Nostalgia has always been a stalwart of entertainment, but recent shifts in pop music have prompted the revival of a 2000s-esque sound that once dominated the mainstream.
The 1990s and early 2000s hosted a variety of media that is now looked at fondly by consumers, all the way from R&B and new jack swing to crunk and classic hip-hop.
But the style that's making a comeback in the 2020s, specifically 2023, is a play on the teenage experience of the 90s. This style of music combines rock, indie and pop-punk into a very angsty, coming-of-age aesthetic featuring gritty guitars and raw vocals.
The release of Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album, "GUTS," on Sept. 8 elevates the return of this music from bits and pieces to a full mainstream aesthetic.
"After this album, I was like, 'Oh, wow,' because it brought me back to being younger," Brandon Hanks, a senior studying business, said. "That's why I love artists like Olivia Rodrigo — it just reminds me of growing up, and seeing those movies and hearing those songs."
One of the primary markers of this era was the 1999 romantic comedy "10 Things I Hate About You." The film has become an iconic piece of teen culture from this era, and its soundtrack's role in the longevity of teenage rock cannot be understated.
"That movie is a classic, so that creates the nostalgia in and of itself," Gregory Daniel, professor of popular music at the School of Music, Dance and Theatre, said.
Its soundtrack has over 140 million streams on Spotify, so it's clear that the film's relevancy in the streaming era has continued even into 2023.
"Music in that era and others have received longevity because they're attached to a movie (like '10 Things I Hate About You')," Ryan Peterson, a freshman studying business, said. "It resonates with a lot of people now because it reminds them of their childhood and the punk aspect of being a rebel, and being indie, alt and cool."
A common theme of this music's popularity is its reminders of the feeling of being a teenager, whether the listener (or even artist) was one or not during the era. Music being attached to visuals is also a key component in it becoming ingrained in listeners' and viewers' memories.
"Nostalgia is a selling point and it's always going to be a selling point," Hanks said. "Even if (listeners) weren't born at that time, maybe they're a teenager, I think they might see that type of genre on TikTok or social media and then try and rediscover that music."
Social media's contribution to nostalgia is apparent in all forms, but even just the simple act of TikTok sounds going viral with old sounds can bring entirely new and younger audiences to an artist or a genre.
Recently, Aliyah's Interlude's debut single "IT GIRL" went viral on TikTok with over 300,000 videos in under two months. Its bratty, fun and confident sound has a prominent 2000s aesthetic that marks a continuation of this style.
But money runs the music industry, so fans are sometimes cautious when artists cultivate sounds that are caked in too much nostalgia to be true.
"When I think cash grab, it reminds me of Machine Gun Kelly, because it was kind of that sound, but it wasn’t done well at all," Hanks said.
Machine Gun Kelly’s complete flip to pop-punk in 2020 after rapping for much of his career was drastic, but it seems to be an extreme example.
"It's genuine in most cases. I think it's obvious when it's not," Daniel said. "Most artists aren’t setting out to take advantage of the culture."
But Hanks and most fans like him are confident that Rodrigo’s use of this sound is genuine, even though the 20-year-old performer was barely born in the genre's heyday.
"She's just using something that she enjoys and resonates with to share with people today," Peterson said. "I still think it’s authentic because music is timeless."
Daniel said that popular music is cyclical and the sounds within genres are as well. In the era where everything is online and easily accessible, it’s hard, perhaps even impossible, to make something completely fresh and unique.
"Trying to do something new without basing it off of something that already happened is going to be more difficult as time keeps going on," Peterson said.
Nostalgia seems to be the primary fuel for media in today’s mainstream entertainment landscape, but fans seem confident that as long as artistic integrity remains, the art can still be valuable. Though this return of 2000s teen rock is new in 2023, its play on an earlier era is nothing new in entertainment.
"The '80s were used in nearly every media in the 2010s," Hanks said. "Now, we’re going to see a ton of ‘90s, 2000s stuff in music, movies and everything."
Edited by Claire van Doren, Sadie Buggle and Caera Learmonth.