Cringe-Pop and the Case of Irony Gone Awry

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Cringe-Pop and the Case of Irony Gone Awry

Illustration: Shruti Yatam / Arré

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ne of the greatest musicians of new-age India once said, “Good or bad is not the criterion, as long as people like it.” That man is also the creator of a whole rap song about chicken fried rice, the sole reason Rihanna knows what “kirana” is, and a major contributor to the rise in people visiting gyms. That man is Baba Sehgal, a person who has given up all pretence of once having had any talent, so he could get people to groove to his music while making multiple Excel sheets. But despite all of his shenanigans, Baba Sehgal actually made a pretty valid point. With the internet at our disposal these days, people don’t really need to have any actual talent, or have to achieve anything extraordinary to be famous. In fact, now you don’t even have to like something to make it famous. There is a team of upper-class hipsters working overtime to ensure that every bit of internet apocrypha gets pushed on to your timelines.

We hipsters have now made it acceptable to be “so bad, it’s good”, or produce art that is terrible and self-aware enough to be consumed ironically. Today we have artists like Baba Sehgal, who are dedicated products of this “hipster irony”, or as this widely shared NYT piece put it, “the most extreme manifestation of ironic living”. Which has brought us to a place in our cultural lives where Baba Sehgal’s audience is laughing hard at his expense, even as he makes money off mocking his audience. The only true loser, is art.

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