Has the world finally surpassed a need for Bob Dylan? Did the world ever really need him in first place?
I think this is the subject for a much more interesting article, that will not be discussed at length currently.
However, with the release of his newest album following an absence of almost 12 years, and with the current political environment feeling more 1960s than it has in years; it is perhaps engaging to discuss a few artists who could be seen as the titular “Zoomer Bob Dylan”.
If you are searching for the answer to this, then it seems to best way is to break down elements of the Bob Dylan mould, and find the corresponding chunks that fit
1. Bob Dylan is a legendarily open and heartfelt song writer.
If we hypothesise this to be the defining characteristic, then I put forward Sun Kil Moon as the Zoomer Bob Dylan.
He’s a middle aged white melancholic, and plays an acoustic guitar so the comparison is adpt!
His lyrical content is dense and poetic, while also standing out in a way that Dylan’s did throughout his career.
While Dylan had long form couplets based on ballads poems, Mark Kozelek has equally unique blank verse ramblings based on what he had for breakfast.
Unique and heartbreaking, I’d say Sun Kil Moon is a pretty good fit for this category.
2. Bob Dylan famously subverted everyone’s expectations.
Okay so imagine a world where every Dylan album sounds the same. As hard as this can be to do, there was a time when he started playing stuff so wildly not what he’d been playing before; he got booed.
So maybe I could put forward Kanye, who’s repeatedly done things so wildly different but yet cohesively similar; that he could be seen to have multiple eras like Dylan himself.
But I find myself picking Frank Ocean instead, since he’s more of a zoomer artist.
Plus looking back, I can anecdotally remember a time where Blonde was seen as a “going electric” moment for Frank Ocean.
But like Dylan, Frank Ocean’s change to his own music has stood the test of time, making him a good contender.
3. Bob Dylan made anthems for protest and social progress.
This is the favourite boomer line about Dylan, that he was the icon for the time where drafts were being burnt and marches were being marched.
In this case I’d say a good comparison for the level of fame without rejecting a political stance is probably Kendrick Lamar.
As the “Zoomer Bob Dylan”, he’s probably more direct and with a wider popularity than Dylan was when he sang “Ballad of Hattie Carrol”, but the comparison is in the inspiration many followers of movements like Black Lives Matter have found in Kendrick’s music.
4. Dylan put people off because of his style.
I think there are two kinds of parents, those who loved Dylan and thought he was genius, and those who couldn’t stand his shrill voice and wax poetics.
In this vein of unappreciated genius due to artistic choices that “put people off”, I think you can argue Jessica Pratt is a new Dylan.
She is someone who’s powerful presence and intensely original style of vocals is enough to make her underrated but still instantly recognisable.
Plus as a self-confessed “folk artist”, she joins an American lineage that goes back to the time of Baez, Dalton, and Dylan.
5. Dylan was the archetypal “small town folk hero”.
His origins are widely known and accepted as part as part of his all around myth.
It’s to the point where he’s identity as an artist is tied to his “humble beginnings” on all levels.
So I will place Courtney Barnett on this level, as the suburban Australian poet she is. With her vulnerabilities and deepest anxieties being proudly displayed as part of her own icon.
She is connected to the world that made her, with constant references to her upbringing and life in tandem with her very up close and personal approach to lyricism.
She’s stereotypically, a small town hero who’s made it big; just like Dylan.
These are some of my picks, take them if you want, leave them if you don’t. Long live Dylan.