Nostalgia is a funny thing. It affects so many aspects of our lives, but we never really think about it. It’s this invisible hand guiding our tastes in movies, music, etc. For some people, though, it goes deeper than that. I’m talking about the rise of the “I was born in the wrong generation” crowd that believes everything new is garbage and everything old was perfect. These people are especially common in the music world, constantly bringing up their love for Queen and Pink Floyd (it’s always those two). The problem is they haven’t thought about the most important role of nostalgia: that of a quality filter. The reason it seems like all music from the ‘60s and ‘70s was amazing is because we forgot about the mountain of crap that was popular at the time. It’s a completely unfair comparison. Now I’ve made it clear I’m a big fan of Lil Pump, but is anyone honestly going to be talking about him in 30 years? Not a chance. Then why in the world are people comparing him to The Beatles? I know that seeing is believing, so I’m going to list a few examples of what I’m talking about.
Disclaimer: I’m not a music historian, so some of these bands mentioned may actually be great and super influential. I’m just going off of what I know, which isn’t all that much.
- 1966– Looking back, this was a massive year for music. Rolling Stone just put out their new list of the top 500 albums of all time, and three of the two fifty were released this year. Bob Dylan released Blonde on Blonde (#38), The Beatles released Revolver (#11) and The Beach Boys released the now legendary Pet Sounds (#2). But these bands paled in comparison to stars like Sgt. Barry Sadler, The Association, and Four Tops, who had three of the top four singles on the Billboard 100.
- 1971– What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye has been labeled by many as the GOAT album, and it’s hard to argue with that. Surely this Motown classic dominated the music landscape, right? Wrong. It peaked at #6 on the charts, and the single of the same name was 21st on the year-end list. Related question: when was the last time you listened to the Osmonds? Because their song “One Bad Apple” finished fourth.
- 1976– “Bohemian Rhapsody” is easily the go-to song for the “wrong generation” types. And to be fair, it is an incredible song that has cemented itself as one of the most impactful ever. It also ended 1976’s year-end charts at #18, behind gems like “Afternoon Delight” and “Silly Little Love Songs” by the worse Paul McCartney band.
- 1977– Barry Manilow, a guy who is most remembered from a Breakfast Club quote, had the #1 song the same year Rumors was released.
- 1984– Thriller is still the best-selling album of all time, and it was thankfully appreciated when it was released. But, you know what other songs were hits that year? “Ghostbusters” and “Karma Chameleon”.
- 1991– The time period that causes nostalgia blindness is getting more and more recent and has crept up to include the ‘90s. This is the year Nirvana released the groundbreaking album Nevermind, changing the course of rock music for decades. And while the ‘90s was a big decade for grunge, it was also a big decade for incredibly cringey R&B pop. Paula Abdul, Color Me Badd, and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch all had top 20 singles that year. Let me say that again. In 1991, Mark Wahlberg was as big of a pop star as Kurt Cobain.
It goes without saying that if you enjoy listening to any of these “bad” artists, then great. Like what you like. Odds are this blog isn’t complaining about you. I really wrote this just to point out a strange phenomenon I’ve noticed over the years. There have always been and always will be bad songs that get popular and good songs that go unnoticed. Nostalgia isn’t something that can be ignored completely, but we all should try our best to look at everything in its proper context.