Fashion and trends follow a few predictable patterns. Whatever was big 20 years ago always seems to come back, albeit just a bit twisted and different. There was a small 80s revival in the last decade, so we can reasonably expect a 90s revival this decade. What makes that even more appealing is that the same cycle is going to be reinforced by social and economic trends that should produce a serious Grunge revival any day now.
Probably the last thing anyone wants to hear is fashion advice from someone as unhip / uncool as I am. As unplugged-in as I am it’s impossible to catch a few things even before they become very popular, however, and I think this one will catch on. It’s a question of where it comes from and how it plays out.
Why 20 years? I do not know. It probably has a lot to do with what people listened to and how they dressed when they were young being recaptured when they are reaching their midlife crisis. Today’s mid-40s were once kids in their 20s who had no family or other obligations. The last time they really had fun there was a sound and a style that says “youth” to them. Today’s Gen-Xers may not be as big in numbers as past generations but they’ll feel the same pull – and that was the Grunge sound.
This may resonate more clearly than many past revivals for a lot of reasons. Under-employment among the young is a serious problem that has left an entire generation behind. Their hopes and dreams are highly tempered by a situation that forces them to be even more inward looking than they might otherwise want to be. The Grunge “screw it all” sense that everything is rotten and it’s time to reboot the world has to have some appeal.
I doubt that it will be exactly the same, since these revivals never are. Music itself doesn’t come from one person or band but out of a “scene”, and that scene is probably going to be less about clubs in one town like Seattle than it is centered on YouTube and the ‘net. It will be people crafting their music on whatever they have available to them, and that may include a lot more than guitars and drums.
The other change I can see is that while Grunge was heavily male and rather pale, women and non-whites will probably have a big influence on the sound. We can’t forget that the 90s were also the time when Rap emerged, although it’s probably not going to be as subject to revival because it never went out of style in all this time. The early political Rap might make a bit of a comeback but if it does I expect it will merge into the same sound.
We are already seeing some trends that point to a Grunge revival. Women are dyeing their hair darker, not lighter, for the first time in my life. Photography has gotten more “raw” and in the moment rather than glamorous and glossy. There will always be a “Blonde du Jour” being pushed by the corporate pop world with the same dance beat that hasn’t changed since Disco, but the lifetime of these figures seems to be getting shorter as we move on from Debbie Harry / Madonna / Tiffany / Britney / Lady Gaga. I don’t think we will see a new figure like that break out in the next few years.
I’m not sure if I look forward to the Grunge sound coming back or not, to be honest. Heartfelt songs about how rotten everything is will solidify a left-wing complacency that has already made it hard to push a response to Tea Party anger and rebellion. Reality has become hard and not many people honestly think that the problems we have today can be solved by working together. The Grunge ethic has already seeped in rather deeply, even if the sound hasn’t caught on yet.
I think we’re due for a Grunge revival. The big splash that Foo Fighters is making right now will probably inspire more of the same from a new generation that takes the sound in a slightly new direction. Where will it go? I won’t speculate at all but I think I’ll do my best to enjoy it. Grunge only gets depressing when you think about it too much. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people with talent and energy who are very much in that state of mind and are waiting for someone to make it into an art form. Let’s see what they do with it.
But I already confessed how uncool I am. What say those of you who are more into this than I am?