As someone who strives to live in as much of a bubble as humanly possible within the modern world (and without adopting the Ted Kaczynski or Amish lifestyle,) I struggle to block out most contemporary pop music in the moments where I find myself in environments where avoiding it is inescapable (such as the fitting rooms at department stores.) It was some such moment in some such place a year or two ago that I first heard Echosmith’s Cool Kids. I was instantly mesmerized by the synths, which had an unusually authentic 80’s sound at a time when such homage is paid typically in lip-service-surface-level, superficial ways (in pop music anyway, with indie subcultural genres like vaporwave it’s another story.) The synths in Cool Kids though are not even so much retro, but retro-futurist, living up to the dreamlike visions of what futuristic pop music would be like. If this sanguine inter dimensional ambient journey to sanctuary is disrupted by anything, it’s the lyrics, which are a little too cliche’ to be deserving of an otherwise cerebral song like this. I mean do we really need these tired bromides like “I wish that I could be like the cool kids cause all the cool kids they seem to fit in”? They seem like the lyrics that would play during the contrived emotional scenes on one of those lame, self-important, virtue signaling teen shows like 13 Reasons Why. This is not really a knock on the band’s singer, Sydney Sierota, who’s probably the best thing to happen to pop music since even before Taylor Swift. Sydney’s pretty and unassumingly charismatic without coming off like a tryhard or giving off a lot of phony attitude, and her charming, hypnotic vocals elevate the overall atmosphere of the song in a way that seems irreplaceable. I can’t really tell if she’s a bonafide avant garde “hipster” or one of those basic girls that just looks the part of an American Apparel employee (circa mid-2000s,) but I’m leaning toward the former. As one gets older, it become more difficult to differentiate between teenage social groups, as the previous referential signals become obsolete, and one is no longer privy to the new tells.
Anyway, whenever I was in this particular department store, I would look forward to this jam coming on, and I still do. As I’m perusing the sale racks looking to score some Tommy Hilfiger V-neck sweaters to be worn semi-ironically, the addition of this song provides the missing piece of the puzzle in completion of the ultimate mall ambient experience. Cool Kidsis one of the best pop songs in recent memory, which I realize may not seem like a very high bar to meet, so let me just emphasize that I think it’s really something else.