still light and a bit whimsical, perhaps because DeMarco wanted to relay his feelings towards this issue with a contrast of seriousness and his typical laid-back attitude. He serenades:
Uh-oh, looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me
Another such example of dark humor can be seen in “Salad Days,” in which DeMarco explores the tribulations of getting older and stagnant with life, crooning over an old-school happy folk melody. My father, a fan of both Mac DeMarco and musicians of his own generation, such as John Lennon and Bob Dylan, says this song has an inherent Beatles vibe, and believes DeMarco has an old soul that allows him to connect to not only the younger generation, but those who are older as well. DeMarco sings:
As I’m getting older, chip up on my shoulder
Rolling through life, to roll over and die
La la la la la, la la la la, la la la la, oh
Mac DeMarco believes that as he grows older, life just gets more confusing and weirder. We’re led to believe that when we become adults, life unfolds itself into this amazing thing. But as DeMarco states, that’s quite contrary, “And, you know, it’s, like, this is a very strange thing that we’re all doing together, you know? It’s very bizarre. It can be scary. Growing up is scary. So I write songs about it.” Mac DeMarco’s music has that familiarity of nostalgia. It’s tempting to try to dissect his lyrics and melodies to pinpoint what it is that appeals to the old soul in us, but what makes him so relevant in today’s indie music era is the confluence of his whole career. He was the typical worker-bee who decided to pick up the guitar one day and play some tunes.
Energetic and uncaring, his unequivocally backwoods charm infuses his songs with a nonchalant ease that appeals to the child in all of us. As his musical style evolves, he’s able to appeal to the hesitant grown-up that all of us are forced to be.
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