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“ [“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”] was about a guy who was trying really hard to “connect” with a younger generation and just desperately failing at it. It’s commenting on my generation’s inability to grow up: people can’t look in the mirror and see themselves as anything other than a kid in an adult’s body. So I made this character who puts on a really hideous shirt to try and fit in at some skate park and the kids are just like, “Who’s grandpa? What’s he’s doing?” I saw that everywhere around me and I saw it in myself, I’m sure. ”
That’s a quote from Michael Stipe. In the next paragraph he says “No matter how hard we tried to be in the cool moment, we were always either way ahead of it or way behind it.” “Kenneth” was way ahead of the curve — I think the ideas about aging and generational divides in that song are very, very relevant today.