Don’t think for a second that millions of viral Youtube video clips of people dancing a version of the Running Man dance to R & B hits, pop acts like Duran Duran and 98 Degrees reuniting and playing 20 tour dates in August 2016 alone, MTV program Daria resurfacing, Pokemon being the world’s most popular video game and Mariah Carey seductively posing on the cover of mainstream magazines are five unrelated events from the past three months. In fact, they’re connected by the fact that they prove that the 1990s and retro culture in general are incredibly popular right now. In presenting facts, figures and thinking about what the future may hold, we’ll get a sense of why love for the 1990s could possibly not be just a trend, but rather, the start of a phenomenon that lasts forever.
Recently, Viacom has swapped brands and concepts on it’s “classic” music channel. VH1 Classic is now MTV Classic, and is not just focusing on throwback content in general from the Viacom family of music networks. Instead, the new MTV Classic is specifically ‘90s focused, with MTV President Sean Atkins noting that “MTV’s [‘90s] programming vault is a music and pop culture goldmine with universal resonance.”
‘90s music reaching “goldmine” status should be obvious by now, but to break the trend down by simple numbers, overall music sales in the 1990s rose roughly 75%, while in the years since 2000, overall sales have dipped 64%. If you’re NOT looking for numbers as proof, ask yourself just how quickly you specifically downloaded and paid $20 for the Tidal app *just* to hear Prince’s feel-good hits from the 1990s after he unexpectedly passed away.
Nostalgic feelings for the 1990s are not just limited to music. In 1996, the top five comedies on free television were watched in 54 million homes. Comparatively, in 2014, there were only three comedies in the top 30 TV programs on free television, and these programs were viewed by 27 million households. Clearly, while there’s certainly more broadcasting options than ever before, the ratings also show that people could easily want to watch ‘90s TV shows again. Need proof? 1996’s top-ranked comedy was Seinfeld, and famously, the streaming broadcast rights for the show were sold to Hulu last year for $160 million. That’s a lot of puffy shirts.
Discussing music again, there’s also the idea to consider that for every modern day Drake and Kanye that become superstars, that we’re not comparatively creating the seemingly never-ending list of ‘90s rap stars that include Biggie, Tupac, LL Cool J, Puff Daddy, Busta Rhymes, Dre and Snoop, Meth and Red, and so many more.
Here’s a quick number to drive home that point. There’s a group of 11 artists who had #1 singles for 42% of the 1990s. By comparison, there’s 11 artists who have had #1 singles in the 2010s, but for 71% — or nearly twice as long. This definitely allows for fewer options to break through as superstars.
In 20 years, imagine say, Desiigner, going on a sold out tour like the 1990s-beloved 98 Degrees, “I Love The ‘90s” Tour participants Salt-N-Pepa, Kid ‘N Play, Vanilla Ice and Coolio, “90sFest” Tour headliners Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Spin Doctors, or say, current Billboard pop chart toppers Blink-182. It’s safe to say that a nostalgia tour where “Panda” and “Timmy Turner” are played on repeat probably will not happen.
What happens when fewer records sell, modern entertainment isn’t so entertaining, there are fewer current superstars and people want fun experiences more than ever before? People literally start doing the Running Man again. Exactly.
The ‘90s boom is not a joke. Instead, it’s a sign of things to come, and things that also may last forever. Now, imagine if there were a club, let’s say in Washington, DC, where people could hear their favorite ‘90s tunes played all night long.
Decades is coming soon.