I heard a few months ago that Millennials were the last generation to use the term “sell out” to mean “anyone who sacrifices artistic integrity in an effort to become more successful or popular.” This quote is from Urban Dictionary, so the term still exists, it’s just that Centennials don’t even know how to use this term, so why would they look it up?
In the age when it’s important to have followers/fans, get brands to sponsor you and be seen as an influencer, it’s no wonder that sell out wouldn’t be something they come across.
With two interns at my full-time job, both of which are Centennials, I took an opportunity to test the theory.
I asked the first one what she thought the term “being a sell out” meant. She looked puzzled, but gave it a try and asked me if it was a person that belittles another person. Nope.
My colleague and I then pulled in the second intern and asked him. He flat out said, “I have no idea.”
History lesson time!
I explained to them that “back in the day” (yup, I said it) when bands used to play for a long time in their parents’ garages and dive bars, if one of the band members left to make a name for him or herself, or if the band got signed on to a record label and started performing in bigger arenas for higher-priced tickets, the fellow band mates or fans (respectively) would feel like they were left behind and that the person/band sold out to “the man.”
I then mentioned that there were even songs and movies about this and mentioned the song “Sell Out” by the ska band Reel Big Fish.
My colleague pulled out her phone, found the music video, and handed me the phone. I made them watch the whole thing while also telling them about skanking.
In their self-defense, I’ve discovered that there’s only a small sliver of young Generation Xes and Millennials are the only ones that DO know about ska (focus group of seven). But in talking a little more with one of my favorite young Millennials (I call him My Mini-Me), he pointed out that there are a lot of well-known bands that were ska bands, but people didn’t know they were actually ska. Do these ring a bell? Mighty Mighty Bosstones. 311. Sublime. No Doubt.
So I now feel a little bit older than I did last week.
And if you aren’t sure you’ve ever heard the Sell Out song or want to get some ska stuck in your head, check out the video from Reel Big Fish below.