Music History

Pop Culture & Its Knack of Making Music Immortal: Part Two

Despite the fact that a slew of new songs skyrocket to the charts every year, there always seems to be that crop of tunes that never say die. You know the ones – the songs that had their moment years if not decades ago, only to be inexplicably revived once again. Sure, they might be classics, but often there’s a bit more at play. Last month we explored how classic rock can thank pop culture for the genre’s constant revival, but more artists than Zeppelin and Queen have social trends to thank. Let’s check them out, shall we?

40% of Millennials say they discover new music through the Internet, social media, and streaming music or videos. Streaming app Deezer recently finished a study specifically looking at songs that have made reappearances through pop culture, tracking their stats and asking users about them. Why not start with a recent pop culture behemoth – Stranger Things. The Netflix original took audiences by surprise with its nostalgia-dripping 80s horror first season, but the show also featured a fantastic soundtrack as well. Synth-heavy original songs were quite popular, but the era-appropriate licensed tracks made a splash as well. A pivotal song in the series includes The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” (don’t worry, no spoilers here), and its inclusion clearly made an impact on Millennials: 50% more of them learned of the song through the show than Gen Yers did.

OK, that was another rock example though. Here’s something from a slightly different genre: classical opera. Oh yes. The hilarious duo of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly featured an Andrea Bocelli song in the climax of their ridiculous comedy Step Brothers, and even though the film was released in 2008 audiences are still remembering the scene. Will Ferrell belted out “Por Ti Volare” near the end of the movie, and over 30% of Millennials in Deezer’s survey said it was the moment they discovered the song. That memorable performance, as well as the opening to another Ferrell movieBlades of Glory.

There are plenty more pop culture musical revivals scattered across the decades. When Wilson Phillips made a cameo appearance in Bridesmaids in 2011, their 1990 tune “Hold On” was discovered by 132% more Millenials than Gen Yers and Baby Boomers combined. Sometimes a popular portrayal can even lead to song confusion: Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You”, one of the key tracks on Bodyguard‘s soundtrack, is credited to her by almost three quarters of listeners. The actual songstress? Only 20% of people correctly identified Dolly Parton as the originator. It’s no mystery why Houston’s Hollywood-blockbuster version is the more common one.

The pop culture revivals can also mean chart-topping success, too – multiple times. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” originally hit number nine on Billboard’s Hot 100 after its release in 1981. But then, television took over:

Glee‘s rendition of the Journey classic skyrocketed the song back into relevance, and most certainly back into the charts. “Don’t Stop Believin'” climbed as high as number four after the singing show’s 2009 version… almost 30 years after its original release. Hello, royalties.

Pop culture-fuelled musical comebacks are all over the place. Ray Charles’ revival after being sampled on Kanye West’s “Gold Digger”. Puff Daddy’s tribute to Notorious B.I.G. in “I’ll Be Missing You” being more recognized amongst Millennials than The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” original. Even Fall Out Boy’s poorly-received version of the iconic Ghostbusters theme for the 2016 remake fuelled a resurgence in the original’s popularity. Give it a couple more weeks, and another instance will surely pop up. Marketing and social trends love to tap into nostalgia, and as far as music goes, the same can be said. Now if you’re sick of hearing Journey by now, that’s a different story.

Mathew Kahansky

Once upon a time, Mat studied journalism. That's how he became Alan's one-time intern and current-time contributor, and the rest is ongoing history - get it? Mat also studied biology and music, so he has a strangely specific knowledge set that doesn't really apply anywhere other than useless fun facts. He currently works for a music tech start-up in Halifax, and is a big fan of the em dash.

Mathew Kahansky has 297 posts and counting. See all posts by Mathew Kahansky

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