The Week In Pop

The Week In Pop: Walk The Moon Are Our Latest Proof That The ’80s Will Never Die

How many times can the ’80s “come back” before we just admit they’re here to stay? In 2010, Simon Reynolds wrote in The Guardian that the ’80s revival had lasted an entire decade and indicated that it was time time to move on to the ’90s. And although the ensuing five years have given rise to many forms of ’90s nostalgia as well as several kinds of ’70s throwbacks, it’s not like the ’80s have disappeared from pop culture. The likes of Twin Shadow, Sky Ferreira, Blood Orange, Arcade Fire, Charli XCX, Gotye, Taylor Swift, One Direction, Chromatics, Bleachers, the War On Drugs, Bruno Mars, and many more have kept the sounds of 30-some years ago circulating on the blogs and the radio. It’s gotten to the point that when Swedish quartet School ’94 released an absolutely perfect single called “Like You” last year, I wrote the following:

Somewhere along the line, ’60s garage rock nostalgia went from a phase to a permanent fixture of the musical landscape. There will always be bands banging out Nuggets-style nuggets; it’s a fertile form that refuses to die. I’m beginning to think the same thing is happening with Reagan-era pop. At this point intense ’80s nostalgia has lasted longer than the ’80s themselves, and it’s showing no signs of going away. Consider School ’94: The young Swedish pop band’s members are all young enough to have grown up in a musical landscape where reclaiming and refracting the ’80s was a regular occurrence. It’s as much a part of their collective musical experience as indie rock, hip-hop, or EDM. It’s in the air. And what they’ve done with it on the love battlefield that is “Like You” — those shimmering arpeggios, that playful rhythm section, Alice Botéus’ virtuosic vocal — affirms that this style is far from tapped out.

By then, Walk The Moon had already released the visuals for “Shut Up And Dance,” essentially a theme song for that ethos of the ’80s as a genre to themselves. “Shut Up And Dance” is as self-consciously ’80s as it gets, rolling U2, the Cars, Ricks Astley and Springfield, Eddie Money, the Police, Duran Duran, A-ha, Eddie Money, Balitmora, and about a dozen more Reagan-era hit-makers into a single unstoppable hook behemoth. The video embraced these influences even more pointedly, a knowing pastiche of side ponytails, neon, and references to early MTV. Walk The Moon seem to be selling their throwback sound as novelty, but there’s nothing novel about it at this point. It’s just a great pop song — no need to wink about it.

Speaking of pop: “Shut Up And Dance” cracked the top 10 this week, landing at #9 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart a full six months after its release. (We posted the video in October.) That’s not so crazy in this era of slow-burning singles; Disclosure and Sam Smith’s “Latch” took 21 months to go from critical favorite to multi-format radio smash. Echosmith’s “Cool Kids” needed 14 months to get to #13. Walk The Moon’s own breakthrough single “Anna Sun,” which derived its ’80s inspiration from the Killers rather than directly, spent two years rising from likable DIY YouTube hit to WalkTheMoonVEVO. So in a sense, six months is nothing, especially when you’re starting out on alternative radio.

What’s crazier is that Walk The Moon passed for an alternative rock band in the first place. Even when they were cribbing from Brandon Flowers and his ilk, there was an Owl City innocence to their music, substituting sparkling smiles and PG dance parties for any discernible grit. But like Foster The People and Hozier before them, Walk The Moon built their sizable audience through alt-rock airplay then triumphantly crossed over to their rightful place on the pop charts. Walk The Moon are in the process of making that leap right now, with visits to The Today Show and SiriusXM Hits1’s bubbly morning show The Morning MashUp under their belts in the past week. Their bright, friendly demeanor was as 1D-reminiscent as their music.

Here’s the point: Walk The Moon can keep gleefully channeling the ’80s whether they embrace their top-40 destiny or not. From the darkest depths of obscurity to the highest peaks of the Hot 100, music that could reasonably be slipped into an episode of The Americans continues to flourish. I don’t have time or room to explore why this has happened — perhaps let’s get into it in the comments? — but it happened all the same. What began as a revival has morphed into a permanent fixture of the musical ecosystem. It’s not funny, flashy, or unique anymore; it just is.

