Elvis Costello’s song “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?”

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Of the several strains of metamodernist sentiment there are to talk about, one that we’ve featured heavily in our blog posts here expresses itself as the desire to reclaim sentiment and sentimentality, called sometimes by the moniker “The New Sincerity.” This song, written by Nick Lowe but made famous by Elvis Costello in the 1970s, shows that the tendency is not entirely new.

I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

As the song’s pointed title indicates, it is a provocation, in which the postmodern mandate to deem it uncool to be  “searching’ for light in the darkness of humanity” without irony is thrown an angry challenge.

And each time i feel like this inside,
There’s one thing i wanna know:
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?

The singer’s asking of “modernist” questions gives the feeling of being caught between epistemes:

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony? Sweet harmony…

Therefore, the song and its theme of a private struggle with the desire for hope, for sentiment, as something too often hidden in a cloak of sneering humor, can be seen as a kind of proto*-metamodernist inquiry.

*We say “proto-metamodernist” because the song was written in 1974, a few decades before metamodernism had emerged as a significant cultural trend on a broad scale.

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