Nostalgia is not a question of if, but when. The 2000s saw rampant nostalgia for the ’80s, the ’90s were nostalgic for the ’70s, and even ancient Romans looked fondly on the artwork and poetry of the ancient Greeks. The decade we’re currently in has not broken this pattern, with nostalgia for everything ’90s seemingly having set in the moment the calendar hit January 1, 2010. Even this year’s internet memes are trapped within this ’90s vortex, with the kids’ shows Arthur and SpongeBob SquarePants serving as source material for some of 2016’s most resilient memes. But are we already moving on to nostalgia for another decade?
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles–based EDM producer Jauz released a remix of the late-2000s indie classic “Sleepyhead” by Passion Pit. Jauz’s work is typically far more aggressive and trap-influenced, but for this remix he took a different tack: He nimbly reworks the original song while retaining Michael Angelakos’s distinctive high-pitched vocals, adjusting the drop into a relaxing, warm redux of the original chorus. It’s a savvy shift away from Jauz’s usual drop-heavy music and toward the relaxed, pop-friendly style favored by crossover acts like The Chainsmokers and DJ Snake.
The ease with which Jauz’s remix turns nostalgia back to the 2000s might come as a shock to anyone who wondered about the sum total pop-cultural impact of that decade. Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past author (and MTV News contributor) Simon Reynolds has argued that contemporary culture is stuck in an endless loop of recycling old thoughts and sounds, with the 2000s appearing to be an end point for truly original ideas. I remember a college peer expressing a similar thought after having just lived through the 2000s, a decade that, to him, felt markedly nondescript, without any of the strong monocultural moments that shaped the ’80s and ’90s. I never much agreed with either of those critiques, as it can take years to codify and whittle down a decade to its representative pop-cultural moments. Marketable nostalgia takes time to properly shape.
Jauz’s remix of Passion Pit is a successful argument that the 2000s era is now breaking away into a commercialized revision of itself. Perhaps fueled by memories of a time before smartphones and social media owned our lives, the song rings back to the final days before lives felt entirely experienced and lived through digital spaces. The early 2000s saw what might have been one of the last mainstream gasps of rock music — even today, teens love The Strokes — but the late 2000s were arguably more distinctive, as the moment when rock, electronic music, and essentially anything that was on one’s iPod meshed into one sound. Contemporary EDM thrives in a world where the lines between genres like house, pop, R&B, and rap are all but nonexistent. Passion Pit were early harbingers of that wave, and the fact that nearly a decade later they’re being remixed by the likes of Jauz speaks to the emerging endurance of their musical moment.