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MGMT Is Cooler Than You and They Have No Idea Why

It was exactly three years ago Saturday that a couple of hippies from Brooklyn stole our hearts, expanded our minds, and transfixed our souls with their debut album Oracular Spectacular. Now two albums in and hundreds of bong hits later, MGMT has managed to accidentally define a new generation of indie pop, all the while looking oblivious and borderline malnourished.

When I first heard “Time To Pretend,” I was hiking in bufu Ohio and smoking with my friends from high school (Isn’t that how everyone found out about MGMT?). But it was only after I bought the album that I realized they were onto something: white kids can be cool if they dress in blankets and make infectious pop.

And from that point it was only a matter of time –very little –before they performed to one of the biggest day crowds ever at Lollapalooza, appeared on the cover of SPIN, and transformed into international icons. But one question remains unanswered about the trajectory of their success: why exactly?

So here we are in 2010 and MGMT has done to indie-dance what Snookie did for spray tan. Their genre-defining/defying influence is visible yet largely incalculable: who would bands like Passion Pit, Miike Snow, and Washed Out be without Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser? I can only say that I haven’t the slightest clue.

I began writing this article with the delusion that I could comprehensively describe the allure of MGMT. But as I thought more about my logic I started to question my own understanding of the band, its music, and their critical acclaim. I considered several reasons for their overnight fame and indisputable coolness:

1. Their aversion to their own fame is remarkably unusual and intriguing

2. They possess an unflappable desire to make the music they want to make regardless of people’s expectations.

3. They straddle the fence between mainstream and indie with an air of aloofness, as though the whole band were in on a joke that not even they completely understand.

Although these are all viable explanations that have something to do with their mystique, no one idea completely captures the essence of the band’s appeal. So I extend the question to you, Nerdist community: what is it about MGMT that makes them so cool? Since when does not giving a f*** and being musically inclined guarantee rock icon status?

All I know for sure is that I will never stop loving them, and they will never stop loving weed.

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9 comments

  • Kudos to them for focusing on the music more than trying to be popular – everyone knows the cool kids don’t have to try. Sounds to me like they’ve also been influenced by 21st century bands, too, like Metric or even Tegan & Sarah.

  • I can say I very recently got into MGMT. Each of their singles stuck on me slowly, I don’t think I can even tell you why I like MGMT. As for the boys, I never thought they were “cool” at all, I thought they were were rich kids who were being weird for weird sake. Andrew and Ben are cute so that helps.

  • I don’t remember where I first heard them, pretty sure it was on a radio channel while I was flipping threw them on my t.v.

    I just heard something that sounded good, stopped and went back to listen, and I ended up loving the song… uh… I can’t remember the name. I couldn’t care less who they are, what they are, or what they do… if their music sounds good to me then that is all that matters. I rarely give a toss about the people behind the music, and in this case it seems they don’t care that I don’t care.

    When I saw pictures of the band, I only ever saw ones of just the singer and the other dude with the black hair like in the picture you have posted, so I thought it was some gay couple that could make the hell out of good sounding music. Are those two the only members?

  • MGMT is easily the band that I have the most conflicted feelings about.

    I love their music because it’s of the moment and original, but can we take some time to acknowledge the debt they owe to Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd? I admire the sheer balls it takes to put out the kind of music that moves you rather than your record sales, but i feel like Congratulations was a move away from the voice they established in Oracular Spectacular and a move towards Piper at the Gates of Dawn. At what point do you cross the line from coolly shunning the attention the public gives you to squandering it for the sake of posturing?