Something is really, really weird about music in 2022. Let me explain.

I’m having trouble keeping track of what year it is. Consider:

  • Kate Bush’s 1985 song “Running Up That Hill” hit #1 on the UK singles charts and has reached the top 5 in other countries around the world.
  • Metallica’s 1986 track “Master of Puppets” has been given such a boost by its appearance in Stranger Things that it’s currently in the US Top 40.
  • Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours is one of the top-selling albums of the year so far (it’s number nine in the US. Rumours is also one of the top-selling vinyl albums of the year so far in the UK.)
  • The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” from 1977 is the top-selling vinyl single of 2022. (The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” is the eighth best-selling vinyl record.)

In addition to that, Luminate, the company that tracks all things about the recorded music industry, reports that streaming of catalogue songs (i.e. songs more than 18 months old) is up 19% so far in 2022. One-third of that consists of tracks released between 2017 and 2018 (call that “recent catalogue”) while listening to 90s music takes up 10% of listening.

Whut?

Some may point to the state of current music as a reason for all this. There are many who believe that today’s stuff just isn’t very good. Streaming and smartphones have made it possible to search out great music from all eras. Today’s young people–and remember that youth is always the driver of popular music–aren’t hung up on things like the age of a song, whether their parents (or grandparents!) listened to it, or the genre. All they care about is finding good music.

Here’s another theory: Could it be that our brains are capable of detecting and rejecting material that doesn’t sound authentic? Read this and draw your own conclusions.

So does today’s music really suck? We need to keep watching these numbers.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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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