Indie pop and kitsch


Indie pop has had a complicated relationship with mass culture—it simultaneously depends upon and deconstructs notions of authenticity and truth, and it is especially adept at generating personal authenticity.

It is useful to turn to the concept of kitsch, understood as an aesthetic and not a synonym for bad. Kitsch functions to cultivate personal attachment in the face of impersonal mass culture; it is this aesthetic that indie pop has cultivated through its lo-fi and often nostalgic sound world and through its dissemination, which has relied upon dedicated collectors.

The honesty of indie pop does not arise from an illusion of unmediated communication, but instead from the emphasis on the process of mediation, which stresses the materiality of the music and the actual experience of listening.

This according to “‘…This little ukulele tells the truth’: Indie pop and kitsch authenticity” by Emily I. Dolan (Popular music XXIX/3 [October 2010] pp. 457-469).

Below, Stephin Merritt, whose music and career serve as a case study in the article.

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