Written by Anika Henrikson
I was having a hard time thinking of a blog topic this month.
Mike suggested that since our Sizzlin' Singles issue is about to hit the stands, I might seek inspiration in that realm. So I kept trying to think of ways to talk about the perks of being single and how fun it was to work on that issue. But that seemed too apropos. After all, all of our issues are (relatively) fun to work on and it is pretty rad to be single. These are not new concepts.
Instead, I relied on one of the most basic writer's tools ever invented: read what someone else wrote and respond. It worked for a bunch of guys in England during the 1700s and it can work for me.
Miss Isabel's newest blog is about fashion, naturally, and since I'm the last person who should be giving fashion advice, I decided to use her idea of cyclical trends and fads from the '80s and '90s and write my blog on music from that time period. Mainly because I never really left the '80s (in mind and attitude). Sure, I only lived through 3/5ths of them, but they left an indelible mark on me. Probably because I lived in Idaho, a state notorious for being about 10 years behind the rest of the country when it comes to anything. I think the '80s officially came to Idaho in 1990. We're not unlike Canada in that way. As a result, I lived in the '80s for close to 14 years, only six of which were actually in the 1980s.
My parents also had a healthy appreciation for that decade's music. I'm not talking about Flock of Seagulls or Cyndi Lauper. I'm talking about early R.E.M, XTC, The Replacements, Kate Bush, INXS, and anything that would be played on alternative college radio. I also know my mother harbored an enormous crush on Michael Hutchence, the lead (an arguably the only) singer of INXS; a trait I believe is genetic. As a result, I have listened to more INXS in my lifetime than an Australian kid (INXS is Australian, by the way). Right now, as I type this, I'm blasting “Don't Change” from their album Shabooh Shoobah.
(Photo Copyright Laura Levine)
However, since both of my parents were in college when I “arrived,” one of my best friends was MTV. MTV was not known to play under-the-radar bands during this time period. Still, my parents took great joy in the fact that I was completely enthralled with watching music videos by Big Country, Human League, The Bangles, Billy Idol, and Erasure. (It should be noted here that I had a crush on Rick Astley when I was a 5-year-old. I blame MTV.) I have no doubt their joy came from the fact that it was easier to write a term paper when your toddler was entertained and dancing in front of the TV, even if it was entertainment that came from celebrated '80s music acts. I also have no doubt my father will read this and question my decision to refer to Erasure and Big Country as “celebrated '80s acts.” But, come on, you have to give Erasure “a little respect.” See what I did there?
By the way, if you're feeling nostalgic and you actually go to YouTube to watch Big Country's video for the aptly-titled "In a Big Country," you'll be just as confused as you were when you first watched it.
Still, much like fashion, music tends to be cyclical.
If you've heard “Bulletproof” by La Roux (a British duo with a French name whose music is the equivalent of New Order and Erasure having a baby), you've realized that the '80s came back in areas besides fashion. It probably happened around the same time that nostalgia kicked in for my generation. Us "young people" can connect with the types of beats and melodies in today's music (that are sampling '80s tunes) because it sounds familiar and safe.
And certain styles of music tend to be popular during certain periods of time. For example, would Bruce Springsteen have been as popular in 1984, singing about the disenchanted working class population of the Regan Era, if the population hadn't been struggling working class people coming out of a recession? On the other hand, would The Boss have even been singing about a working-class Americana without the recession? The answer: maybe.
Then there are the bands that never seem to age, and neither does their fan base, so they're not required to modify their music to survive the changing decades. U2 is arguably one of those bands. The Edge's guitar riffs today are the unmistakable calling card of everyone's favorite Irish band that came to the U.S. in the early '80s.
But because there's only so much synthesizer a person can take, so many bands from the '80s who employed that cursed instrument didn't evolve. Though a-ha is an exception. Bless those Norwegian wonders who gave us “Take On Me.” They made music throughout the '90s and just recently announced they're disbanding after a 2010 tour. Still, every time I hear a synthesizer, I have two thoughts: 1) I shouldn't like this and 2) I love this.