Hey you! Out there in the cold, getting lonely, getting old: Everything you grew up on is classic rock now. It’s something every generation has to grapple with, but like college, marriage, raising children, and watching your loved ones die off one by one, this phenomenon feels new and uncharted when it happens to you. And for those of us who came of age in the 1990s, it’s been happening in a big way lately.
If you pay attention to the music business, you already know this. From grunge to rap to their bastard child nu-metal, the entire ’90s has aged into profitable nostalgia, including (especially?) the weird parts. (Wazzup, ’90s Fest?) Even some acts from after Y2K pass for classic rock these days. That includes the Strokes, as Pitchfork’s Jeremy Gordon pointed out while wisely noting, “Becoming classic rock means a band can recycle their iconography without losing their edge, as far as casual and younger listeners are concerned… It also means, weirdly, that they’re no longer expected to be good.”
The Strokes always carried themselves like classic rockers anyway: worshipful of their forebears, spearheading a revival of decades-old sounds, rendering Vinyl redundant 15 years before it went on the air. They won over a ton of young people, my 18-year-old self included, but they adhered to archetypes that immediately ingratiated them with the old-guard music press on both sides of the Atlantic. Julian Casablancas sung with an aloof bellow that made him seem much older than he really was. It’s not weird to think of them as classic rock because they aspired to be classic rock from the beginning. (Also they haven’t released a good album in 13 years, and it feels more like 26.)
Much stranger than the idea of the Strokes as classic rock is the prospect of mall punk as classic rock. Radio-friendly pop-punk has traditionally been an inherently youthful genre, music for snotty adolescent pranksters and budding rock fans who haven’t yet ventured beyond the radio. It thrived during the teen-driven TRL era but seemed to have more in common with boy bands than nu-metal, an alignment crystallized by the existence of pop-punk boy band 5 Seconds Of Summer and the work of music journalist Maria Sherman. This music seems like the exclusive province of teenagers, so how could it possibly grow old with grace?
The short answer is that generally, it does not. Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, and Sum 41 have all released new songs recently that could pass for 2002 Warped Tour favorites, but there’s a definite sensory whiplash between the pinched, pubescent vocals these bands made their name on and the rapidly aging faces from whence those voices now spout. Besides returning to their meat and potatoes, each of those acts has also attempted pivots of a sort: For Good Charlotte it’s “40 Oz. Dream,” which nauseously crossbreeds pop-punk with the easygoing acoustic poolside pop of Sugar Ray. For Simple Plan it’s “I Don’t Want To Go To Bed,” which features Nelly, sounds like Flo Rida, and had the misfortune of launching a beach-themed video the same day DNCE dropped “Cake By The Ocean.” And for Sum 41, it’s something like the movie Pixels but with memes.
None of these bands has scored a legitimate hit since their recent return to action, which fits them squarely into the parameters Gordon defined for classic rock. The new material feels like more than just an excuse to get back on the road again — these guys aren’t at Rolling Stones levels of going through the motions just yet — but functionally, it serves that purpose, getting the fans revved up for a nostalgia trip. Try as they might to permeate the zeitgeist once more, nothing on this new Good Charlotte album is going to bring down the house like “Lifestyles Of The Rich And The Famous.” (I personally cannot imagine screaming with delight when that song comes on. Sum 41’s “Fat Lip,” on the other hand…) But despite the degree of difficulty, there is one band of this ilk that has managed to recapture their former prominence, and it actually makes a lot of sense.
Blink-182 have been too old for this shit since the beginning. When Dude Ranch dropped in 1997, Mark Hoppus was already 25 years old, yet he and Tom DeLonge played high school students in the “Josie” video. “Dammit” was already the essence of teenage romantic desolation even before it appeared on the Can’t Hardly Wait soundtrack. The lead single from 1999’s Enema Of The State was literally called “What’s My Age Again,” and it featured 27-year-old Hoppus singing, “Nobody likes you when you’re 23 and you still act like you’re in freshman year.” That album, the one that sealed their stardom, also includes a song called “Going Away To College.” Awkwardly clinging to juvenilia was built into this band’s DNA. They sang about it. They lived it.
