The New Rules of Music Snobbery
The New Rules of Music Snobbery
Hulu’s High Fidelity reboot captures the end of elitist condescension and the rise of fervent eclecticism.
Spencer Kornhaber

Twenty-five years after Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity psychoanalyzed fussy record-store clerks, and 20 years after the movie adaptation made John Cusack their avatar, the once-inescapable and now-obscure archetype of the music snob is being reissued. Hulu’s charming High Fidelity reboot stars Zoë Kravitz in a 10-episode riff on the ways that music culture—and the preposterously learned, list-making taste cops intrinsic to it—has changed in the era of AirPods. The first law of post-snob snobbery: Speak before you Shazam.

A telling early scene in the old High Fidelity saw Barry, the bombastic employee of Cusack’s Rob, repel a would-be customer searching for Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Barry decreed the single “sentimental, tacky crap,” saying the middle-aged man who asked for it “offended me with his terrible taste.” The equivalent moment in the 2020 version arrives when Cherise, the Barry-update played with delicious verve by Da’Vine Joy Randolph, calls out an iced-coffee-drinking bro who has strolled into the Brooklyn record store owned by Kravitz’s Robin. He holds up his phone to ID the song that’s playing. “You do know there’s an actual person standing right here in front of you?” Cherise says before launching into a semi-castigating, semi-flirtatious sermon that irritates its target so much, he leaves. She isn’t out to shame the Shazamer so much as to connect with him. “The problem with these kids,” Cherise yells afterward, “is that the generation has completely fucked off.”

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March 2020