Some millennials and gen-xers on tiktok are distraught after a debate erupted on the app over whether nirvana categorizes as "old."
that question has tiktok nervous about how gen z defines the genre of "oldies".
The debate started after 21-year-old user ari elkins posted a tiktok on April 4 as part of a series he titled "old men you should know." In the first installment, which has been viewed more than 2.8 million times, Elkins chose the song "Something in the Way" from the band's landmark 1991 album "Nevermind."
“I totally understand why a gen z tiktoker would classify nirvana as old man because that person has no real idea what that term used to mean,” said jack hamilton, associate professor of media studies and american studies at the university of virginia.
although the pundits understood why elkins might think of nirvana as "old man", the commenters went nuts.
“bro this is not an old bro,” wrote one person.
“old?????” another posted.
“old brothers. In fact. it came out in 1991,” someone else commented.
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many noted that the song has had a recent resurgence in popularity due to its use in the movie "the batman", and claimed that elkins only knew about the song from the movie.
“Personally, I don't have a negative connotation about when a song came out, a good song is a good song, period,” Elkins said in an instagram message to NBC News. "I'm 21 and I think other people my age should know more nirvana songs besides 'smells like teen spirit.'"
The debate over what is and isn't "oldies" can be traced to one major factor, experts told nbc news: radio.
"The word 'oldies' is part of a radio format that grew out of the classic rock format," said Drew Nobile, associate professor of music theory at the University of Oregon. "in the 1990s, 'oldies' radio started as a kind of response to classic rock radio."
hamilton and nobile's examples of artists appearing on "oldies" radio included chuck berry, the shirelles and the ronettes. the radio term "oldies" refers to this moment in music history, and is not a slider term applied to a bygone era, nobile explained.
"it's not like the 1960s, music from the 1930s was considered classical and music from the 1910s was considered 'oldies,'" said nobile.
Although bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, two of the most famous bands of the grunge era in the 1990s, made it to classic rock radio stations, experts argued that an "oldie" is generally defined by the time period between the late 1950s through the 1960s.
"A lot of us older people grew up with a very clear definition of 'old'...because it was a clearly defined era that was covered by those seasons," Hamilton said.
A group like Nirvana, while it may be considered "old" to Zoomers, "doesn't match people's memories of that specific radio format," he added.
Streaming services like spotify and apple music also play a role in how some young people define what is and what is not "old".
“Younger people don't listen to the radio as much anymore, there's less of a sense of importance about how radio is organized,” Hamilton said. "in the age of spotify and streaming, a lot of these gender distinctions have gotten a bit fuzzy."
Hamilton said that when young people listen to music on streaming services, they don't have the context of what radio stations often classify as "oldies" and have therefore begun to create their own definition of the term. . Nobile said that while that may be true, young people at this point in history have access to almost every music catalog and are still listening to music from the genres long before their time, they just don't distinguish them in the same way as their peers. predecessors.
“They'll probably use 'oldies' in a much more relaxed way because they don't listen to 'oldies' radio,” said Nobile, adding that “they know their history in a way that teenagers in the 1970s didn't.”
This isn't the first time a debate over music has erupted between millennials and Gen Z. Millennials frequently protest any suggestion that the pop culture of their youth is considered "old," and Gen Zers have been known to capitalize on this sensibility.
some tiktok users have posted content where they intentionally act obtuse, saying they don't know songs from the late 1990s and early 2000s in order to "trick" older users into interacting with their content.
This post style has helped some get millions of views and thousands of clicks, boosting an account's popularity even if the interaction with the account is mostly negative.
However, Elkins said he was simply trying to spread love and good music, not a bait for millennial ire.
"People thinking that something called 'old' is a bad thing is probably the biggest problem, but I digress," Elkins said.
nobile argued that the debate over nirvana's status as an "old man" is not just about millennials fearing the reaper as they age, but also about the place the band has assumed in music history.
"I think it's this idea that there's an erasure of history if you call nirvana an 'old', because there's nothing older than an 'old'," nobile said. “So we thought, 'No, there's actually over 30 years of history before that. if you think about the whole history of rock, nirvana isn't that old.”
still, hamilton cautioned that if millennials want to appear hip, they should avoid punishing the younger generation for how they classify music.
“It's kind of funny because scolding a young person for not being appropriately reverent of the past is like a typical older person's activity,” he said.
This story first appeared on nbcnews.com.