It’s plastic synthesizers, neon pinks and greens and all things huge and tasteless. The decade of decadence is governing our culture, music especially, selling nostalgia to the middle-aged and novelty to their children.
The death of Michael Jackson, no doubt the most affecting music story of the year, has created an outpour of covers, tributes and endless video montages, not to mention an ungodly number of CD sales. But while the King of Pop’s death may have supplemented the resurgence of the 1980s, the era’s influence reappeared long before June 25.
Observe two of pop’s biggest stars of the moment: Kanye West and Lady GaGa. With his shutter shades and self-professed Star status, West is the figurehead of the revival. Lady GaGa’s career thus far has been aping that of Madonna’s, though, like West, she’s found success in the rhythms and pastel synths of the 1980s.
But the era’s influence on the world of pop is not so recent, as 80s stars have laid claim to concert ticket sales for the latter half of the decade. Before last year was half over, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and Van Halen had grossed $133.9 million in concert tours alone, according to Pollstar.
Barbra Streisand struck concert gold in 2006 and Tina Turner, another 80s icon, grossed $83.5 million from January through July of 2009. Bands from The Police to U2 (well, obviously) recently enjoyed a lucrative reunion tour, according to the trade magazine.
Consumers continue to pour out money for concert tickets to win back a piece of their romanticized youth, to relive corners of their lives that have long been darkened. But it’s bigger than that.
At the moment, the U.S. is on the brink: of forfeiting our decadent way of life, of joining the ranks of the unemployed, of losing ourselves in political correctness. Everything is exaggerated and merged. As in the 1980s, huge change is coming quickly and, as in the 1980s, pop is filled with big, loud character.
Perhaps artists like West and GaGa aren’t as proactive as they think they are, since they’re essentially reacting to the world around them. They aren’t producing culture as much as transmitting it. The message here is underscored by its means of delivery: LOUD is back.
For those of you who haven’t heard, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals have parted ways for now and he has started a new band that he is calling Relentless7. Ben says it is a name that he has been tossing around in his mind for a while now and has just been waiting for the chance to attach it to a group of musicians. The new album White Lies for Dark Times is due out in May on Virgin Records. The new outfit features Harper playing slide guitar and backed by guitarist Jason Mozersky, drummer Jordan Richardson and bassist Jesse Ingalls, the latter two of the Los Angeles band Oliver Future. These guys first recorded with Harper on the track “Serve Your Soul,” off of the 2006 double-disc album, Both Sides of the Gun. If you head on over to their myspace page, you can hear the album version of that song along with a rockin’ cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” and a surprisingly great rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” I am thinking this might be a good change for Harper.
This is a big year for the Boss. Not only did he just win a Golden Globe for Best Original Song with his song “The Wrestler” that he wrote for the film of the same name, but he is releasing his 15th studio album later this month and is then playing the half-time show for the most viewed sporting event of the year just five days later. Which by the way, it is stinkin’ awesome that for several years in a row now they have actually chosen artists with some talent to perform the half-time show. I haven’t had the chance to preview the whole album, but the few tracks I have heard are pretty great. I mean it’s one thing for an artist to have a year like this, but to turn sixty during the same year is quite an accomplishment. He is just proving to us that he is and always will be worthy of being referred to as “The Boss.”
Here is the official video for the 2nd track off of Working on a Dream, “My Lucky Day.” Head over here to pre-order the album.
14. A.C. Newman
Get Guilty – 1/20
The front man for one of my favorite indie pop acts, The New Pornographers, A.C. Newman releases his second solo effort today. Their last several albums have each just blown me away. Newman has written some of the best pop songs of 21st century. If it weren’t for Sufjan Stevens, “Sing Me Spanish Techno” probably would’ve been my favorite track of 2005, it might still be (the jury is still out). And the more I listen to Challengers, the more I love it. This is all to say that I am excited to hear what Newman has for us yet. Now I can’t image that it will be as good without Neko and the rest of the band backing him, but it will still be good. Listen and see that I’m right.
Not much info is out right now regarding the new Morrissey album. I have this bizarre cover art and I know that the oddly titled Years of Refusal is out 2/16 via Lost Highway. And I’ve managed to scrounge up a few tracks that are all fairly enjoyable. And then most of you have probably heard “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” for it can be found streaming on several web-sites including Stereogum. Now I really like this cheerfully depressing tune upon first listen. But then the video almost ruined it for me. I mean seriously? What is up with all the cheesy parading around the room? And the tambourine catch? And why are there little dogs walking through the screen at random moments. Maybe I am being unrealistic in what I expect from Morrissey, you tell me. Regardless, I think I’ve given you plenty of reason to look forward to this album.