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Published on January 15th, 2018 | by Alan Cross

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The Weekly Survey is for Gen Zers: Who is the voice of your generation?

I’m pretty sure it was the music historian Simon Frith who said “Every generation has the biological right to believe the music of its use is the best music ever made.” (If it wasn’t Simon, I apologize. But it’s too good a quote not to use.)

There’s a musical sweet spot between the time you enter high school and when you enter the workforce. You come of age musically. Not only do you listen to plenty of music and attend untold numbers of gigs, you use music as a way of projecting your identity to the world.

From this flood of sounds, a couple of voices inevitably rise above all the others.  Every generation has someone of its own age and attitude who manages to express the right hopes, wishes, fears, concerns, angry and dreams for his/her peers/

For example, Baby Boomers embraced John Lennon and Bob Dylan to speak for them. Gen X, the sons and daughters of the Boomers, gravitated towards Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder. Millennials, the group demographers used to call Gen Y have…I don’t know. Kanye, maybe?

But what about Gen Z? This is a giant cohort currently between the ages of 13 and 24. Because they’re growing up in an always-connected world, these people have some of the most ecumenical musical tastes since…well, maybe ever.

For this group, it’s all about the song not the album. And because they’re able to access 40 million songs instantly through their devices (often distressingly context-free), it’s exceedingly hard to pin down what they find meaningful with long-term importance.

So here’s the survey question for the week: If you are between 13 and 24, who is the voice of your generation? No fair saying blink-182, Jay-Z or The Beatles; they’re not OF your generation. Whoever you chose must be from your age group.

Consider this sociological/demographic research.




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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2 Responses to The Weekly Survey is for Gen Zers: Who is the voice of your generation?

  1. Steph D says:

    In my household, I have 2 in that age range: one who is all about Top 40, with completely ephemeral attachments to music. I think it’d be hard to identify a singular voice, since that voice changes as fads come and go. Taylor Swift? Bieber? All depends on who’s hot and who’s not. Same reason why the voice of my generation was Cobain & Vedder, and not the Top 40 acts of the same era.

    For my other daughter, she’s all about the Alt Press scene. Her attachment is much deeper and more permanent to her music, with the fandom lasting years (thus far). In terms of key voices, Twenty One Pilots emerges immediately. Incredibly passionate fan base.

    I think that, much like why the voice of my generation was Cobain & Vedder, and not the Top 40 acts of the same era, the Gen Z voice will emerge from the alt scene as well, because of the deeper attachment their fans create with the music.

  2. Jon De Forest says:

    I’m an old Gen-Xer, so this survey isn’t for me, but like you, I am interested in the results.
    I just wanted to make a comment about something you said at the end of your post: ” who is the voice of your generation? No fair saying blink-182, Jay-Z or The Beatles; they’re not OF your generation. Whoever you chose must be from your age group.”

    I am curious how Gen-Z would respond had you not added that disclaimer. I wonder if this generation, more than others past, might be more inclined to cite their most influential or favourite artists as “belonging” to a previous generation. Is not one of the products of having so much music available at our fingertips (and yes, as you say, often without context) is that it sometimes transcends generational barriers? I hypothesize that this might be the case due to the change in importance of radio play. For Gen-X and previous generations, radio and TV (later MTV) drove what was popular, so you were more likely to gravitate to artists that were in current rotation, rather than that old stuff your parents used to listen to. After all, that stuff you would have to dig out and dust off from old record collections. But teens can just as easily find The Who, The Ramones, or Blink 182 on iTunes, Spotify, or elsewhere as they could Mariana’s Trench or Sleep on It. What’s more, if genre-crunching bots put all these bands together in categories that “you might like,” then it becomes even more likely that cross-generational pollination might occur. I don’t know if this is true or not. Maybe kids still like young, current bands more than old ones, but I would just be interested to know what they would say without your guiding their response. As a teacher of College students who runs a guitar club, I have students (17-22) who claim their favourite bands are Ed Sheeran and the Chainsmokers, and I have others who cite AC/DC and Pink Floyd, so who is to say the first group is right and the second group has to pick again? I know you didn’t mean it that way. I really was just making a point about tampering with the survey results by manipulating the question.

    Just some thoughts. As always, a music lover and a fan of your work. Heading off to bed now to listen to Part 3 on your podcast on Chester Bennington.

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