A hate on SWAG

From Planet Minecraft

SWAG has by now been so overused that no one, not even the generation that wear their hats sideways and wear their pants so that half their ass shows, seem to know what it means anymore. And I don’t mean that older people don’t know what they mean, but I am not sure that even young people do either.

Sure, you could come across a blog that has some kind of definition fo SWAG, but if it is from a blog appealing to today’s teens, I can guarantee you that 10 websites will garner 10 different and conflicting definitions. Quite often, if the website, such as a blog, has a message to say, then they often must take the trouble to inform you of which definition of SWAG they are referring to. The Urban Dictionary has over a hundred of definitions for SWAG (I gave up counting after the 20th page of definitions). Some of them seemed to get it right when they note that it is the most overused expression since the major media accused Pol Pot of being “Communist” (he was many awful things, but never a communist). And “overused” has a way of soon becoming synonymous with “meaningless”.

From @swagsteppin on Twitter
From @swagsteppin on Twitter

In my day, which wasn’t yesterday, I confess, we had something called a “generation gap”, where parents often complained that they couldn’t understand us, but knew that we young ‘uns understood each other. That is, we may have invented some words to express everyday emotions in a way that seem to give an impression that we were the first generation that ever felt them, but at least teens could talk to other teens.

But what does it mean when “your SWAG is not up to my level?”, or “Mark and I are SWAG?” It might be letters that stand for something like “secretly we are gay”, or “style without admitting greatness”, or “stolen without a gun”, or “stuff we ain’t got”, “scientific wild-ass guess”, “something we all get tired of hearing”, “sexy with a bit of gangsta”, or … well, after 30 pages of SWAG, I can only conclude no one knows what they are saying to each other anymore. The young generation has reduced the dignity of adolescence to incoherent baby-talk.

From Return of Kings

I am genuinely worried about this since I feel that young people are losing the ability to communicate with each other. A lack of definition means that SWAG is a marketable word in advertising. SWAG means whatever you want it to mean, and so if you want to buy clothes that are “Simply SWAG”, or rings that are SWAG, then your only admission into this exclusive club of users of the word SWAG is to have heard the word previously. People who can’t express their wants or needs properly are also likely not to be able to think too critically — an ideal target market for salespeople. A mere generational gap has now become a huge interpersonal gap where the young have lost the ability to express their feelings, emotions, and opinions to each other. Relationships have become shallow, even by 1970s and 1980s standards, when many older people of that generation lamented that us young folk lost touch with seeking out fulfilling relationships, and afraid to be in touch with each other.

The YBF blog

It was not too long ago that SWAG was a word used at conventions and meant “Stuff we all get”, like T-shirts, pens, note pads, and so on. These things were often handed out at convention booths by vendors advertising their businesses to attendees.

When you brought your SWAG home from the convention, you had their names, their logos, their addresses and phone numbers, so that should you need their services, you knew who to contact.

#swaggeriest yo
Found on Tumblr

Crappy Album Covers #45 — Teenagers

Teenagers are a difficult demographic to reach, unless you don’t know anything about them. If you know nothing about the demographic, then it does’t pose a difficulty for you. I know that’s kind of like saying that if you don’t know anything about painting a portrait, then slashing the brush in any direction or color at random poses no problem to the painter. It seems that way, with the covers below. If your album overtly suggests that “This album is for teenagers”, I will guarantee you teens won’t buy them. On the other hand, if you say this is “R-rated”, and contains cuss words and sexual suggestions that would put a blush on a two-dollar hooker (you know, like Rap), and that young people shouldn’t buy them at all, then they will fly off the shelves and teens would be the biggest part of the market.

album-cover-crap-19_bizarrerecords_comCase in point, this realistic portrait of teenagers having a good time. I bet you already knew they were listening to this very record, recorded by Bobby Krane and His Orchestra, and distributed by Bravo! Records.

Look! The young lady in the foreground is saying it too! — Bravo! Bravo! At least that looks like what she could be saying.

Look at the photo and indulge in the fantasy that there is still a world where young teen girls don’t dress like sluts; the guys stay straight and sober (by “straight” I meant drug-free, but I guess it could also be taken the other way) and don’t dress like plumber-butt pimps. And the guys even ask the girls “may I have this dance with you?”

And then there’s Tex Ritter. Tex Ritter? And that’s when I woke up.

album-cover-crap-20_bizarrerecords_comThe TOPS record label, which previously warned us about the world ending, are shown here producing records of “12 Top Hits” so you can party like it’s 1999, or more to the point, like it’s 1959.

You have to admit that the one thing that stands out most about this cover is that the lady who is dancing is wearing argyle socks. I thought there was a law passed by Joe McCarthy’s HUAC banning women from wearing argyle socks. It was supposed to be a guy thing. It totally clashes with the pink blouse.  If this is a fashion statement, then she should be arrested by the fashion police for bad fashion grammar.

Once again, the cover consists of the tamest teenagers you’ve never seen. And I don’t think they existed in 1959 either. Even in 1959, teens got drunk, and they had sex. Perhaps the only worthwhile thing that the photo realistically illustrates, is that in 1959, the guys didn’t have the bad taste to wear plumber-butt pants or hoodies, which would have made the chick in argyle look like Elizabeth Taylor (I mean Liz Taylor in 1959, not in 2008).

To anyone born after the 1960s: HUAC = “House Un-American Activities Committee“. It’s sort of like Homeland Security against commies and hippies.

album-cover-crap-18_lp-cover-loverThese seemingly adult-age folks may as well be adolescent, since they are depicted in the way their parents would approve. “I Love Music” was a sampler sent to radio stations across North America from Capitol Records back in 1958. The album cover gives every indication that the HUAC would have approved of this album. Going by the cover, for instance, it is obvious that these two folks are not planning the overthrow of the proletariat, and of taking over the means of production.

The artlessness of these depictions are a sure symptom of the McCarthy era. I recall when I began collecting old issues of Mad Magazine (digested in paperback form) going back to the 1950s, the most boring and least funny issues were during the period of 1958-1963. It couldn’t have been a good time to be a satirist.

And there was one more I forgot to add:
tammy_casual-slack-080726Yes, this 12″ LP of hits, which by the cover seems to treat teenagers as younger than they really are, may not have been headed for any kind of landmark success.

A toy doll with a toy record goes to a toy jukebox to pretend to play music on it. And, what’s left? You can only sing along to the music you are pretending to play.

I must say that much of the advertising I see today parallels the kind of mentality depicted on all of these albums in today’s blog. There is a certain advertising these days that points to a certain clientele, or a certain lifestyle as we would like to see it. But it is made to look artsy, so that you can’t accuse advertisers of appealing to people that don’t really exist. Instead, it can look naive, even idealistically so.  Sticking to album covers, the Putumayo Collection, discussed earlier, is an example of album covers that are like this.