Nostalgia and South Africa’s return of the sounds of the 90s and 00s
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[Johannesburg] 19 December 2022 – Nostalgia is a powerful force. The pleasurable, and sometimes sad, yearning for times past is a feeling that most of us are familiar with. But it’s also an increasingly powerful force in pop culture. One need only look at the reboots of 80s and 90s TV and film franchises to see how prevalent a force it’s become. That’s to say nothing of new creative vehicles such as Stranger Things that make heavy use of nostalgic elements.
Of course, nostalgia has long existed in pop culture but there are signs that nostalgia loops are getting increasingly small and fast. Many of the fashions of the late 1990s, for example, harkened back to the 1960s from 30 years before. Today, we see a resurrection of the fashions of the early and mid-2000s. Music isn’t exempt from nostalgia as a force either.
“That’s hardly surprising, artists often draw on the music they listened to most growing up (usually what their parents listened to) as they form their own identities. DJ Cleo’s 2010 release, Hip Hip Hooray, which samples Mahlathini & Mahotella Queens’ 1988 hit, Kazet, comes to mind,” says Warren Bokwe, Artist and Label Partnerships Manager for South Africa at Spotify.
“And as Spotify Wrapped data for 2022 shows, we seek it out as listeners too. South Africa is no exception to that impulse, with tracks from the 2000s and 1990s dominating this trend. More particularly, South African listeners appear to be heavily nostalgic for R&B and Rap from those decades.” he adds.
The top tracks from the 2000s, according to this year’s data, include many of the biggest global names of the decade. While some – like Beyoncé – remained powerful forces throughout the 2020s, others feel very much like products of the time.
Most-streamed tracks from the 2000s on Spotify in South Africa this year
- Mariah Carey – We Belong Together
- Mario – Let Me Love You
- Beyoncé – Halo
- Mary J. Blige – Be Without You – Kendu Mix
- Kanye West- Heartless
- Eminem – Without Me
- Eminem – Lose Yourself – From “8 Mile” Soundtrack
- Eminem – The Real Slim Shady
- Alicia Keys, Usher – My Boo
- 50 Cent – In Da Club
Further back, the top tracks from the 1990s include numerous legends, from Tevin Campbell and Tamia to 2Pac and Dr. Dre. Further driving up the nostalgia factor is the fact that Joe’s ‘I Wanna Know’ features on the list.
Most-streamed tracks from the 90s on Spotify in South Africa this year
- Tevin Campbell – Can We Talk
- Tamia – So Into You
- Boyz II Men – End Of The Road
- Goo Goo Dolls – Iris
- Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg – Still D.R.E.
- Coolio, L.V. – Gangsta’s Paradise
- Joe – I Wanna Know
- 2Pac, Outlawz – Hit ‘Em Up – Single Version
- Mariah Carey – Always Be My Baby
- K-Ci & JoJo – All My Life
Looking at the top songs from earlier decades, it’s also clear that the influence of nostalgia in broader pop culture is playing a role in bringing that music to new listeners. Would Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” be the top song from the 1980s if it hadn’t been so prominent in the latest season of Stranger Things?
No. 1s from other decades on Spotify in South Africa this year
- 80s: Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)
- 70s: Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
- 60s: Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline
- 50s: Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock
Given the ongoing global socio-political and economic uncertainty plaguing the world right now, it seems like nostalgia isn’t going to dissipate as a force anytime soon. That said, it’s also okay to remind ourselves that we loved a lot of the things from those periods, but especially the music, because they really were as good as we remember them being.