Take off your Ray-Bans. Put away that vintage sweater. It’s time to start digging through the cardboard boxes in your attic for the ’N Sync T-shirt you bought at your first ever concert and your ratty old Chuck Taylors.
That’s right, just when you thought you’d grown out of your teen angst, Fall Out Boy has returned—and they're not the only ones. Justin Timberlake recently debuted a new song that’s already climbing up the iTunes charts, performed on music’s biggest stage, the Grammys, and has a new album coming out next month. Meanwhile, Destiny’s Child guest starred as Beyoncé’s backup dancers on music’s other big stage, the Super Bowl. My Bloody Valentine put out its first album in 22 years at the beginning of February, and Eminem is expected to release new music this spring.
Sure, this all seems terrific at first. Think back to the first time you heard “Grand Theft Autumn” or “SexyBack”: It was glorious. You’d finally found your band, your genre of music, and, by proxy, yourself. The return of your favorite singing, dancing, comedian-producer-marketer-actor combo must be the best thing to happen to you since Netflix started streaming Disney movies and The West Wing—except that it’s not.
Because, again, think back to the first time you heard “Only Shallow” or “Stan.” You were looking for your band, your genre of music, yourself. You were a preteen looking to vent your pubescent angst and/or sexual frustration. You argued with your parents, wore embarrassing clothing, and wrote awful poetry.
Through nostalgia-tinted glasses, I remember that “The Pros and Cons of Breathing” sounded like poetic and musical genius. I channeled Anne Sexton in Myspace bulletins. Raccoon eyes looked good, and covering one of them with flat-ironed hair looked even better. Black nail polish looked best chipped and supplemented with a Sharpie. But when I take the lenses off, everything comes back into focus, and I can only bemoan my teenage taste in fashion, recreational activities, and, yes, music.
Listening to music is a wholly personal experi- ence whose evolution is directly correlated with that of the individual experiencing it. We are not the same people we were eight years ago. We can’t relate to lines such as “I’ll be your loaded God with a bullet” (because what the hell does that even mean?) like we could when we were 13, and that’s OK. Evolution happens—not just in the macro, survival-of-the-fittest sense, but also (and perhaps more importantly) in the micro, I-no- longer-sit-in-corners-crying-about-how-hard- it-is-to-be-me sense. We’ve learned to deal with our angst and even figured out, for the most part, how to be happy—or maybe we’re just no longer crawling in pubescent hormones. If we listened to Fall Out Boy for the first time now, we’d probably snort derisively and return to our Lumineers Spotify playlists.
But despite all this, nostalgia has taken hold—of me, anyway. Those nostalgia-tinted lenses are doing their job: I miss the past, regardless of the poor sartorial and musical choices I made, or perhaps because of them. It’s sometimes good to look back and laugh at who you were so you can marvel at who you’ve become. Since Pete Wells Instagrammed a picture of their sound board, I’ve listened to Fall Out Boy non- stop and redownloaded The Marshall Mathers LP. But I’m still not satisfied—call me when Ryan Ross returns to Panic! at the Disco, and then we’ll talk.