Future Nostalgia, or Why I Hate Louis Walsh

I’m sure at some point in everyone’s online lives, they’ve been forwarded one of those “you know you’re __________ if…” emails, had a quick chuckle and felt pangs of nostalgia. I’m sitting here listening to the Wonder Years feature on my favourite radio station (an hour every Friday consisting entirely of songs from one year out of the past twenty), happily enjoying my Backstreet’s Back, remembering the days of watching Goosebumps after school, collecting POGs and taping songs off the radio, when I started thinking about what those emails are going to look like when they get sent to kids who’ve grown up in the 2000s (or noughties, as they’re calling it on the Beeb). What do we have today that people 20 years from now are going to reminisce about?

I started thinking about it, and then I started getting angry. Even today, we still have 80s themed clubs and nights out and parties, because everything was amazing and new and great back then (says the girl who only fell out of the womb halfway through). New Wave was so exciting; synthesizers so futuristic, style so bold (I dare you not to fall in love with any man wearing eyeliner, painting half his face in more makeup than me and singing about romance on the dark streets of London). It was so awesome, in recent years it’s made a bit of a comeback, with shops like American Apparel regularly stocking brightly coloured tights, legwarmers, baggy tops and oversized belts, and artists like Late of the Pier, White Rose Movement and the Mary Onettes , armed with keyboards, spiffy haircuts and guyliner, releasing killer indie electronica that could slip easily into any “Best of the 80s” compilation unnoticed. The future of music in recent years was looking pretty good; an off the radar revival of everything new wave with a modern indie twist.

But, let’s face it, these guys aren’t on your everyday radio. They’re not in your Billboard 100 or on the cover of the Rolling Stone. They’re definitely not coming to Winnipeg. So as much as they have my heart unreservedly – people aren’t going to remember them twenty years from now.

So let’s look at the mainstream – what’s crashing the radio waves, taking over the charts and touring all over the world these days? I grew up listening to the Chart Show on Sunday afternoons, eager to see who was in the top ten, and it’s something I’ve carried on doing since my move to Canada, thanks to the wonders of modern technology. I listen to the Official UK Top 40 every Sunday (yes, it’s full of a lot of chuff, a lot of the time, but it’s more for the homesickness/nostalgia factor) and to my horror, this past weekend, in at number two was Westlife, with yet another cover of a song from two years ago.

Westlife was one of those Uber Boy Bands formed by Louis Walsh (of recent X Factor fame) that, due to an unfortunate lack of H1N1 contraction and a lull in anvil production, are still going eleven years later. Still dominating the charts with rubbish covers of decent songs, this time they’ve taken on a Chris Daughtry track, done nothing but added a couple of lame oohs and aahs, and rocketed to the top riding the wave of somebody else’s hard work.

I didn’t mind them in the nineties – they were just like the Backstreet Boys, but Irish! Bonus! Then their manager became a judge on an international talent show, and I guess things got a little scary. What’s this? Real people with actual talent winning the nation’s hearts? I suppose there really wasn’t much else in the way of choice but to nick a bunch of songs everyone knew the words to, get the lads together for a night of karaoke, and release this uninspired bile on the masses.

I suppose my loathing began a couple of years ago when they got a number one with a cover of Michael Buble’s Home from a couple of years previous. When I heard the Daughtry cover this weekend, my curiosity was sufficiently peaked enough to look into just how far other people’s talent has pushed their career, and found 63 covers, tackling the masters (The Eagles, Sinatra, Josh Groban)… and, in I suppose the hope people wouldn’t notice, classics from Nick Carter, Brandy, and various obscure musical soundtracks. I can’t even hazard a guess as to how much money they’ve made sitting on their arses, adding the odd choir and singing other people’s songs. Tossers.

Yes, it makes me rather upset that so much of music today will be remembered for the work of decades past – success seems so easy when something so formulaic becomes the norm; random sample of a decent old track + random rapper + thumping dance beat = $, or do a cover of something that was successful before, add some pretty faces and synthesised strings and you’ve got yourself a number one. I know what I’m going to remember about this decade. Little indie bands who I heard on the radio’s “unsigned” hour and ordered their albums in from halfway round the world. The new new wave which took something nostalgic and creative and made it new and exciting. And bands who’d been together since they were thirteen, played real instruments, wrote great songs about science and love and government conspiracies, and went on to take over the world.

That’s going to be my nostalgia of the ‘noughties’. At least when it comes to music, anyway. What about you?



  1. Um, we have Taylor Swift? I know what you mean though, it seems like things are part of a cycle. We had McDonald’s with friends at the food court in the mall the other night and the Happy Meal toys were Astroboy for the boys and My Little Pony for the girls. Astroboy is actually from the 60’s and was a TV show and I played with My Little Ponies when I was a kid. It all just comes back, just like GIJoe and Transformers…crazy.

    BTW – book club is not for another 2 weeks and then I’ll tell you what the others thought of I’m So Happy for You. 🙂

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