Thus, California, the album they’ll release tomorrow, does not feel that strange coming from wrinkly fortysomethings. Sure, there are annoying moments that give “What’s My Age Again” a whole new meaning, like the 14-second interlude on which Hoppus emotes, “I wanna see some naked dudes/ That’s why I built this pool!” or the “Brohemian Rhapsody Something” punchline, “There’s something about you that I can’t quite put my finger in.” But as always, they sell the cutesy hijinks with an almost scientific mastery of compact pop-rock songwriting. Even with the spry, explosive production of their youth subsumed by the heavy-handed hard-rock sonics favored by seemingly every veteran rock band, their music retains a friendly, buoyant quality.
It also helps that, as The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica points out, there are occasional flashes of maturity throughout — not enough to constitute a reinvention, just enough to shield Blink-182 from the indignity of impersonating twentysomethings impersonating teens. That’s partially thanks to the inevitable wisdom of years and partially due to switching out perennially goofy UFO enthusiast Tom DeLonge for Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. As if taking a page from those other super-famous Cali pop-punk snots, the California of California is not another teen movie, it’s a boulevard of broken dreams.
None of this would save Blink-182 from the classic rock pile without a hit single, but a hit single is exactly what they’ve got. “Bored To Death” is #1 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart this week, Blink’s first chart-topping track since “I Miss You” 12 years ago. It’s also #9 on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart, which is somehow 10 spots higher than they’ve ever placed before. Blink-182 aren’t just back together, they’re back.
“Bored To Death” is no “Dammit,” but it’s a reminder of how potent a big, bold Hoppus melody can be, especially when matched with Travis Barker’s ballistic drumming. Although the song initially struck me as saccharine and overly compressed, it’s one of those anthems that wins you over through forced exposure, a dramatic buildup that will sound fantastic soaring over amphitheater lawns this summer. It feels like an extension of where they were going with “Feeling This,” a highlight from the last time Blink were making hits, before their iteration of pop-punk gave way to MySpace-era emo bands like Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco. Maybe all that feels like ancient history, or maybe this mall punk revival seems like it’s hitting way too soon. But time and tide wait for no man — or, as a lovable dumbass recently put it, “Life is too short to last long.”
If you’ve been following the charts lately, you will not be surprised to know that Drake continues to own the #1 album and song in the country.
Views holds steady atop the Billboard 200 for the eighth straight week, selling 33,000 copies but racking up a whopping 124,000 equivalent units thanks to 70,000 streaming equivalent albums (that’s 105 million individual track streams). Selling the album for $6.99 at digital retailers last week helped, too. Billboard reports that Views now boasts the most consecutive weeks at #1 since the Frozen soundtrack in 2014. (No, neither Adele’s 25 nor Taylor Swift’s 1989 managed eight straight weeks on top, though it’s possible each of those albums would have pulled it off had they been more widely available for streaming, and each one had more than eight nonconsecutive weeks on top.) It’s also the most weeks at #1 by a man since Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP spent eight consecutive weeks on top in 2000. And here’s one more odd statistical tidbit from Billboard:
Views is also just the fourth hip-hop album to spend at least eight weeks at #1. It joins The Marshall Mathers LP, Vanilla Ice’s To The Extreme (16 weeks in 1990 and 1991) and M.C. Hammer’s Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em (21 weeks in 1990).
Views steps ahead of the following hip-hop efforts with seven weeks at #1: Beastie Boys’ Licensed To Ill (which ruled in 1987), OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003-2004) and Eminem’s Recovery (2010).
But hey, there’s a whole albums chart down there under Views, including the poor Red Hot Chili Peppers, the latest artist to be denied a #1 album by Drake. RHCP’s The Getaway enters at #2 with 118,000 equivalent units and 108,000 in pure sales. Thanks to its physical release, Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool shoots back up to #5 on the strength of 48,000 units. YG’s excellent Still Brazy starts at #6 with 38,000 units/28,000 sales. And Johannesburg, Mumford & Sons’ unintentional parody of rock-star eclecticism, debuts at #9 with 36,000 units/34,000 sales.
