Indie music and teen TV: a bromance made in sad boy heaven | Music

In the US, Riverdale returns on Thursday to bring us closer to solving the ultimate prime time mystery: who among us truly cares about Archie Andrews’ music career? Not that Archie’s music-centric storyline is entirely Riverdale’s fault. Sure, he performed in a shirt and tie at his high school’s variety show. Yes, he almost tore Josie and the Pussycats apart. And certainly, if this was 2006, Archie Andrews’ favourite band would be the Plain White Tees. But Riverdale is merely carrying on the longstanding tradition of teen series using indie music as cultural currency – and not only as a means of storytelling, but as a signpost with which to define a particular era or certain character trait. Which is genius: by aligning themselves with a specific movement or subculture, teen shows become a reflection of the time while acting as a platform willing to boost burgeoning acts. Don’t believe me? Just watch (these shows that did exactly that).

Grown-up indie: PJ Harvey and Gilmore Girls

PJ Harvey married the cultural worlds of Rory and Lorelai. Composite: Getty Images & Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Considering the show’s theme was performed by pop-rock veteran Carole King, Gilmore Girls’ combo of college-centric radio hits and grown-up indie shouldn’t be surprising – especially since as much as the series was about Rory, it focused equally on Lorelai. And that explains the mix of acts like The Shins with artists like Joey Ramone and Yoko Ono. On one hand, The Shins align with Rory’s age bracket but don’t stray too far into risky musical territory (understandable, since Rory’s original arc was that of a straight-laced overachiever). But on the other hand, Ramone and Ono evoke the era in which Lorelai was a teen herself, alluding to where she came from. Meanwhile, acts like PJ Harvey marry the cultural worlds of Rory and Lorelai, and evoke the rebelliousness of a young Lorelai while appealing to the poet in her daughter. As for the…

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