Bringing Saxy Back: 10 Pieces of Audio Evidence Confirming 2011's Full-On Saxophone Revival

In an episode of

30 Rock

 from last year's fifth season, Tina Fey's alter-ego Liz Lemon walks the street, moping about the end of writing as career path. 

(I feel you, sister.) 


Eventually, she runs into a group of other bygone careerists living in a subway, ready to adopt her. These careers included a travel agent, an American auto worker and a saxophone soloist.

Seems the show may have jumped the gun on that last one, though: Saxophone players have had a bunch of prominent opportunities in back in the music mainstream over the last year. Often used as a cheeky nod to the '80s, a number of songs released in recent memory have featured the wacky woodwind -- or at least a keyboard sound based off of the instrument.

Let's take a closer look at ten songs behind this phenomenon.

Katy Perry - "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)"

Katy Perry's summer single "Last Friday Night" takes pop culture's blithe nostalgia to the limit. The track's solo was performed by

Saturday Night Live

Band saxophonist Lenny Pickett -- the guy who kept the sax in the cultural spotlight for two decades. In a cruel twist, the music video had Kenny G on the reed -- the guy who wussified the instrument in the '90s and caused Pickett to carry that burden. 

Alexandra Stan - "Mr. Saxobeat" 

Appearing on American charts after success in Europe, "Mr. Saxobeat" is Romania's biggest musical export since

Edward Maya's 2009 dance track, "Stereo Love."

 As opposed to the accordion used by Maya, the sax employed in this track almost makes you forget the corny English lyrics presented in a Cold War spy's accent. 

Gayngs - The Gaudy Side of Town

With a lineup as crowded as that of

35 Denton veterans Gayngs

, there just has to be a sax in there. The first track of 2010's


includes a saxophone over a hip-hop beat, evoking snowy evenings in Chicago or the Twin Cities.


Glasser - "Clamour"

Cameron Mesirow's vocal range often carries the disparate world-music soundscape in Glasser's debut album


, but the album's finale "Clamour" includes a saxophone cough that registers low enough to attract nearby snakes and dogs.

Iron & Wine - "Me and Lazarus"

A couple of tracks in Iron & Wine's latest album,

Kiss Each Other Clean

, sound like a mashup of P-Funk and Fleetwood Mac. "Me and Lazarus" is the stronger attempt at this sound. The sax cuts in through the warbling synths, a good enough bassline and Sam Beam's vocal arrangements before disappearing.

Fleet Foxes - "The Shrine / An Argument"

I'd never been into folk groups with forest fauna names until Fleet Foxes brought in the sax in

Helplessness Blues

. I can just imagine lanky lumberjacks pulling their beanies over their ears in the last couple minutes of "The Shrine/An Argument," when the saxophone shrieks in for a post-Coltrane bug-out. And that's an awesome thing to imagine.

Lady Gaga - "The Edge of Glory"

Released a month before the single for Perry's "Last Friday Night," "The Edge of Glory" doesn't know whether it wants to be a dancefloor jingle or a rock ballad. More than likely, though, it will be forever known for this unfortunate footnote: This track was one of the last songs E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemmons recorded before he passed away in June.


Deerhunter - "Coronado"

I would call Deerhunter the boldest band with a forest-themed name, and last year's

Halycon Digest

 was pretty easily the least wussy indie rock album of last year. The bellowing saxophone in "Coronado" best captures that '80s rock mood everyone else on this list is trying to evoke.

Destroyer - "Kaputt"

Because Destroyer's and Iron & Wine's albums both released on January 25, 2011, music bloggers named the date "Sax Tuesday." The title track on Destroyer's


has an awesome buttery-sax-segueing-easily-into--makeout-inducing-smooth-jazz vibe. This makes


the Sax Tuesday winner in my eyes. Babies born this month can thank Destroyer later.

SunStroke Project - "Run Away feat. Olia Tira"

Last year, Moldova entered SunStroke Project's song "Run Away" into the Eurovision Song Contest 2010 --

American Idol

's grandmother from the old county. Not only did it inspire other saxophone-infused dance tracks (see "Mr. Saxobeat" above), but Sergey Stepanov's flamboyant saxophone dance on Eurovision's stage also inspired

the Epic Sax Guy internet meme

, which is really as good an indicator of a trend these days as any. Indeed: 2011 has been the year of the sax.

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