Musical Revivalism May Be Bringing Us Back To The 1950s

By Savannah Bullard

History is often criticized for repeating itself.

Whether it is with politics, economics or social justice, people tend to avoid going back to what was meant to stay in the “good ol’ days.”

However, a surge of emerging musicians are breaking this trend.

The Economist describes soul music as a genre that “originated in the 1950s that grew out of the blues, R&B and African American church music.”

Some say the revivalism of “the oldies” began with Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Special” album, which included the ever-popular “Uptown Funk,” featuring Bruno Mars.

The funky beat and old school music video was a huge hit with younger audiences, introducing young people to the tunes that got our grandparents to get down.

Watch: Uptown Funk 

The trend continues with Meghan Trainor, who fuses 1950s pop and modern hip hop through songs like “All About That Bass” and “Like I’m Gonna Lose You (featuring John Legend).”

This year, some of the most famous artists of 2016 are coming out of hometown bars and theaters with sounds that only used to be popular in the mid-20th century.

Leon Bridges, for example, is a 26-year-old Texas native whose soulful sound captivated Spotify listeners and shot him to stardom.

Bridges quotes himself on his website saying “I’m not saying I can hold a candle to any soul musician from the ’50s and ’60s, but I want to carry the torch.”

Bridges’ popularity chips away at the stigma that all teens listen to nothing but top 40 and rap music. He closes a wide generational gap, which is hard to do when in this day and age, young people feel disconnected from their elders who “just do not understand.”

Bridges is an artist that anyone can love, and that connection is rarely seen nowadays, especially in the entertainment scene.

Watch: Leon Bridges’ Smooth Sailing

Young people are actually getting a slice of culture from artists like Bridges. His music pays homage to a beloved time period that cultivated artists like Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. This was not just music; it was an entire way of life.

Bridges is doing an aesthetic favor by channeling this era through his sounds.

Young people pick up on this stuff, and their musical perspectives widen far beyond what is played on the radio.

The same can be said for musicians like Mumford and Sons, who recently traveled to India and Africa in order to incorporate those cultures into their work.

While this is a mix of traditional music from other civilizations instead of reviving a time period, the product is the same.

The new age incorporation of music from any culture or time period creates the most beautiful harmony that serves the same purpose.

Leon Bridges. Photo Credit: Kinsey Haynes

Leon Bridges. Photo Credit: Kinsey Haynes

Young people might not know it, but they are opening their minds to a whole new world of music. It is as if these artists are teachers by extension, offering a bit of history through their music for us to learn.

The Sugarman 3 frontman and Daptone Records co-founder Neil Sugarman says in an Economist article that “even with her big pop hit ‘Rehab,’ it was honest to Amy [Winehouse]. It was real. That’s the essence of soul music. It’s honest.”

This example speaks to a lot of emerging artists who do not want to become one-hit wonders or fall into the mainstream of bubblegum pop and modern rap music.

Soul singers are those who embrace struggle in their recordings, and wearing their hearts on their sleeves is what sells out concerts.

Watch: Mumford and Songs’ Wona

In the 1960s, African American jazz musicians wrote of their hardships with civil rights and the struggle of living in a time of racism and misfortune.

Their music was raw and uncaged; they made their voices heard through their music, because in that time, music was one of the few options that allowed them to do so.

And today, this is the very same concept that these new-age soul singers try to embody.

A song so deep and meaningful will catch the heart of a listener, while more mainstream tunes might be fun for a moment, but get skipped the next time they appear in a playlist.

Young people like connections, and sharing the feelings that are sung in a favorite song makes them love that musician much more than cookie-cutter pop singers.

These are songs that urge people to look up lyrics, decipher meanings, figure out the intention behind the art. These songs make the listener want to know the artist, not just enjoy the work.

Whether or not this trend will last remains in ambiguity, because not even the most profound musicologists can predict what teens will love next.

Leon Bridges. Photo Credit: Kinsey Haynes

Leon Bridges. Photo Credit: Kinsey Haynes

For decades, country music stays consistently popular, but still gets tweaked each year by whatever artists who make it big.

And as long as we have prepubescent teenage girls and boys, upbeat breakup songs and boy bands will never go out of style.

However, the love of soul is proven to be more than just a music style.

The fluidity and swagger of soul outlasts many other genres, and manages to stay consistent at the top of the charts.

So while other styles continue to change and evolve, soul will remain timeless.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

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