Dubai: Whether it’s TikTok that has made an old song go viral or parents are simply doing a good job at keeping the oldies alive for their kids, plenty of UAE teenagers and some in their early 20s are jamming to the old tunes like it’s 1965. “My siblings and I love to listen to 70s 80s and 90s music,” said Mickayla Chetty, a 22-year old based in Dubai. “We are into all types of genres. We got a love for old music from our parents.”
Mickayla’s favourite songs include “Summer of 69”, by Bryan Adams, “Hotel California”, by the Eagles, “Are you Lonesome Tonight” by Elvis Presley and of course a couple by Bon Jovi. Her 11-year-old sister Kendra is also a big fan of the oldies. “My favourite songs are “9 to 5”, by Dolly Parton, “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundation and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper,” she said to Gulf News.
Some songs get a surge of popularity decades after they’ve been released. “Bohemian Rhapsody” for example, which was released in 1975 keeps making comebacks. Almost two decades later, the song returned to the charts in December 1991 in the wake of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury’s death. The song then hit number 1, a new record, in 1992, when the movie ‘Waynes World’ came out and featured the song in what’s become one of American comedy’s most iconic scenes. In 2018 the song did the rounds once again, this time with an even younger audience after the release of the Freddy Mercury biopic, which was named after the iconic song.
Another movie potentially impacting today’s generation to listen to older songs is the Marvel film 'Guardians of the Galaxy'. “ I’m a big movie buff so while watching one I will always be listening to its soundtrack and there’ll be something that’ll click,” said Karun Mathew, 25. “I listen to Led Zeppelin, Bon Jovi, Phil Collins – old songs, no particular genre. Directors like Guy Ritchie and Todd Philips are some that prioritized good classic songs into their movies. For example, 'Guardians of the Galaxy' has this retro vibe with classic old songs which the Star Lord listens to. That's a great playlist.”
Sometimes pop culture can bring back a song so old, it was being chanted in the 19th century. "Bella Ciao" is an Italian protest folk song that originated in the late 19th century, sung by the workers in protest to the harsh working conditions. The iconic song then became an anthem in 1945 during the Italian Resistance against the Nazi German forces. Today, you can hear remixes of “Bella Ciao” in the hottest nightclubs (pre-COVID). This was due to the Netflix hit show 'La Casa De Papel', in which the Spanish characters chanted the song and millions of viewers sang along.
"When I got to college, I started noting down all the songs they used in the background of movies (new and old) and in TV series,” said Sharon Benjamin, 24-year-old living in Dubai. “That sparked my love for the golden era, and now I have a separate playlist on Spotify with over 200+ songs from the 90s. I also love to listen to a variety of old school music, ranging from Air Supply to Hank Williams, to Boney M., to AC/DC for that matter. My liking for old songs really began when I was in the school choir, and we sang ‘Top of the world’ by The Carpenters for our Annual Day.”
“I have been listening to music from the previous decades for a while now, and there are actually multiple reasons as to why I listen to old music,” said 18-year old Kanushree Jaiswal. “I have always been a little bit of a music enthusiast and I'm always looking for ways to hear new artists or hear artists I've never heard before.”
Some of the artists Kanushree listens to include Queen, AC/DC, Metallica, Eagles, Oasis, Green Day, Iron Maiden, Nine Inch Nails, Guns N Roses, The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Peggy Lee, Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin (her absolute favourite), Michael Jackson, Nirvana and Eric Clapton.
The TikTok influence on music
Another surefire way to ensure that today’s generation is listening to songs from the past is through the social media video app, TikTok. In the year 2020, TikTok managed to revitalize old hits and spread them like wildfire. Stand out tunes include “Rasputin” by Boney M. in trend picked up when younger guys would post a dance followed by clips of them without a shirt on.
