Music History

Published on March 11th, 2017 | by Alan Cross

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Notice How Music and Pop Culture from the 80s and 90s is Hot Right Now? It’s the 30-Year Nostalgia Cycle in Action.

I’m fascinated by the concept of what goes around comes around and how the old becomes new again. (For more on my thoughts, take a look at this article on my theory of the 12-13 rock/pop cycle). Why does nostalgia for certain eras periodically come front-and-centre in pop culture? Take a look at this article on the 30-year nostalgia cycle.

You may have noticed that there’s been a fair amount of 80’s nostalgia hanging in the air for the past several years. Many of the biggest pop songs seem to have just that right mix of retro drum machine beats and epic synthesizers—from Bruno Mars to Haim to Rihanna to Robyn to M8380’s movie remakes are everywhere these days—from 21 Jump Street to RoboCop to The Karate Kid to Ghostbusters. 80’s fashion is having a renaissance as well. And, you know… Stranger Things.

There’s a reason that the culture of the 1980’s is experiencing a resurgence right now. Just as there’s a reason that we’re in the early days of getting more build-up of 90’s nostalgia. It’s not all that complicated, but it is a pattern that has profound consequences for how art is created, how we conceptualize culture, and perhaps even what sort of political rhetoric comes into vogue.

The pattern is this: pop culture is forever obsessed with a nostalgia pendulum that regularly resurfaces things from 30 years ago.

How Memory Shapes the World

There are a number of reasons why the nostalgia pendulum shows up, but the driving factor seems to be that it takes about 30 years for a critical mass of people who were consumers of culture when they were young to become the creators of culture in their adulthood.

Keep going. It’s fascinating.

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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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One Response to Notice How Music and Pop Culture from the 80s and 90s is Hot Right Now? It’s the 30-Year Nostalgia Cycle in Action.

  1. Glen Buchanan says:

    Why then were the 50’s so hot in the 70s? 30yrs- 10? Even Marc Bolan based his T.Rex sound on 50s riffs and crated Brit-Glam rock at the same time.

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