Tag Archives: Simon Reynolds

Rethinking retromania: temporality and creativity in contemporary popular music

Within music criticism and journalism in recent years there has been a growing fixation with what has come to be known as ‘retromania’, or ‘pop culture’s addiction to its own past.’[1] The overriding thesis of this critique is that recent technological and cultural circumstances have led to something of a regression in the creative impulses of musicians, leading to a lack of innovative styles and an overreliance on pre-existing forms as the inspiration for ‘new works’. This criticism has been particularly championed by Simon Reynolds, who articulates his misgivings about contemporary pop music as follows:

Instead of being about itself, the 2000s has been about every other previous decade happening again all at once: a simultaneity of pop time that abolishes history while nibbling away at the present’s own sense of itself as an era with a distinct identity and feel.[2]

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In defence of ‘pastiche’ and ‘retromania’ (or, creativity in the time of YOLO)

‘In a world in which stylistic innovation is no longer possible, all that is left is to imitate dead styles, to speak through the masks and with the voices of the styles in the imaginary museum.’ – Frederic Jameson

‘The twentieth century’s closing scenes having witnessed the apparent end of history rather begged the question of what on earth we were meant to do from now on. The same instability and uncertainty which has produced a loss of faith in political orthodoxies, and analytical paralysis in the face of a multiplicity alternatives, has also produced a splintered and disintegrated culture at a loss as to how to define itself and, given the apparent imminence of disaster, unconvinced that it’s worthwhile bothering to do so.’ – Rhian E Jones


I’ve been intending to write about vaporwave for some time, but I’m glad I have refrained from doing so until now, as two pieces I’ve recently read have led me to completely reassess my thoughts on the genre, and by extension what I believe to be the misunderstood role of what is commonly identified as pastiche and retromanic tendencies in modern music.

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