In A World Of Nostalgia, Is It Impossible To Grow Up?

In A World Of Nostalgia, Is It Impossible To Grow Up?

It is commonly reported that the film industry is struggling for ideas. Few films seem to be hitting the box office that are not either remakes, sequels or involve the lead character wearing a cape. Indeed, sometimes it is actually all three. What is perhaps less obvious, or at least less documented, is the fact that the same thing is happening in the music industry.

Now, this is not to say that great new ideas aren’t out there, or even that they aren’t already in the hands of a young talented individual. In fact, it is far more likely that the young talent is being deprived of the necessary push they need in order to go mainstream. Labels prefer to pour their money into tried and tested artists instead, which they know will sell regardless of the quality of material they end up producing. In such harsh financial times, particularly in the music industry, many would argue that now is not the time to be taking risks when actually, it might be the perfect time to take a risk.

Unfortunately, this attitude is permeating through the nucleus of the industry and is now in the public domain. A look at the British Summer Time Hyde Park schedule this year shows just that Massive Attack, Carole King, Stevie Wonder and Take That are four of this year’s six headliners. You could have seen all of these in a venue of the same size over twenty years ago. The other two are Florence and the Machine and Mumford & Sons, both relics of an all but forgotten indie rock boom that lasted from about 2002 to 2012. Both are only playing venues of this size after receiving the necessary boost of a surprising Glastonbury headline slot recently. A look outside of Hyde Park does little to demonstrate risk taking; the three highest earning bands last year were The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and The Rolling Stones. Over thirty years ago we could have seen the very same bands.

Now, I do not have a problem with old bands still touring per say (hell, I have seen the Stones twice and I would go again in a heartbeat), but I do believe they are part of a greater problem: nostalgia. We are the generation of nostalgia. We are bombarded by it in every aspect of our lives, from adult colouring books to Rocky Balboa to Hyde Park and back again. We cannot move on from it. With so many relics from our past everywhere we look (and listen), is it almost impossible for us to grow up?

The music industry is one of the biggest purveyors of nostalgia in our Neverland as we know it. A closer inspection of that Hyde Park line-up tells us that both Carole King and Stevie Wonder are promising to play seminal albums (Tapestry and Songs in the Key of Life, respectively) in their entirety. It seems that not only are the shows themselves being dictated, but the content is too, localising the nostalgia to a specific year rather than just an era.

It is not just live shows that are catering to yesteryear either. Albums are frequently reissued and repackaged with barely audible demos and material that was deemed not good enough for release the first time around. This has been happening at such an alarming rate that the Grammy’s now have another nostalgia award, ‘Best Reissue’ – proof that the ‘groundhog day’ we are currently enduring shows no sign of relinquishing itself. Needless to say, these reissues are invariably supported by anniversary album tours to actually celebrate how much time has passed since said artist last made a culturally relevant release.

Perhaps the holy grail of music nostalgia would have to be reunions. In the past few years, the public have had the once-impossible opportunity to see artists as varied as The Libertines, The Spice Girls, 5ive, Take That, The Stone Roses, LCD Soundsystem, Guns N Roses and Blur.

With reunion gigs taking up the highest profile gigs of the year, and reissues often dominating the album chart (particularly when it comes to vinyl), is it any wonder we are listening to the same music we loved in our teens? There is little room for growth, creativity and evolution until we cleanse the musical climate of nostalgia.

In true Neverland style, I will end with the lyrics of Morrissey from The Smith’s 1987 song Paint A Vulgar Picture: ‘Best of, most of, satiate the need, slip them into different sleeves, buy both, and be deceived. Climber, new entry, re-entry, world tour, media whore […] And if it doesn’t recoup well maybe, you just haven’t earned it yet baby’.


Written by Jonathan Hunt,

Music Contributor

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