Millennials: does rock and pop from the 1970s and 1980s sound "old-timey" to you?

Think about this: about 35 years ago, in 1982, these songs were on the Billboard Top 100 chart.

*Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - I Love Rock 'n Roll

  • John Cougar - Jack & Diane
  • Tommy Tutone - 867-5309/Jenny
  • The Go-Go’s - We Got the Beat
  • Journey - Don’t Stop Believin’
  • Van Halen - Pretty Woman

In 1982, I was in my early teens. Go back 35 years earlier, and these are among the Billboard top 100 for 1947.

  • Tex Williams - Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette
  • Sammy Kaye - The Old Lamplighter
  • Arthur Godfrey - Too Fat Polka
  • Bing Crosby - The Whiffenpoof Song
  • Freddy Martin - Managua, Nicaragua
  • Guy Lombardo - Managua, Nicaragua

It wasn’t uncommon to have multiple versions of the same song, by different artists, in that list. The Harmonicats, The Three Suns, and Art Lund all topped the chart with different versions of Peg O’ My Heart. That’s like Katy Perry feat XXXTENTACION, Ariana Grande feat Quavo, and Alessia Cara feat Taylor Swift feat Drake feat Jason Aldean feat Big Sean feat Lil Uzi Vert feat Florida Georgia Line all topping the chart with different versions of Scars to Your Beautiful.

Anyhow, those songs from the 1940s sounded just as old-timey to my ears as ragtime, barbershop qurtet, and songs in a nasal falsetto voice about how merry they feel driving their Oldsmobile and going off to war to battle the Kaiser. To the Millennial crowd, does rock and pop from the 1970s and 1980s sound just as old fashioned to you, as if it’s a relic from a long-past era?

I’d be more interested in hearing from post-millennials because rock music was still popular music in the late 90s. Whereas those born in the late-90s and afterward were not tweens by the time there was almost no rock music hitting the charts.

My sister is a millennial and she likes the Beatles for instance. I don’t have a feeling that she likes them ironically because they’re old-timey (excepting of course the ones that deliberately do sound like early 20th century songs.)

Born in ‘84. Stuff my parents used to listen to on the mix tape in the car deck.

I agree with Ludovic, about hearing from young’uns.

I will say that something big (obviously) happened around 1967-68. Stuff from before that — not just popular music, but in lots of cultural realms (e.g., John McWhorter wrote a book on how public speaking style changed) — is, by and large, objectively different than stuff since. So, music from before 1967-68 will tend to sound old-timey to someone of most any age, while most (not all) of stuff from the 50 years (!!) since will sound less old-timey to most (not all) ears.

Dangit for the typo correction, I was all set to compare how old timey Wreckless Eric sounded compared to Elvis Costello!

I don’t understand all the “feat” in the OP?

I’m a millenial, no, it doesn’t sound old-timey. I mean, it sounds period in that most of the music from those periods I can place via musical cues, but that’s just musical knowledge. I’d say to get really “old-timey” sounding you have to go back at least before Sgt. Pepper’s.

I’m leaving out a bit of nuance, though. Some subgenres that changed heavily or died out can sound a bit dated. Metal, prog, and some punk subgenres notably have changed significantly enough that they can sound dated in various ways depending on the band or song in question.

Still, even by the late '70s things sound very modern in many corners. I’d believe you if you told me Bat Outta Hell was from a few years ago.

My 20 year old post millennial (Gen Z, I think they’re called) son loves classic rock/hard rock/heavy metal from the past. Color me suprised to find out a few years ago that his favorite band is Styx. So now, we’ve seen them several times in concert. This last time they were playing with Tesla (who we’ve seen a number of times) and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. He only knew one or two of her songs, but by the end of the concert he was a fan.

Of the songs you mentioned, he knows and likes the ones that would be considered rock.

*Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - I Love Rock 'n Roll

  • John Cougar - Jack & Diane
  • Journey - Don’t Stop Believin’
  • Van Halen - Pretty Woman

These are pop songs, so I would guess if he heard them, he would think they were “meh”. In fact, I think they “meh” because I don’t appreciate most pop music.

  • Tommy Tutone - 867-5309/Jenny
  • The Go-Go’s - We Got the Beat

I think it’s more of genre thing. If you like a certain genre of music, you probably don’t think the music sounds old timey. I am Gen X, and I think the early Beatles, Elvis, Beach Boys, etc sound old timey. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hearing them from time to time, but they are pop songs from a past era, so they seem “past” to me. Rock music from the late 60’s and forward all still seem relevant.

Though there are some things that can make things sound… I’d use the word “dated” more than old-timey. Heavy reverb or synths immediately dates something. No rock has used that since the '80s unless it’s deliberately trying to be a pastiche. (There is the synth and dream rock genre, but it has a lot of electronica influences and sounds very different).


I believe the OP is making fun of the popularity of artists collaborating with each other. Not a brand-new concept at all, it’s long been a way to prop up or attempt to increase the appeal of newer, lesser known artists, but the recent generations of pop music artists seemingly do nothing but collaborate with each other, especially for intended singles.

