Over the past year in fashion, we saw the return of low-cut jeans, crop tops and spikey hair; it seemed that trends were harkening back to a simpler time that was deemed as “cringe” just a few years ago. Now, this trend seems to have snuck over to the music industry as well. A revival of noughties production and sounds seems to be occurring – but is this for better or for worse?
One of the most recent, and divisive, occurrences of this revival of sound was in Lorde’s most recent album, Solar Power. The album itself was an almost tongue-in-cheek reference to the era, with lyrics and production that point to the cyclical nature of time and trends themselves. From the wistful lyrics that dote on how ‘the early 2000s seem so far away’, to how one grows out of ‘all the music you loved at sixteen’, Lorde makes no attempt to hide the changing nature of the times from her fans. These references are saturated in the production of the album, too; from the shiny acoustics on ‘Mood Ring’ and ‘Secrets from a Girl’ (Who’s Seen It All) that are reminiscent of pop stars like Natalie Imbruglia and Natasha Bedingfield, to notions of Screamadelica in the drums and choral vocals of the title track, Solar Power is most certainly an ode to the Noughties.
Yet, it’s an ode that was not appreciated by many. Fans and critics alike were disappointed with the album, often calling it boring and criticising the use of early-2000s musical references for their lack of hook and punch. So, this begs the question: is this a style that artists want to indulge in for their own personal sense of nostalgia – or can it be used for artistic innovation?
There are most certainly records which achieve the latter. Bree Runway is one such artist, who has pushed the boundaries of pop by using certain elements of Noughties production. Indeed, her debut mixtape was entitled 2000AND4EVA, a direct reference to her love for the era. This EP differs from Solar Power in that it pays homage to, and expands upon, the work of its predecessors. On ‘Apeshit’ and ‘ATM’, Bree Runway shows her love for early-2000s hip-hop, particularly in her inspiration from (and feature of) Missy Elliott. Other tracks like ‘All Night’ make more direct references to the pop superstars of the age, pulling on the likes of Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani to get that ultra-sweet pop kick.
The resurfacing of this style has even resulted in some wildly experimental tracks. Hyperpop artists A. G. Cook and Slayyyter both utilise some of the elements of early 2000s dance music to create some incredibly catchy hooks. Perhaps we also have these artists to thank for the most recent album from Charli XCX, Crash, which saw her achieve her first UK Number One album. Crash is inundated with references to the early 2000s, to the point that XCX had begun to embody some sort of early-2000s-demon-pop-princess in her videos and promotional content for the album. No track is more on the nose for this than ‘Beg For You’, which features Rina Sawayama and an interpolation from September’s ‘Cry For You’ to achieve perfect pop nostalgia.
“In the end, music has always been about regeneration.”
For some, this resurgence of sound does not always equal originality. When Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album Sour was released, many criticised the track ‘good 4 u’ for being similar in sound to Paramore’s ‘Misery Business’, resulting in Rodrigo offering writing credits to the band. This is not the first time such an occurrence has happened – more recently, Ed Sheeran won his court battle over his song ‘Shape of You’, which had faced claims of plagiarism over the track ‘Oh Why’ by Sami Switch. This raises the question of where the line is drawn between referencing and plagiarism – can we too say that the many other artists that utilise a Noughties influence in their music are also plagiarising the artists that they were inspired by? Perhaps Sheeran put it best himself when he stated that “there are only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music”; repetition is inevitable.
It is thanks to the revival and recycling of certain sounds, themes, and trends that pop music can constantly evolve, change, and grow. In the end, music has always been about regeneration. Watch out; in 10 years we’ll be seeing a revival of the music of 2020!