There are few things trendier than embracing styles and sounds of the past. Sampled choruses from classic songs and tracks from artists of a different era are nothing new; this year has seen a heavy increase in appreciation for the early years of the new millennium.
What is it that makes these retro sounds make an inevitable comeback, decade after decade? Nostalgia is a powerful drug and whether we like it or not, it's inevitably striking a nerve.
Just last year, Charli XCX and Troye Sivan, who were toddlers during the rise of the new millennium, wrote about their nostalgia for 1999. This trend is sneaking in on us, and it’s best we embrace the culture of yesterday and see how we can at least improve the mistakes of the past.
The underlying truth of this phenomenon is perhaps that right now, in the midst of a global pandemic, as tensions in marginalized communities continue to rise, and the names Trump and Biden anger just about anyone, we are looking for an escape to a simpler time ruled by graphic tees, trucker hats, Ugg boots and iPod Nanos. If you ignore the looming recession, two wars and Dick Cheney, life was much simpler — and the music from our past can help ease our collective anxiety of what’s to come.
Slowly but surely, this nostalgic shift is gaining traction within modern releases, and some are hitting that nostalgic nerve effectively. Hyper pop beats, high-pitched guitar strums and baggy pants are just a few examples of artists currently leading this trend. So hot.
"Hit Different," Sza featuring Ty Dolla $ign
The neo-soul artist, best known for her award-winning album CTRL, is touching a nostalgic nerve in her new music video. Though the video is far more abstract than your run-of-the-mill soul video from back in the day, the parts where SZA is not drenched in blood and instead dancing in baggy pants with backup dancers have led some reviewers to compare the artist to R&B icon Aaliyah. Overall, the song does hit different, but its calmed beats and catchy lyrics still are strikingly familiar in the best way.
"Me & You Together Song," The 1975
The 1975 is known for its experimental sound, but the band is going back to its roots by revisiting the simpler times of the early 2000s. (Very early, as in pre 9-11.) The lyrics to "Me & You Together Song" could easily be the set up of a quirky high school comedy where the cool kids wore cargo pants and applied an excessive amount of gel in their hair. Lyrics such as “I fell in love with her in stages my whole life” are a far cry from the band’s past singles like "People" or "Love It If We Made It." Instead, "Me & You Together Song" is the kind of simple love story that we’re all nostalgic for nowadays.
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"XS," Rina Sawayama
"XS" is a clash of two prominent genres from the new millennium, hard rock and candy pop, and Rina Sawayama has brilliantly mastered the fusion of sound. Past songs such as "Cherry" and "Cyber Stockholm Syndrome" show that Sawayama has as nostalgic an ear as musical chops. In her latest album SAWAYAMA, the pop artist blends heavy-metal instrumentals with her early Aguilera-sounding pop. Sawayama and other artists such as Carly Rae Jepsen have embraced the era's pop music and have managed to make it uniquely their own. This style has not been welcomed into the mainstream just yet, but when a Selena Gomez or Demi Lovato starts toying with bubblegum pop, you can thank the likes of Rina Sawayama, who took a creative risk by looking back.
"Circle the Drain," Soccer Mommy
Listen to "Circle the Drain" by Soccer Mommy, a Gen Z-er who was a literal toddler at the beginning of the new millennium, and you’ll notice a resemblance to Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette. In the catchy and immediately familiar single from her recent album Color Theory, Soccer Mommy draws obvious inspiration from the icons as her calm and collected voice blends with acoustic and fading instrumentals. Soccer Mommy is proof that, despite what they say on Twitter, the Gen Z generation has a soft spot for millennial sounds.