Saturday, June 13, 2015

Revenge of the 80s

Can You Be This Cool?
Am I the only one who has noticed that the 80s are back with a vengeance? Or the only one to say it aloud? Everywhere I look in youth culture (not my culture any longer; my hipster creds are sketchy), I find remnants of and aspirations towards the aesthetic of the 1980s. Everything Rick Astley wore (aah!), skinny jeans (ok), high pants, Docs, denim jackets (timeless), bow-ties, vests, teased hair, headbands, aviators etc…go to any university and you’ll easily find an example of the fashions/accessories listed above. Granted, it's not all a copy of the 80s aesthetic (perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that it's "influenced" by the 80s). Nonetheless, I can remember my grandmother (a hipster from the 20s) telling me that fashions repeated themselves every 30 years, and many in the 80s opined that their fashion was inspired by the 1950s (we tried), so possibly the cycle is repeating itself today.
Roscoe Bandana
The alternative music scene of the early 2000s was like a surf revival; from Weezer to Brand New to Jacks Mannequin, there was an aesthetic that, from a fashion sense, mimicked Hollister, surf stores and head shops. "Indie" music was largely defined by a post-punk jawn.
Yet, over the past couples of years, I’ve noticed a change in Indie, specifically a shift towards music that is more reliant on electronic/synth-heavy/low-fi techniques and sounds: MGMT, Animal Collective, The Naked and Famous, Foster the People, Passion Pit, M83, The Presets, Empire of the Sun, Capital Cities - it's like an 80s lovefest. 
It's easy to say that it's simply a cultural zeitgeist, a la repeating music/fashion styles every 30 years (thank you, wise, hipster grandma), but it's also important not to overlook music from the early and mid-2000s that influenced the music coming out today. The success of bands like The Postal Service, The White Stripes and The Killers certainly move the style along. And yet oddly, there's no sense among the hipsters and college crowd that this new music is meant to be an emulation or ironic replication of 80s music. Accordingly, it's never called or referred in that way, instead it is always something like "electro-indie pop," "synth-washed noise pop," or just "Indie." Guess there's no desire to credit mom and dad for being cooler than thou.
How popular will this trend remain? Will it swing into full force, perhaps defining the sound of the decade? IDK. Indeed, if at this time last year, you told me that Mercedes-Benz would choose Dubstep for its commercials, I would have told you to stick it, hipster (who fed you after midnight? - sorry, that slipped out; actually I'm just jealous of your beard, and your Ray Bans). 

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