I’ve always been fascinated with how we define decades of pop culture, and even though I wasn’t around, I seem to have a clear image of what it was like in the 1960s. Many of us do, due to the powerful immortalisation of music, TV, film, and fashion.
By the time I was a kid many of those who grew up in this era were prominent in shaping what pop culture was, so by the 80s it was natural for loads of big movies to be about Vietnam, and for music artists and genres such as The Beatles, Beach Boys, and Motown to be coming back into fashion.
In a similar way, music kids in the 70s looked further back to the rawer times of early rock 'n’ roll in the 50s, when they were rebelling against the bloated rock establishment of their own era, which they felt was a betrayal of the spirit of the music. By the mid-70s, rock acts were releasing sprawling double albums recorded over months in big mansions, while artists became more and more high and strung out and indulgent.
Punk was a reaction to this, and The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones, and others were a lot closer in spirit to the early pioneers of rock (Chuck Berry, Little Richard etc).
It is common that we go back to look forward. The 70s itself has been reworked on numerous occasions in recent years and genres such as punk and disco are constantly twisted into something new.
The same happens with the 80s and hip-hop and synth pop and other genres and we all know that the 90s revival has been going on for decades too (house, hip-hop, indie etc).
As I mentioned earlier, I was only just getting comfortable with the fact that much of the noughties music was now 20 years old when I realised that there’s been another decade since! So what about the 2010s?
It’s obviously too early to say, but this was a decade where music developments moved very fast due to a number of factors. The internet became a lot faster and more widespread and there was a much bigger demand for personalisation as streaming really kicked into the mainstream. Spotify, Soundcloud, and YouTube took over in an era where MySpace slowly unravelled, and as time when on, the blog era started to die out too.
In recent weeks I’ve noticed more and more nostalgia for this golden era of independent blogs, and as we distance ourselves from this decade just passed, the blog golden age is something that I think will define the 2010s. Blogs and MySpace and many of the other important tools for creating independent music were well established (and sometimes dying) by the beginning of that decade, but their influence really kicked in later as many of these artists blew up.
Drake became probably the biggest-selling artist of the decade, from a fairly modest start at the end of the noughties, and other artists from the blog era (the likes of The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, and the whole Odd Future crew) helped define a decade where trap music became king. In an article published here three years ago, I argued that Frank Ocean was the greatest artist of the 2010s, and his albumsand remain masterpieces that will be influencing musicians forever.
Kanye, Rihanna, Beyonce, and other already-established artists continued to dominate, while elsewhere music genres such as EDM, electro-clash, and dubstep were popular too, and are gaining nostalgia points as the years go on.
Despite some great music and artists from these genres, there was some terrible stuff too, but I guess this is always the way.
In five years’ time I guess it will be easier to define a decade that still feels like now. But get ready, because the 2010s are now a thing, and marketers won’t let you forget about this, as they get ready once more to repackage and sell back to you what you’ve already had when you were younger!