Here Come the '90s Kids: Chance the Rapper Covers the Arthur Song

What a wonderful kind of day.
PBS / Christian Marano / The Atlantic

Across America this Memorial Day weekend, friendly citizens savored the start of the summer. Beaches opened, burgers sizzled, volleyballs thumped, and marching bands strutted all across town. One event in particular, however, caught my eye. It took place in George, Washington, at the Sasquatch Music Festival:

Chance the Rapper covered the Arthur theme song. You can watch it below.

Now, some readers, scanning this phrase, may recall Arthur, the 1981 comedic romance starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli. They may recall its theme, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year, written by Burt Bacharach, Christopher Cross—

But I apprehend myself here. These readers are wrong. Chance the Rapper, of course, did not cover the song by Christopher Cross, king of yacht rock

No. Chance probably knows that D.W.’s imaginary friend is named Nadine, that Buster Baxter is an asthmatic bunny, and maybe even that the author Marc Brown smuggles his children’s initials into each book. Chance—born in 1993, a prime Millennial if there ever was one—covered the theme to Arthur, the PBS kids’ show starring a friendly, for some reason nose-less aardvark, the only true Arthur in the millennial cultural landscape. (A landscape in which Liza Minnelli, if you’re wondering, does not pitch a tent until that one Arrested Development episode.) 

And watching this video, I felt delighted the way, I assume, Boomers get delighted watching that old TIME-LIFE Singers and Songwriters infomercial. I (born 1991) thought: At last! My cohort has grown up! We make culture for each other now! 

I realize that’s not exactly a thrilling, air-tight thesis. Nineties Kids Make Culture Now, Reports Thrilled Nineties Kid. But for many people—for me—there’s a moment when you realize the mass culture is becoming people generally like yourself, speaking back to you in your cultural vernacular. For kids who watched Arthur growing up—who, like me, can retell plots offhand—maybe this video is it. Or maybe it was Rookie Mag’s interview with Lorde (born in 1996) or when Super Mash Bros. remixed the old Rugrats remixes.

My main insight about this: There will be more thinkpieces about ’90s culture now. There already are, of course, but they’ll switch from being about Boy Meets World to Blues’s Clues—from being high-schooler ’90s stuff to childhood ’90s stuff. (Speaking of which, the 20th anniversary of the Lion King is later this year! Brace yourselves!) And maybe thinkpieces are the closest thing we have to a mass culture anymore anyway. People get excited when they find out what felt like personal experiences were communal, they’re driven to write about it, to find something remarkable—even if it’s just a Friday afternoon, a young rapper’s Ziggy Marley cover makes them happy, and they want to tell other kids about it.

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Robinson Meyer is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers technology.

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