CHART WATCH

“Uptown Funk!” has been dethroned! Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ reign atop the Hot 100 is over after 14 consecutive weeks, meaning Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s 16-week record for “One Sweet Day” is safe. Your new #1 song is Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s Furious 7 ballad “See You Again,” a tribute to Paul Walker that set Spotify records this week for the most streams in a single day (4.2 million) and the most streams in a single week (21.9 million) and sold a whopping 464,000 digital downloads. “See You Again” will not make a dragon want to retire anytime soon — in fact, I’d even take MAGIC!’s “Rude” over this — but we were due for an unapologetically mediocre #1 hit. Puth, in case you were wondering, was previously best known for the atrocious Meghan Trainor duet “Marvin Gaye” (hook: “Let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on”). Billboard notes that we’ve only had two new #1 singles so far this year, the lowest number in Hot 100 history up to the end of April. (Apparently because this week’s chart is dated April 25, it is the last chart in April, which is crazy because today is 4/16.) Here they are performing “See You Again” on Ellen:

“Uptown Funk!” falls to #2, followed by Maroon 5’s “Sugar” at #3. Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen,” a song I cannot stand, soars to a new peak at #4, then it’s popular sleep jams Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” at #5, the Weeknd’s “Earned It” at #6, and Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do” at #7. Flo Rida’s Sage The Gemini/Lookas-featuring “G.D.F.R.” stays at #8, while pop-rockers Walk The Moon’s long-gestating ’80s pop throwback “Shut Up And Dance” climbs to #9. Taylor Swift’s “Style” rounds out the top 10.

Furious 7 rules the albums chart too. Powered by “See You Again,” the movie’s soundtrack surges to #1 this week with 111,000 equivalent units. It becomes the fourth chart-topping soundtrack in the past 12 months following Frozen, Guardians Of The Galaxy, and Fifty Shades Of Grey. Pop-punks All Time Low score a career-high #2 debut with 80,000 units for Future Hearts. The Fifty Shades Of Grey soundtrack and Maroon 5’s V shoot back up the charts to #3 and #4 respectively, while Swift’s 1989 and Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour hold at #5 and #6. Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly falls to #7 with 42,000, while Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late jumps back to #8 with 40,000 — partially thanks to his Coachella headlining duties, I’m sure. The top 10 closes out with two more mainstays experiencing a chart surge: Sheeran’s x at #9 with 39,000 and Trainor’s Title at #10 with 34,000. Wale’s The Album About Nothing, which debuted at #1 last week, is down to #11.

TRACK CITY

Christina Aguilera – “The Real Thing”
Welcome to Aguilera’s Nashville-assisted country era. I ain’t mad about it.

Zedd – “Addicted To A Memory” (Feat. Bahari)
Not exactly peak Zedd, but it’ll do in a pinch. I like the way the melody toggles between minor and major keys.

French Montana – “Dontchu”
Is it possible that epic, richly melodic French is better than dunderheaded B-list rap goon French?

JoJo – “Far From Heaven”
Your favorite former child star’s favorite former child star is back with more fire. “Far From Heaven” is a gospel-tinged piano ballad that lets JoJo throw her voice around over some smoldering low end. It’s very good, as if you didn’t already know.

Tori Kelly – “Nobody Love”
Sam Smith loves her voice, which is saying a lot coming from a guy with pipes like that. Also, Max Martin is executive producing Kelly’s project, so you know that voice is going to have some firepower behind it.

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • Nelly was arrested on felony drug charges [ABC] and issued a statement about it. [Instagram]
  • Snoop Dogg has invested in an app that is basically Uber for weed. [Radio.com]
  • I guess Miley Cyrus isn’t going full rockist on her next album after all because here she is in the studio with Mike Will Made It and Rae Sremmurd. [Instagram]
  • Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and friends made a video of themselves partying to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You,” which seems like a ploy to repeat what happened with “Call Me Maybe.” [YouTube]
  • A nearly-naked Jason Statham danced in a number of early ’90s music videos. [The A.V. Club]

HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME

#Coachella had still got it

Posted by David Hasselhoff on Saturday, April 11, 2015