My sons were born in 1996, 1999 and 2003. I’ve been surprised and pleased by how much of the music of my youth they like, as well - the Beatles, Electric Light Orchestra and Alan Parsons Project, in particular. They recommend new songs to me from time to time and I often add them to my playlists.

I’m also an older guy with a 20 year old son and he’ll listen to a bunch of stuff from the 70s and 80s and just consider it “music”. This doesn’t apply to things like disco and hair metal but your basic rock/pop songs he’ll include in his listening especially if it has good harmonies or vocals (he did a lot of choir/music in high school).

While a good part of this is just the prevalence of the music hanging around to entertain us Gen-Xers, I also think the surge of music games like Rock Band & Guitar Hero helped make a lot of the older stuff just “music” as it was included in the play lists along with more contemporary stuff.

I feel like, “back in the day”, they didn’t make as big a deal out of it either. You’d have to check the liner notes to see who the guest vocalist was versus it being part of the song title.

Keep in mind that millenials and post-millenials do live in the era of the internet and extremely niche bands and interests. We’re also not largely at the mercy of radios, MTV, or record stores to dictate what’s available to us. To us, in large part, a lot of music is kind of just music.

My playlist is a stream of nonsense, genre-wise, to experimental hip-hop, operatic metal, jazz, orchestral music, a mix of old and modern pop, punk, and a lot else. I’m not saying everyone has as varied musical tastes as I do, I’m definitely an outlier to some degree, but after the advent of digital music distribution (and especially streaming), peoples musical interests aren’t as narrow, either genre-wise or time-wise, as they once were. I can listen to Youtube autoplay and hear a song from the '60s followed by a song from the '90s followed by a song from last week.

I don’t have to go to the record store and hope they stock music from that era while also being in the mood to hear music from them, I don’t have to intentionally tune into a radio station playing “old music”, and so on.

I was born in 82, the year these songs came out, and none of them seem old timey to me. They were on MTV when I was growing up, or at least on VH1. The latest song that comes to my mind that sounds legitimately “old-timey” was 1971’s Brand New Key, but I think that was a bit of a callback to early 60’s pop even when it came out.

Thanks for your input. Now, what’s your reaction to the Beatles and other bands from that era? Do you think “Whoa, old but still cool.” Or does it sound alien? As a kid I’d listen to my parents’ music and think "Wabash Cannonball? Is this stuff even music?"

Yes, if you turned on the radio, that was one of the big hits. As was Mood Indigo, which after the opening piano flourish (by The King Of All Sir Duke), mellows so low I’d again say “Whaaaat?”

Hey, here’s a Top 40 hit from when I was in grade school. If this came up in a road trip playlist today, I’d pull the car over and say “Okay, what’s going on here?” *(Charlie Brown* by the Coasters)

That’s one of the names for them. Seems to be most popular at the moment, but there are a couple other competing names out there like the Homeland Generation, iGeneration and simply, post-Millennials. I’m not sure there’s quite a consensus yet, though. Generation X took a few years to settle (I remember being called Baby Busters and simply 13th Gen for a spell–it wasn’t until Copeland’s book of the same name that Generation X became popular), and Millennials were “Generation Y” back in the 90s, and it was really until the 00s that the name “Millennials” stuck (although it was coined earlier by Strauss and Howe, though they also went with “13th Gen” for Generation X, and that didn’t stick.)

1947 was what, two decades before you were born? 1982 is when or just before when a lot of millennials were born. It’s not a good comparison.

I would look at whatever the “oldies” stations were playing in the late 80s.

Yes, but when did “feat.” start getting included in song credits?

IIRC it used to be that guest artists on a track were credited in the liner notes but not in the actual “Artist Name” (e.g. “Money for Nothing” is by Dire Straits, not “Dire Straits feat. Sting”); and duets/collaborations were simply “and” (e.g. “Say Say Say” by Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson").

I don’t know exactly, but personally I first started noticing it in the early 90s, almost exclusively on hip-hop albums. It makes sense, as it’s easy for a rapper to just come in to the studio, drop a verse, and move on, and hip-hop is a music genre where boasting and self-promotion are practically obligatory, thus the insistence of having their name included on the track. And again, it’s also an easy way to introduce and promote a lesser known artist, or that artist’s protégé, or extended crew.

E: Yeah, hip-hop was definitely where it started in the '90s, my post is a bit more for mainstream use.

It’s a pretty transparent move for marketing singles or a new artist. You slap a “feat. Whoever” on the new single by a known artist and people are flocking to check out Whoever (as long as they did a decent job). Conversely, you slap a “feat. Popular Artist” on a newcomer and people buy the track just to hear their favorite singer and maybe check out the new person after.

It’s meant to compactly and subtly convey this information in something as immediate as glancing at the info for the Spotify track or Youtube vid or Soundhound ID. I think it really took off around 2008 or a little later, at least that’s when I started noticing it all the time, which would be around the real boom of digital distribution, which fits that idea.

I think the slightly less cynical but related idea is that it has to do with MP3 metadata. While you can tag MP3s with any number of arbitrary things, most players only really use or display artist, album, and title (maybe “album artist” for sorting). If you want to convey the information on an MP3 at all, you’ve gotta stuff it in one of those fields, because you no longer have anywhere else like a CD or Record case to hold the info.