#OpinionOfTheDay

Say it out loud: I'm basic and proud of it

I have a colleague who shares news stories about celebrities like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez on his social media feeds on a fairly regular basis.

When I see these posts come up on my feed, in the back of my head, a little voice says to me: "How basic."

According to Urban Dictionary - that wonderful online repository of ever-evolving slang terms - the term refers to someone who is interested only in things that are "mainstream, popular and trending".

In the United States, someone who is "basic" - there is a less polite term that I'm not using here - is stereotyped as someone who wears yoga pants, drinks pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks, and listens to, say, Taylor Swift.

In the local context, I suppose, it would be a guy with a fade haircut, whose wardrobe for almost every occasion is a T-shirt, bermudas, sandals and a Herschel backpack.

Looking at my own wardrobe, I think I can check off quite a few of those boxes.

So I think to myself: Am I basic?

Case in point - during the boyband boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, purists thumbed their noses at the manufactured nature of groups such as O-Town and a1 - who were coincidentally criticised for this on national television by one of this newspaper's writers way back in the year 2000.

The overwhelming popularity of these groups prompted a backlash by rock groups anxious to prove their "realness". The most infamous example of this would be when South Californian punk band blink-182 parodied groups such as the Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees and NSync in a music video for their 1999 single, All The Small Things.

And yet - with their sing-along choruses and odes to loneliness, finding new love or getting dumped by their girlfriends - what exactly differentiated the music of blink-182 from that of the Backstreet Boys, other than perhaps more distorted guitars?

As much as they might have denied it, pop-punk gave an outlet for musicians to "be in a boyband and get away with it", as local indie veterans Plainsunset put it in their track Boy Band, off their 2001 album Love Songs For The Emotionally Wounded.

So perhaps, as human beings, we are more in love with the idea of being non-conformists, rather than actual non-conformity. After all, how can we avoid being products of our time?

There was a time when I was wearing oversized Fubu jerseys and JNCO jeans with pockets you could put a litter of kittens in, back at the turn of the century when these were on-trend. As much as I miss baggy pants, I don't wear them anymore, and now wear instead clothes that fit me better - at least in part so I don't look like I'm behind the times.

And while in my teenage years I might have pooh-poohed the likes of Bieber or Swift, I've mellowed and grown to appreciate mainstream popular music as I've grown older. I can better hear the value of a good melody and catchy chorus, even if they do come off an assembly line of songwriters and producers in Sweden.

Plus, the mainstream sometimes provides enlightening glimpses of the underground. Drake - probably one of the biggest names in mainstream hip-hop and R&B over the last decade - included elements of Jamaican dancehall and Afrobeat, two decidedly less mainstream genres, in two of his biggest hits, 2015's Hotline Bling and last year's One Dance.

So as I sit at my desk typing this out in my Uniqlo jeans, G2000 shirt, and Adidas Boost sneakers, I wonder to myself: What is really so bad about being basic?

To me, the answer is: Nothing, really. "Basic" might be used in a disparaging fashion, but then again so is its polar opposite - the "hipster" who claims to dislike everything mainstream.

So maybe we can all choose to enjoy the aspects of culture that we enjoy - mainstream or underground, high or low - without worrying too much about whether others will think we like only things which are "mainstream, popular and trending".

As for me, I might just spend this weekend getting myself a toffee nut latte and listening to a Swift playlist on Spotify.

• #opinionoftheday is a column for younger writers in the newsroom to write about issues that matter to them and their peers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 12, 2017, with the headline 'Say it out loud: I'm basic and proud of it'. Print Edition | Subscribe