Arts, Dining & Entertainment

Nostalgia rules in music

By Bill Forman, Last Word Features

Thus far in 2022, nostalgia for the past in the music industry has struck a strong chord.

February’s Super Bowl halftime show — with its tag-team lineup of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent and Eminem — was easily one of the most engaging and entertaining in recent memory. It was also one of the most overtly nostalgic.

Mary J. Blige was featured in February’s Super Bowl halftime show with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent and Eminem.

With the exception of 21st-Century latecomer Kendrick Lamar, all of these artists have been active in hip-hop since the mid-’80s (or, in 50 Cent’s case, the mid-’90s). By comparison, past Super Bowl entertainers like The Weeknd, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and even Coldplay, seem like fresh-faced newcomers. Factor in this year’s sample-heavy arrangements, and you’ve got the last six decades pretty much covered.

Granted, the Super Bowl has rarely been a bellwether for contemporary music trends. But this year, it’s proven to be a strong indicator of what lies ahead in 2022 when it comes to music festivals, tours and record releases.

Take, for instance, the When We Were Young Festival, which will bring virtually every emo-pop band from the 2000s to Las Vegas this coming October.  In addition to My Chemical Romance and Paramore reunions, the WWWY lineup will include Bright Eyes, AFI, Bring Me the Horizon, Taking Back Sunday, Dashboard Confessional, A Day to Remember, We the Kings, Alkaline Trio, Jimmy Eat World and some two dozen other acts, all crammed into a single day.

For many of these acts, it will be their first festival appearance since the glory days of the Vans Warped Tour — which presciently came to an end the summer before Covid struck.

Shortly after its announcement, the Live Nation-sponsored event was ridiculed by Riot Fest organizers on social media. “One day is not a festival,” sniped the rival promoters, “it’s just a long ass concert.”

Be that as it may, the When We Were Young Festival sold out the day tickets went on sale. A second and third date were soon added, and sold out just as quickly. All three days feature the exact same lineup.

Riot Fest, meanwhile, has yet to reveal its own roster, apart from announcing two of the three days’ headliners: A reunited Misfits — featuring Glen Danzig, Jerry Only and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein — will perform their 1982 debut album “Walk Among Us” in its entirety, while the aforementioned My Chemical Romance will draw upon the multi-platinum catalog that carried them through the 2000s, after which the band decided to take a decade-long hiatus.

In a Sept. 12, 2021 Facebook post, the group waxed philosophical about the 20th anniversaries of both 9/11 and My Chemical Romance.

“The world changed that day, and the next day we set about trying to change the world,” they declared. “Today we are collectively older and wiser, but still there to carry on when we hear the call. The past 20 years have been about healing, dusting off and getting back up, and living life to our highest potential.”

Meanwhile, AARP Magazine, Rolling Stone and other media outlets continue to praise the seemingly endless procession of reunion tours and/or albums that will make 2022 a year to remember.

That list includes ABBA, The Black Crowes, Blondie (who’ll be touring to promote their “Blondie 1974-1982: Against the Odds” collection), The Chameleons, The Cure, Daft Punk, the Michael McDonald version of the Doobie Brothers, The Eagles, Faces (featuring original members Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood and Kenny Jones), Guns N’ Roses, Jethro Tull, Journey, Mission U.K., Pavement, Porcupine Tree, Rage Against the Machine, Tears for Fears, Urge Overkill, A Flock of Seagulls, Backstreet Boys, Kid ’n Play, Men Without Hats, Missing Persons, Wang Chung, Phish and, as always, Kiss.

Liam Gallagher, meanwhile, has recently begun teasing the possibility of an Oasis reunion, to which his estranged brother Noel offered a somewhat ambiguous response:“We go 8-1 on the band getting back together during 2022, which means we give it about a 10% implied probability of happening.”

Given the lifelong animosity between the two brothers, a reunion this year seems about as likely as Ye [Kanye West] and Kim [Kardashian] getting back together.

Meanwhile, veteran artists who haven’t gone away are paying homage to artists who, in some cases, have.

Singer-songwriter Cat Power has released “Covers,” an album that gives away its contents in the title. In addition to renditions of relatively recent songs by Frank Ocean and Lana Del Ray, she offers original interpretations of songs made famous by Nico, Jackson Browne, Bob Seger, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, The Pogues and Billie Holiday.

By Mario Sorrenti
Singer-songwriter Charlyn Marie “Chan” Marshall better known as “Cat Power” recently released an album called “Covers,” which gives away its contents in the title.

Not to be outdone, Cowboy Junkies are offering their own trip down memory lane with “Song of the Recollection.” As befits a band who’ve been recording slow, sad songs for the better part of four decades, the album opens with a somewhat downbeat rendition of David Bowie’s apocalyptic “Five Years,” one of the band’s personal favorites.

“Bowie steps into the listener’s life,” explained Cowboy Junkie Michael Timmins in the accompanying press release. “This was the type of moment that turned our innocent minds inside out when we were young and hunkering greedily around the turntable. When we play it live today, 50 years after it was written, it seems to have more power and relevance than ever; climate change, the pandemic, collapsing democracies … choose your crisis … David predicted them all.”

The album also includes renditions of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Way I Feel,” The Cure’s “17 Seconds” and other no-less-upbeat songs by Vic Chesnutt, Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons.

So why is 2022 shaping up to be the year that nostalgia took over the music industry? Part of it can be chalked up to the fact that a number of these reunions were originally scheduled for 2020 or 2021, two years for which few of us are nostalgic.

Another possibility is that people are convinced all music went downhill after their personal favorite band — The Beatles, Radiohead, My Chemical Romance, you name it — decided to call it a day.

It’s a kind of nostalgia that may ultimately be less about the music than it is about the person they remember being when they first listened to it. And as we continue through the third year of a pandemic, that’s more than understandable.

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