In an OpEd in today’s New York Times with this same title, David Brooks made a persuasive argument for the difference between “sincerity” and “authenticity” and illustrated it using two songs about coping with celebrity, one by Chance the Rapper and one by Taylor Swift.
The first thing you notice in comparing the Chance and Swift songs is the difference between a person and a brand.
At this point, like me you may not know which is which (unless you already listened to the songs). But the nub is this thought.
The second thing you notice is the difference between sincerity and authenticity. In Lionel Trilling’s old distinction, sincerity is what you shoot for in a trusting society. […] Authenticity is is what you shoot for in a distrustful society.
And this paragraph is the lovely, convincing conclusion.
Back in the 1950’s, sincerity seemed treacly and boring, and authenticity, in the form of, say, Johnny Cash, seemed daring and new. But now rebellious authenticity is the familiar corporate success formula, and sincerity, like Chance the Rapper’s, is practically revolutionary.
So now you know who’s who and what’s what.