NPR logo The Sound of a Generation

The Sound of a Generation

Right Now on All Songs Considered we're looking at the music that's defined passed generations. Bob Boilen talks with Carrie Brownstein (Monitor Mix blogger and former guitarist for Sleater-Kinney), Stephen Thompson (editor for NPR's Song of the Day), and Amy Phillips (senior editor with Pitchforkmedia.com) about the most memorable music of the past 40 years. We've got a lot of amazing music on the show, so be sure to check it out, then let us know what you think here.

Every generation has its own soundtrack. The Silent Generation (people born in the '20s and '30s) had big band and swing. Baby Boomers (born in the '40s and '50s) had rock and soul. Generation X (born in the '60s and '70s) had grunge and hip-hop. There's plenty of overlap, of course, and these are incredibly broad distinctions that don't take a lot of other genres into consideration. But it's probably fair to say that these were the most defining moments in music for each generation.

Big-band jazz and swing was the sound of a nation celebrating itself during and after the War. What's now called classic rock was the perfect soundtrack for a rebellion, while the mopey angst of grunge captured the, well, mopey angst of disillusioned teens and twentysomethings coming off the Reagan years.

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Now it's the Millennials' turn. Also known as Generation Y, these are people born in the late '70s to early '90s.

I confess I don't listen to much Top 40 radio or watch much MTV. I do read a number of music magazines and music Web sites (Hype Machine, Stereogum, Pitchfork) and listen to the hundreds of CDs we get in the mail each week, so I'd like to think I have at least an inkling of what's going on. But I can't for the life of me figure out what the Millennial/Generation Y soundtrack is. Maybe it hasn't been defined yet. I've been talking with the other producers here — several of them Millennials themselves — and we're a little stumped.

What do you think it is? Or what will it be?