And now for your weekly reminder that “One Dance” is Drake’s biggest single ever: The Kyla/WizKid collab tops the Hot 100 for a seventh nonconsecutive week, giving Drake six straight weeks atop both the albums and singles chart. Per Billboard, it’s just one frame short of Michael Jackson’s record seven consecutive weeks of double domination with Thriller and “Billie Jean” in 1983.
Notable top-10 movement: Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s “This Is What You Came For” rises to #5. That gives Rihanna 21 top-5 hits, surpassing Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder and tying Elvis Presley on the all-time list. (The Beatles hold the record with 29.) Sia and Sean Paul’s “Cheap Thrills” climbs to #6, becoming Sia’s highest-charting single as a lead artist. Kent Jones hits a new #9 peak with “Don’t Mind.” And Twenty One Pilots score their second top-10 hit with #10 “Ride” — and they may soon have a third with Suicide Squad soundtrack hit “Heathens,” which debuts this week at #14.
Years & Years – “Worship”
Dark horse song of the summer contender right here.
G-Eazy – “In The Meantime” (Feat. Quavo)
There I was vibing to a luxuriant Migos banger with Mustard on the beat, and suddenly G-Eazy’s Ben Haggerty impression edged into the frame and ruined it. Actually, apologies to Macklemore for bringing you into this; I don’t think you would ever stoop to rapping, “If you don’t mind, this girl would like to suck my penis here.”
Steven Tyler – “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere”
Did you know the Armageddon soundtrack mega-hit “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” came out 18 years ago?
Leslie Odom Jr. – “Autumn Leaves”
Daveed Diggs isn’t the only Tony-winning Hamilton star releasing original music. Now we just need to get Odom to take his jazzy lounge act on tour with clipping.
Becky G – “Sola” & Pitbull – “Superstar” (Feat. Becky G)
A Spanish-language single and a Pitbull collab for Copa America in the same week — is Becky G making a bid for the Latin market?
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Cameron Crowe’s shitty new series Roadies shades Taylor Swift throughout the first episode. [Vulture]
- DJ Khaled plans to Snapchat his son’s birth. 👶🔑 [Billboard]
- The $2.5M John Legend Theater is nearing completion in Springfield, OH. Legend donated money to his former school district for it. [Springfield News Sun]
- Kenny Chesney apologized to a Philly police officer for telling a crowd the cop couldn’t attend his concert because he died. (He didn’t die.) [6 ABC]
- Fergie shared the artwork for her new single “M.I.L.F. $.” [Instagram]
- Chris Brown fired the publicist for his clothing line in a very dramatic text message. [TMZ]
- Brown also grabbed the phone of a woman who was filming him in an Italian club and tossed it over his shoulder. [TMZ]
- Backstreet Boys are collaborating with Florida Georgia Line on a new song. [Instagram]
- Prince Harry performed with Coldplay for his Sentebale charity to raise awareness of African youth affected by HIV/AIDS. [Twitter]
- The Spice Girls’ 20th anniversary reunion has been pushed back to 2017, and they’ll have to hold auditions to replace Sporty and Posh who do not want to participate. [Digital Spy]
- Lady Antebellum covered Justin Timberlake. [Rolling Stone]
- Pharrell sang “B Is For Book” alongside Elmo and Cookie Monster. [YouTube]
- Pitbull, DNCE, and Sara Bareilles will perform at Macy’s Fourth Of July Special on NBC. [Broadway World]
- Drake apparently filmed the “One Dance” video in South Africa this week. [Instagram]
- Justin Bieber and Martin Garrix played an acoustic Taylor Swift cover. [YouTube]
- Mary J. Blige, Sia, and will.i.am are among the 683 new people invited to join the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences. [THR]
- One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson is going to court to seek joint custody of his son. [TMZ]
- Demi Lovato debuted her new single “Body Say” in Atlanta. [YouTube]
- Lorde donated £10,000 to help feed under-privileged New Zealand children. [NZ Herald]