The first Internet meltdown of 2015 came when people tweeted that this McCartney guy's going to get the Kanye Bump after recording with Mr. Kardashian.
After Kanye West and Paul McCartney released a collaboration, “Only One,” on New Year’s Day, the Twitterverse brought all its scolding power to bear on the first dumb thing it could jump on in 2015. Someone wrote, “Who is this Paul McCartney? He’s boutta blow up thanks to Kanye!!!” and that and similar tweets asking who this lucky McCartney guy is prompted indignant scorn—among them: “Kanye West did a song with Paul McCartney and people on Twitter are asking who Paul McCartney is and now I understand domestic terrorism.”
It’s probable that at least some of the tweets were jokes that many on social media missed in their rush to dudgeon, but really, why is it so hard to imagine that someone doesn’t know who McCartney is? The Beatles broke up in 1970, more than 40 years ago. It’s possible for kids to have parents who weren’t born when The Beatles were putting out albums. McCartney’s last hit single was “No More Lonely Nights” in 1984, 30 years in the rearview mirror. The Beatles stayed away from the dominant music retailer—iTunes—until 2010 and still are not on Spotify.
Radio? WTIX here in town, but the formats that have the strongest appeal to young listeners aren’t spinning 40 to 50 year-old songs by men in their 70s, nor are Kanye fans hearing The Beatles and McCartney in the clubs.
In 2013, American Idol contestant Burnell Taylor from New Orleans similarly had everybody from Jimmy Iovine to Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey trying to suppress their tsk response when he admitted that he had never heard The Beatles before performing “Let it Be” on the show’s Beatles Week. When Laurel Brown of Zap2It.com asked Taylor why he picked “Let it Be” to perform, he said:
I didn't know none of them, so I had to pick something.
I definitely picked based on titles. If I've never heard a song, I pick it based on titles, 'cause I think that tells a lot. And I heard that "Let It Be" was a real popular song, and I was in shock that I didn't know it. So I just picked "Let It Be."
Music helps us find our identities and our people when we’re young, and it’s to imagine that Taylor and his friends at Sarah T. Reed High School became brothers over The White Album or Band on the Run.
In the same season, American Idol also asked its young contestants to sing song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David (last hit: "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," B.J. Thomas, 1969), and it was clear that the contestants didn’t know those songs either. That decision, like Beatles Night, said more about the producers and their myopia. They and the scolds hawking the McCartney tweeters struggle to imagine life experiences different from theirs.
And speaking as a McCartney defender, I’m not sure how much people missed if they slept on his last 40 years.