Black leather jacket, fitted white tee, the hair of a god, cigarette in hand: James Dean, the legendary symbol of American teenage disillusionment. The archetype of cool.
I have had the distinct pleasure of spending the last few weeks in the poorly regarded “Motor City” of Detroit, Michigan. It’s no secret that Detroit is struggling, but there is a prolific art and music scene stemming from the abandoned office buildings and crumbling neighbourhoods. Outside of the big acts like Eminem, Danny Brown, and Big Sean, several smaller bands have been making waves and bringing attention to the city. Queue my favourite on the list: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
The irreverently named indie-folk-electronic-pop (what?) duo made their début back in 2011 and with some passionate tunes like ‘We Almost Lost Detroit‘ and a more folky-electronic sounds (see ‘Simple Girl‘ and ‘Nothing But Our Love‘) off their album, It’s A Corporate World. They followed this up with 2013’s poppy dancey The Speed of Things.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is a young, developing band still forging their identity. Rather, reinventing their identity not unlike their home-city, Detroit. Their latest single, ‘James Dean,’ explores this very pursuit: finding an identity in something “cool” but something worthwhile. “Shadowboxing with ‘cool,’ while keeping it at arm’s length” (Esquire).
“I’ve been actin’ a fool / I’ve been feelin’ like good times just don’t last / Got me screamin’ out ‘ooh ooh, look at me now’ / …All I wanna be, is to be cool like James Dean.”
In the end it doesn’t matter to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. if they’re considered “cool” or ultra-famous, they just “wanna be cool like James Dean.” A simple kind of cool. A comfortable cool, not measured by the perception of others, but based on personal confidence and self-esteem. Something to be respected. Something that speaks for itself.
And let’s be real, ‘James Dean‘ is the best use of auto-tune since T-Pain. Take a listen, and really listen, you won’t regret it.