'and i know i may end up failing, too'
Where Displacement Meets LOLs - Emotionally Broken Psychos
It’s really weird to live in a time in which early 2000s nostalgia is now a thing – and, you know, it makes me feel old – but here we are. And there’s no better way to cede defeat to the relentless onslaught of Time than by listening to an episode of Molly McAleer’s podcast, Emotionally Broken Psychos, which celebrates what’s been labeled – and this makes me sad, for various reasons – “vintage” reality television.
I wrote back in February about McAleer’s other podcast, Plz Advize. As the title suggests, McAleer’s first podcast is meant to be an advice show, yet it often “accidentally” devolves into lengthy digressions on Real Housewives and The Bachelor. These digressions eventually became Emotionally Broken Psychos, which has the stated goal of “dissect[ing] your favorite reality TV shows in a quest for self-improvement… or as we like to think of it, where displacement meets LOLs.”
EBP covers contemporary reality TV standards like Vanderpump Rules and Southern Charm, but the real strength of the show lies in the discussions about the “golden age” of reality television, that era in the early 2000s when shows like Simple Life and The Newlyweds captivated millions of people and defined various cultural trends. I’m especially loving what McAleer’s deemed the “Summer of Simpson,” a string of episodes in which McAleer and her co-hosts have been watching and dissecting MTV’s The Ashlee Simpson Show, which aired 2003-2005.
Full disclosure: as someone who, as a teen, wholeheartedly bought into Ashlee’s image (she had that rebellious punk vibe, with a debut album that had some real bangers), I’m appreciating McAleer’s attention to detail as she examines various episodes and facets of the show each week. The podcast is less a summary of the show and more of a discussion of what it was like to be a teenager in 2004; it’s more, in other words, about the show’s context and cultural milieu, the outside factors that, in hindsight, clearly shaped the branding of Ashlee Simpson as she started her career in an era, let’s remember, before Snapchat and Instagram gave us intimate access to our favorite celebrities.
If Ashlee Simpson isn’t your early 2000s go-to, you’ll also find episodes on Paris Hilton, Aaron Carter, and Laguna Beach, among many other discussions about shows and pop culture stuff that shaped your adolescence – if you were born after, say, 1985 – probably way more than you’d care to admit.
Simon Cowell’s New Brainchild – PRETTYMUCH
Continuing with the celebration of a not-actually-that-bygone era, Simon Cowell’s just introduced the world to his One Direction replacement, a group called PRETTYMUCH that is so reminiscent of 90s boybands that I couldn’t, in good faith, ignore it. Their first single “Would You Mind,” released this week, has a sound that’s not so much One Direction as it is New Kids on the Block meets Bel Biv Devoe (in fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a “Poison” sample in there).
If we can ignore how manufactured the whole thing is (which of course will make this group a household name in just a few months, and which of course we can’t really do), I’m not ashamed to admit how much I’ve been playing this song on repeat. The melodic harmonies and familiar music arrangement pull at me in a way that the tween inside me can’t ignore. Actually, I am a little bit ashamed – that my tween-self seems to control so much of my pop cultural consumption. Damn you, 12-year-old Rachel!
Also, too, the song is called would you mind – it’s basically a song about sexual consent, which is the most 2017 thing a group of five boys could harmonize about. Although actually, if you bump the lyrics up against the lyrics of Frank Loesser’s 1944 classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” you’ll be genuinely confused about how far we’ve come, as a society, in defining what sexual consent is.
Ultimately, PRETTYMUCH is old school meets new: the sound and image of the group is familiar in a way older millennials will appreciate, with still enough fresh, baby faces for major heartthrob status and lyrics that today’s youth are already tweeting about.
Simon Cowell’s a mad-scientist marketing machine, and this one will be big, I think.
BONUS: Rest in peace, Chester Bennington.
above image: "ashlee simpson 02," dave gates / flickr
 The name is just such a timestamp on 2017 youth that I honestly kind of love it.