Music and the Comeback Kids

Molly Innes discusses the art of the comeback, the “reunion” cash cow, and throwback culture

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Spice Girls dance

The year is 2007 and Take That are back, ‘Shine’ is in the charts, Mark Owen is finally getting the recognition he deserves. Later that year, the Spice Girls announce their own reunion. It’s two years since Busted split, and nine-year-old me is wondering if they will ever return. And of course, as is the cyclic nature of pop music – wanting to cling to fame and the worry of dwindling royalty cheques – these stars all come back to us, eventually.

There are a generation of young kids waiting for One Direction to return. Inevitably, they will. Probably, just as Take That did, without their Robbie. Harry Styles will push further into acting, and the other four will have to reunite, as Celebrity Big Brother has been cancelled. They will be balding, and one will probably go through a tax-scandal before we are told once more that we’re beautiful.

Despite the sell-out stadium tours and profitable merchandise, musical comebacks are never quite as good as the original thing was. I remember seeing McBusted in 2014. It was incredible, but only because they were singing the classics. Year 3000 and Obviously were highlights, but now that Busted have reformed with the original three bandmates, I am completely disinterested. I’m past diluted pop-punk now. There’s something somewhat inauthentic about musical reunions when the band themselves were so certain about their parting. The main issue when it comes to bands reuniting and returning to the musical sphere is probably not the manipulation of their fans, but the pulping narcissism it implies. There is a level of self-importance in splitting up, only to come back when, inevitably, people stop caring about you and you run out of money. Unless you are Fleetwood Mac, who disbanded in 1995, but reunited weeks later. Importantly, a band should be certain of their departure.

It’s funny, we live in a culture of wanting the ‘next big thing’, and yet these washed up stars keep on asking for our money. Claire from Steps has just released an album; it’s not actually that bad, but it’s not particularly ground-breaking stuff. Spice Girls have, yet again, announced their comeback (Even though it feels like they’ve never actually left). Even ABBA are releasing new music, and Cher is touring again. Both of which are quite exciting, the former absolutely, Cher I’m less bothered about. She was awful in Mamma Mia 2. It’s about taste, I suppose. Fall Out Boy reuniting in 2013 was possibly the most underwhelming thing for 15-year-old me who somehow managed to bypass that stage, despite the Tumblr page. But, if Oasis had reunited when I was at peak obsession, I may have burst. But they never will, and I am grateful for that. They have managed to at least hold on to some musical integrity, even if Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Liam’s Beady Eye were equally as dull as each other. It’s more authentic to stay away from the temptation to come back. When The Stone Roses returned, it was only really 16-year olds in bucket hats and my mum that cared. Even then, she wished she’d have just seen them the first time around instead.

Nostalgia is an interesting thing when we consider it with music. We don’t have to remember the songs, we can just listen to them again. Endless enjoyment can come from Spotify’s Cheesy Hits playlist. It’s not the music though, is it? It’s the memories, it’s remembering Christmas 2005 and being given a McFly album. It’s playing it over and over again until they have no option to comeback with another. Time is crucial when considering the comeback. A band must have had prominence back when they were together, and that fame must have continued whilst they weren’t together, for their reunion to have any impact. Fame is held not in sales and charts, but in fans. We all have to grow older, and we carry our favourite artists from our childhoods with us. Of course, we yearn for them to reunite; we yearn to be childlike again. The children who begged their parents for the Busted album, or the teens that flocked to the cinema to watch Spice World, become the adults who can pay for it themselves this time around.

I’m not sure if you’ll catch me at any reunion tours, or purchasing hastily put together albums any time soon. But who knows what I’ll be like when I’m 40. If, like me, you are a bit bemused by the Busted reunion, or that Spice Girls are asking for our money again (without Posh, since she’s loaded anyway), then rest assured. We don’t have to jump on any bandwagons.

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