Another massive hit on the app is Paul Anka’s “Put Your Head on my Shoulder”, which also spread like wildfire. Then there’s Olivia Newton John’s song, which kids are humming these days - “Hopelessly Devoted To You”
“There have been lots of occasions where I’ve found songs on TikTok which I enjoy,” Jasmine Freeman, a 15-year-old avid TikTok user and content creator said to Gulf News. “When I come across these songs, I show my parents and they tell me it’s an old classic or a remake of an old song. Artists that I now listen to from the past via TikTok are Elton John, Britney Spears. The Bee Gees and “I can’t help falling in love with you” by Elvis Presley. Jasmine herself has used old school songs in her own TikToks. She has almost 40,000 followers on the app.
Fleetwood Mac’s song “Dreams” is one which TikTok popularity translated into the real world. The song rose to number two on the Rolling Stone 100 chart. The song, because of Tiktok reentered the commercial music sphere for the first time in over 40 years.
Antoher major one is Grover Washington Jr. "Just The Two of Us" which is all over romantic comedy style videos on TikTok.
Therefore, the app is a successful platform for timeless hits to be introduced to younger audiences. They, in a sense, become...cool again.
Rasputin on TikTok, my son and I
-By Sharmila Dhal, UAE Editor
“Turn on the sirens
Are you stuck inside the virus?
Would you rather leave the scene
Or be stuck in quarantine?”
As my millennial son pens one of his songs in the making, I am struck by the lyrics that reflect the unlikely perspective of the coronavirus. No doubt, COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind, like nothing else is. But from the point of view of the virus? Well, why not?
Novel as that may be, listening to the track somehow transports me back in time.
It’s the same sort of feeling I get every time I hear, let’s say, Blinding Lights by The Weeknd or 24K Magic by Bruno Mars - the throwback to the 70s’ disco beats and synths is unmissable.
As the sense of déjà vu takes over, there’s no denying the current wave of yesteryear nostalgia in the modern-day music scene. Why else would Boney M’s 1978 song Rasputin see a resurgence on the charts in recent months after a TikTok post went viral? Perhaps, it also explains why Kygo’s EDM mix of Higher Love recreates Whitney Houston for today’s youth as they hop from club to club.
There are several reasons why music from the 70s-80s, even earlier, is resurfacing.
To begin with, my son tells me it’s the sheer simplicity and purity of the songs.
The self-proclaimed singer-songwriter in the 26-year-old engineer is candid: “Today, with technology, I can add layers of complexity to my mixes. I don’t have to be exceptionally talented to sound good. But back in the day, they had very little to hide behind – they worked with tape recorders, analogue equipment and primitive microphones.”
To say the legend of the early greats lives on is an understatement, he says. “Anyone who plays rock and roll today is inspired by the Beatles and draws on their techniques. They literally invented the template for the four-piece band. The same can be said of Phil Collins and his classic drum lines.”
The purity of the music, he says, is what makes it special “It’s the chord progressions, basslines and melodies that enhance the vocals. Why do you think everyone loves Piano Man (Billy Joel) to date? Or sings along with Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)? Of course, the Oscar-winning film by the same name took the song to another level, much like what Rocket Man, the biopic, did with Elton John’s hits.”
There are other reasons too why today’s youth tune into the past. As my son explains, “A lot of it also has to do with the way we’ve been raised and the music our parents listened to when we were growing up. It takes us back to those happy times.”
According to him, the straightforward songs make excellent picks for a karaoke night too. “It doesn’t take more than a couple of seconds into Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline for the party to begin,” he says, adding, “The bit about “hands, touching hands” though may not exactly be in the spirit of the pandemic.”
But what about the generations to come? Will their playlist begin with Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran or even Cardi-B? Or will it be a case of yesterday once more?
Aayush Das, an 18-year-old student, talks to us about his love for old songs
I listen to a lot of old music -- from Classic Concertos all the way to the more recent Hard Rock. But, my favourite era by far is the late 1940s to the mid-50s, which is when the “Hard Bop” and “Rhythm and Blues” sub-genres of jazz started to rise in popularity.
The reason I prefer this era of music, to the music of my own time, is simply because the artists of that era used music to tell stories before making sure they were good melodies to the human ear.
