Atlanta and Authenticity: Liner Notes

I have a new column up at The Federalist today, “Atlanta Takes On the Authenticity of Acoustic Rap Covers.”  On Monday, in my Bruno Mars liner notes, I mentioned that one of the things I had to leave out for space considerations was a discussion of the sometimes elusive idea of “authenticity,” which became the basis for today’s discussion.

But the column also addresses the anxieties fans have over their sub-cultures — a subject I have written about here wrt television and our shrinking popular culture.  As I write today: “Communities want their opinions and tastes validated … but not too much, as they fear mass acceptance may consume and destroy what makes their sub-culture distinct and special in the first instance.”

By coincidence (srsly), similar ideas — and the converse case of anxieties that arise when one’s culture is declining — are the subject of yesterday’s Federalist Radio Hour with Ben Domenech and Amy Chua.  They were probably recording it while I was writing and I had not discussed the specific content of today’s column with Ben.  It’s a mildly eerie tribute to how certain ideas emerge from the zeitgeist.

So what did I leave out this time for space considerations?  Mostly material about Atlanta‘s showrunner and star, Daniel Glover.  One could write an interesting column about authenticity around Glover himself, because there are ways in which he is authentic, while simultaneously working as a rapper (Childish Gambino) and as an actor (pretending to be someone else for a living).  In particular, a recent longread about Glover in The New Yorker touches on the concepts of authenticity and of storytelling.  But also telling is is wariness that — as often happens — becoming a celebrity is a drag on his opportunities or abilities to observe the human condition, something necessary to actors and writers.  I could have compared that to the way in which the Paper Boi character on the show is finding himself drained in various ways, including by the YouTuber covering his song.  Again, life imitating art — or vice versa.

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