Corecore and cultural fragmentation

Young people are picking through the rubble of old aesthetics

Artillery Row

A recent trend on TikTok named “CoreCore” has been infecting the app. Its aim is seemingly to highlight the best and worst of the many “-core” genres which have been very prevalent on social media sites — YouTube, TikTok, Instagram etc — in the past few months. The origins of this tag, however, can be traced much further.

It’s actually quite difficult to put an exact date on when this all started. The suffix “-core” seems to originate back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was used to denote niche subgenres, normally musical, and to identify oneself as part of a group which liked that music (Emocore being a fine example from the early 2000s).

It is a bizarre symptom of cultural dislocation

The “-core” genre as it exists today still relies heavily on the original ideas that first made it somewhat popular 20 years ago. It is focussed on aesthetics that evoke certain fantasies. “Cottagecore”, for example, is associated with long flowery dresses, rustic looking houses, neat and tidy gardens, and a general sense of homeliness. “Farmcorewould take that idea and go further with it — showcasing the same general vibe but putting it in the context of old-world agricultural practices. Think of smallholdings, homesteading, etc. “Academiacore” (also referred to as “dark academia”) seeks to glorify large mahogany clad libraries, women in brown turtleneck jumpers and men in soft dark tweed suits. 

It’s not all “trad” though. “Bimbocore” is an ironic example of modernity making its mark on the “-core” genre. Blonde women clad in tight fitting pink clothes act like human barbie dolls. Even “emocore” remains somewhat prevalent, with its celebration of thick black hair, heavy eye liner and pasty white skin. 

This could all be brushed off as teens and under 25s wanting to rebel and make a statement, but it goes much deeper than that. We are not the first generation to do this. Mods, rockers, skinheads, punks, goths, dandies, fops etc were all trying to do the same thing with their own styles. The difference this time is that there is no clear generational mood or direction on what that style is. Instead, we have leagues of young people piecing together vague niches from the past, declaring them to be a “vibe”, working out what a suitable “aesthetic” would be for said vibe, and then successfully broadcasting these to the whole world. It is a bizarre symptom of cultural dislocation. 

In the 21st century, we are all desperately striving for some sort of identity. The phrase “We are more connected than ever, and yet have never been so lonely” has been repeated to death, but it is objectively true. A majority of people, especially the young, lack cohesive and organic communities that they can be a part of, and no amount of “Youth Centres” and “Community Hubs” can satiate this need. 

The internet, which has certainly helped to undermine the idea of local community, seeks to replace this with global communities. Zoomers, arguably the first truly internet savvy generation, can talk to each other from across continents and oceans with ease. A lack of a common language is not a problem when a 10 second repeating video clip of you wearing a particular dress or suit, dubbed over with audio from a film or music from a song, can portray the same message as a few hundred words. 

We are soaked with callbacks and revivals but very few new ideas

Corecore, which has leaped onto my timeline and other social feeds over the past few weeks, seems to be the next stage of this cycle. Instead of placing the emphasis on the actual aesthetic or vibe of a specific genre, a corecore video will instead take compilations of various other unrelated -core’s and amalgamate them together into something very different. These videos and compilations stand above the others as a meta critique of the genre as a whole. Seemingly without purpose, they actually do a wonderful job at showcasing the near-meaninglessness of the “-core” genre. They expose the truth of the situation that, whilst a certain aesthetic or vibe can seem desperately important to the people partaking in them, they are just small windows into ideas and designs that have long since gone out of style. 

It speaks volumes to the use and purpose of the internet, however. In the same way that a single cell is of little importance, the body could not exist without them. The internet has allowed a plurality of small and niche communities to exist and thrive, and we would be worse off without them.

Overall, I do not think that the existence of the “-core” genre is a bad thing. It’s quite fun to watch it unfold and see different people’s interpretations of long dead aesthetics. It is a symptom of much larger problems, however — namely the lack of a real and organic culture, and a directionless vision of the future. 

As a global society, we are soaked with callbacks and revivals but very few new ideas. Young people should be at the forefront of seeking to innovate. Instead they are picking through the rubble of old subcultures in search of ephemeral validation. It is understandable, but it is not conducive to the long-term wellbeing of a people, and it leaves us culturally stuck. Our wheels are spinning but very little moves.

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