Danny Kaye and the Andrews Sisters in the song Civilization, use each verse carefully to explain how it might actually be a blessing to live a kind of life that those in the West would look down upon as “savage”, as it doesn’t include the horrors and complexities that this very West prides itself on.
'Don't want no jailhouse, shotgun, fish-hooks, golf clubs, I got my spears. So, no matter how they coax him, I'll stay right here. They have things like the atom bomb, so I think I'll stay where I am. Civilization, I'll stay right here.'
Another example of a criticism of society is the song, Anything Goes, by Cole Porter. Porter uses this song as an unrelenting criticism of the American upper class, during the Great Depression, who was far detached from the consequences of the economic disaster of their time.
'When Rockefeller still can hoard. Enough money to let Max Gordon produce his shows / Anything Goes!'
Yes, songs that make you think and not just make you move your head along to a nice rhythm exist nowadays too, but they’re few and far between and may only be found when you look hard enough. Big artists today seem to have no other social commentary to provide, besides showing off the various narcotics ingested into their bloodstreams, the various associations they have kept and the various bouts of gun violence and gang warfare they’ve been involved in. This leaves most of today’s music sounding the same.
The ability to convey an agenda through a song is what I appreciate the most about the artists of the bygone era, and that is the reason why I like the music of the old more than the music of today.
Long Live Rock n Roll
By Leslie Wilson, Features Editor
Antone is an interesting 15-year-old. Among other things, he potters around his parent’s apartment blowing on a harmonica, or a mouth-harp as he prefers to call it.
Interesting, to say the least. Because how many people do you see playing a mouth-harp these days, let alone a teenager.
I was intrigued, so I asked Antone how on earth he took to an unusual 19th-century instrument and not a guitar, violin or piano.
“It’s the best instrument in the world,” he says lovingly, holding up a glittering ‘Honer’ harmonica.
I knew what it was, because I remember as a youngster myself, that my father used to play the harp. “Want to know how I discovered it?” he asks, giving me a mischievous look.
I nod, not having the slightest clue about what he was about to say, and that actually blew my mind.
“Neil Young,” Antone says triumphantly. “I heard him on the song Heart of Gold, it’s my favourite song, but I still don’t know how to play it. I will once day.”
I could identify with my young friend because as a kid, I too was in love with music from the past. Classic stuff – Buddy Holly, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes….
“But do you also listen to Justin Bieber, Harry Styles, BTS?” I ask, hesitantly.
“No way, they’re for kids,” responds Antone, who suddenly appears to be taller and older than I imagined. I also notice that his nails are painted black a la Kurt Cobain, Keith Richards Steven Tyler.
Do kids these days actually listen to music from the past? Do they dig The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Led Zep?
The answer is a resounding yes, and I’m not just saying that because of what I learnt from the harmonica kid.
“All my friends are into Floyd,” he tells me, referring to the legendary progressive rock band Pink Floyd. “They even listen to Jim Morrison (The Doors), Freddy Mercury (Queen), Steve Perry (Journey).”
That’s amazing I say to him, trying to wrap my mind around what this 15-year-old kid was actually telling me.
I was excited to know that rock music was still relevant and appealed to today’s millennials, like Antone. It seems acceptable to find a youngster who listened to music that his father would have grooved today when he was growing up.
But was it a fad, which temporarily made kids like Antone stand out from their peers? Did it make him feel ‘in’ or self-indulgent? But if The Doors or The Beatles appealed to kids from another generation it spoke volumes for the music they made.
“That was real music,” says Antone. “The stuff you get today is B grade, instantly forgettable just like fast food, which I don’t like because it’s not healthy.
“I wish I could go to a Neil Young concert one day. That’s what I dream of.”
Antone was not the only kid I spoke to in a bid to find out what kind of music today’s teenagers were into. And the results were pretty much the same.
Very little of Bieber or Styles, no EDM or no divas like Beyonce.
They predominantly listened to the legends of rock, or perhaps a little old school rap and hip=hop and stayed away from whatever was considered mainstream.
As the saying goes – long live rock ‘n’ roll.