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Neoliberalism's Saudade: The Midnight's "America 2" by Tyler Quick

by Ethan Tussey

The Midnight's 2018 album "Kids" is an ode to disorienting sensation of living in the neoliberal present, viz. living in an anti-present caught between a nostalgic, romanticized past and an uncertain future. With its reappropriation of 1980s-early 2000s neoliberal consumer sounds and images, it pines for a mythologized past, decries a dystopic future, and embodies a nervous ambivalence about a disorienting present all at once. It manages to make salient critiques of the social and economic structures of contemporary consumer society, while still recognizing that it is reliant on their logics and aesthetics in order to be communicable in the first instance.

The Midnight's 2018 album "Kids" is an ode to disorienting sensation of living in the neoliberal present, or living in an anti-present caught between a romanticized past and an uncertain future. With its juxtaposition of a 1980s/90s action-movie's electronica soundtrack phonoaesthetic and lyrics critical of contemporary American culture, it pines for a mythologized past, decries a dystopic future, and embodies a nervous ambivalence about a disorienting present all at once. The song “America 2,” in particular, critiques the social and economic structures of contemporary consumer society, while still acknowledging that it is reliant on their phonoaesthetic in order to be communicable in the first instance.

At the beginning of the song, Tyler Lyle, the vocalist and 50% of The Midnight, croons “She was born in a tenement walk-up with shit for nerves, you know she never learned to talk to adults. She said ‘everything's easier in here.’” Just seconds into the song, he’s already gestured towards the Millennial experience in neoliberal America, defined by an unfair economic system and the collapse of historic value-systems. “In here” could refer to the shopping mall, featured on the album’s cover art. It could be the internet. It could be the world of one of The Midnight’s many video-game inspirations. Wherever it is, however, it is a place both apart from, but nonetheless the product of, the world of problems from which “she” flees.

“America 2” features guitar riffs and background vocals atypical of contemporary electronic music. Identifying themselves with the synthwave movement, The Midnight has cited Bruce Springsteen, Arnold Schwarzenegger films, and anime among their inspirations. Their perverted mimesis of the phonoaesthetic staples of a time and culture that produced many of the lamentable conditions of contemporary life cited in their lyrics demonstrates the enormity of their task. Their nostalgia-laden critique is of nostalgia itself. Imbedded in the lyrics is their disorientation: “I've come to look for America too.” They are looking to replicate the affect of adventure instigated in them by the media they consumed in their youth. The only problem is that the “bad guy” they have identified is that media’s culture.

The Midnight "America 2"

Music Video from the "Kids" album.

from The Midnight - America 2 (2018)
Creator: The Midnight
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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