Students reminisce over old school pop bands

Johanna Pugh

Music can be a powerful thing. Hearing the melody of a song can have the ability to mentally transport someone back to a different time. Songs become attached to specific memories such as how old a person was, what they were going through and how they felt upon first hearing them.

In this sense, although people’s lives are constantly moving forward, music can be one timeless part of the journey.

While there are many genres to reflect on, if students grew up listening to pop music within the last two decades, the chances boy bands and girl groups were on their list of favorite artists is high.

Boy bands and girl groups have been around in the United States since the 1960s and 1930s, respectively. Musical groups such as N*SYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Destiny’s Child rose to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Whether people will admit it or not, a number of students who listened to these groups can probably still belt out the lyrics sang by Justin Timberlake and Beyonce when they were still accompanied by other singers.

Sacramento State students acknowledge the musical groups that take them back to their younger years.

“I only listened to N*SYNC and Backstreet Boys at a certain time in my life, so whenever I hear ‘Backstreet’s Back’ I’m instantly a kid again,” said humanities major Nicole Dilworth, 23. “That was like what you listened to if you were cool. Now it’s just more nostalgic.”

While reflecting on boy bands of the past has the ability to take someone back in time, it also has the ability to remind them exactly how long ago that was.

“I feel like I’m an old person because they don’t even play [the boy bands I used to listen to] on the radio anymore,” said Kyerra Weldon, 20, double major in communication studies and theater. “It’s funny how our generation has changed so quickly—when you were little you thought like, ‘this song would be on forever!’ but as you get older you think, ‘what happened to the songs I used to listen to?’ They’re like old school records now.”

For some students, these songs were a source of positivity growing up.

“A song in particular that takes me back is Destiny Child’s ‘I’m A Survivor,’” said Maria Gonzalez, 23, double major in marketing and design. “That is one of the songs that I really liked. I feel like the lyrics encouraged you in a way to have a stronger personality. And I felt like that was the kind of song that I wanted to hear especially while growing up when things were harsh. I really liked that song and I still do—if I were to hear it again I’d be like, ‘oh, it takes me back!’”

Weldon and Gonzalez both discussed the positive female role models they found in girl groups and their relatable music.

“When I was having a problem,” Weldon said. “I’d turn on Destiny’s Child or TLC and I’d find my answers.”

The concept of musical groups is not as a popular as it once was. There are more artists aspiring to be the next Justin Bieber than there are ones trying to form the next TLC.

“I think groups are dying,” Weldon said. “It’s just solo artists now.”

To some, this decline in music groups reflects the changing mentality society has.

“I think it has something to do with how everybody wants to do something for and by themselves,” Weldon said. “It’s not about what ‘we’ did, it’s what ‘I’ did. Now in society everybody’s competing—in reality or celebrity world. We compete, like we compete in college. I think it’s just how our society has changed.”

While there are still a few prominent boy bands and girl groups today, students recognize it is younger singers for a younger demographic. This change in focus reflects in the subject matter and perceived quality of the songs.

“I don’t really see older groups anymore and I miss it. The groups out now don’t really appeal to me,” Gonzalez said. “Songs these days, while you can find certain songs that are good, there’s a tremendous change. As someone that got to live through both sides, I think older songs have more meaning in the lyrics than they do now.”

Gonzalez recalled a recent time when “4 Page Letter” by Aaliyah was on the radio in her car. She said the 1997 song made her nostalgic while her younger brother found the slow-paced melody and romantic lyrics weird.

“I felt like he didn’t understand and I was like, ‘you wouldn’t understand, you’re a 2000s baby,” Gonzalez said.

Students consider the lack of complexity in some of today’s popular music as one of the reasons why it does not appeal to them as much.

“Songs these days don’t make you think, you just sing them,” Weldon said. “You don’t really get artists that challenge you. Older groups like Outkast made you think.”

While both the popularity and existence of girl groups and boy bands has waned, the memory of their music and its positive influence will remain.

“There are groups I will always remember and they will never go away,” Weldon said. “They’re still good music. You listen to their music and it just takes you back to a place where you’re happy.”