Mac DeMarco & Gen Z: Why The Indie Singer Is Conquering a Generation

Gen Z is now making music, and Mac DeMarco is one of their biggest influences.

Pablo Muñoz, Mac DeMarco and Clairo.

The new generation is consuming music in different ways that allow for the exploration of genres and artists that, in the age of MTV and Top 40 radio, would perhaps not have been available to them, at least during their childhood. YouTube, the giant video website, contains a myriad of music videos and audio clips by artists belonging to all genres, all time periods, and all geographical locations for young people to discover and fall in love with. Furthermore, websites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp allow teens to discover content by artists who may not be signed to a label yet or may not have an impressive marketing budget but whose work gets known mainly through internet word of mouth. Young people more than ever know there are lots of artists beyond the select few presented to them through radio, mainstream social media and TV. Teens are discovering an infinity of pop, rock, hip-hop and country subgenres — the buzz around K-Pop, trap music and bedroom pop, to cite a few notable examples, bears witness to this musical awakening. One of the artists that’s particularly caught the attention of teens? The one and only, Canadian indie singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco. Asides from the quality of his songs, his vintage aesthetics and his irresistible goofy personality, why has Mac DeMarco become such a hit with young people? The answer may lie in his independence: DeMarco is known for recording music by himself in his bedroom, polishing it and then releasing it online for the delight of fans everywhere. For a teen who dreams of making music but lives with their parents and possesses a laptop instead of a guitar, the possibility to record a song from the comfort of one’s bed sounds wonderful. In true DeMarco style, teens and young adults are releasing their bedroom art and finding success online and beyond. He should be proud.

The first example of an artist influenced by DeMarco is Norwegian band Boy Pablo. Their biggest hit, “Everytime,” racked thousands of views after YouTube’s algorithm suggested it to fans of artist like DeMarco. The music video features the group of high school-aged boys playing near a lake in footage quality reminiscent of the 1980s. They’re acting silly intentionally, like DeMarco so often does in his own music videos. Although attributing the concept of high school bands to Mac DeMarco is laughable, the sudden online rise to fame is reminiscent of DeMarco’s own story. After participating in a few music projects for a couple years, DeMarco caught the attention of a label who supported a mini-LP. It impressed them enough that they allowed him to record a fully-fledged LP, which captivated the attention of music fans online and ultimately led to his prolific career. We don’t know whether Boy Pablo will maintain their popularity, but they’ve amassed sufficient online attention for future projects for now.

Another good example is the current face of bedroom pop, singer-songwriter Clairo. Clairo has been recording covers of her favorite songs and sharing them on Soundcloud for a while, but it was her viral song “Pretty Girl” which made her famous online. More so than Boy Pablo, Clairo’s music so far sounds more reliant on technology and could have been mostly recorded at home. The music video for “Pretty Girl” was in fact recorded in her bedroom after waking up from a nap, to show that it’s okay to look and feel flawed. Her lo-fi rhythms and introspective lyrics will definitely remind people of Mac DeMarco’s older material, though perhaps she may choose to follow another route as her career grows (this summer, she’ll join British pop sensation Dua Lipa on tour.)

Dozens of other young artists who have adopted Mac DeMarco’s style and hope to similarly create buzz online can be found in Bandcamp, Soundcloud and YouTube channels like this one. Further proof of his popularity with young people are YouTuber/singer Poppy’s viral cover of “My Kind of Woman” and Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard joining him on stage during an Atlanta show. Of course, claiming that one person alone is responsible for a music style and for making music at home is erroneous, as many have performed mellow rock and recorded at home decades before Mac. However, he’s by far one of the most identifiable indie singer-songwriters today and it’s quite unlikely these teens haven’t stumbled upon “My Kind of Woman” and “Ode to Viceroy” while browsing YouTube. At the end, what matters is that young people dare to make art with their available resources and with multiple sources of inspiration. That will assure an interesting future for music.