meta-script2022 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Rock |
2022 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Rock
(Clockwise from left): James Hetfield of Metallica, Starcrawler's Arrow de Wilde, Rage Against The Machine, Amy Taylor of Amyl & the Sniffers, Turnstile's Brendan Yates

Photos: Michael Hickey/Getty Images; Gus Stewart/Redferns; David Wolff-Patrick/Redferns; Gie Knaeps/Getty Images; Josh Brasted/FilmMagic


2022 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Rock

Our concept of and interest in various forms of rock is expanding. Whatever rock is, it’s not dead, and has rounded up five trends that attest to the strong pulse of rock music in 2022.

GRAMMYs/Dec 30, 2022 - 06:37 pm

Can rock 'n' roll be defined as the loud blues- and guitar-based stylings purveyed by everyone from the Rolling Stones to Greta Van Fleet? Perhaps it's the smart, Brit-punk energy of Idles, or the lush new wave-alt-rock stylings of Phoenix? Or maybe rock is really in the grooves of stoner/doom band Windhand, or classic thunder of NWOBHM icons Iron Maiden?

In a word, yes.

Established radio formats and charts have long organized and codified an ever-increasing amount of bands, artists and songs. But that organization is a trap, making it necessary to divide rock  — sometimes randomly and incorrectly — into pigeon holes. Terrestrial and satellite radio and streaming service playlists remain divided, creating categories such as active rock, classic rock, or Adult Alternative. Yet these categories inevitably leave out key bands and songs, or include questionable entries.

In reality, listeners aren’t bound to genre as in the past. Today’s music world is proof positive that as lines blur, our concept of and interest in various forms of rock is expanding. An arena might see the fans at a Rage Against The Machine or Ghost show coming back on a different night to see Harry Styles or Rhianna.

The colloquial expression "I know it when I see it" (first used as a threshold test for obscenity in a 1964 Supreme Court case!) could also be applied to an attempt to define rock. Whatever rock is, it’s not dead, and these five trends that attest to the strong pulse of rock music in 2022.

Girl Power Makes A Comeback

Although powerful women like Lizzo and Lady Gaga top the pop charts — female representation is more scarce in the higher echelons of the rock world. While Lzzy Hale of Halestorm and Taylor Momsen of the Pretty Reckless play with the boys at the big venues, a new wave of rock bands featuring women and all-female bands are bubbling up, claiming their power.

From Los Angeles comes punk-glam-pop-rock powerhouse lineup Starcrawler, fronted by bold changeling Arrow De Wilde. On the darker City of Angels tip is the heavy charm of "satanic doo-wop" band Twin Temple, who made major inroads opening arena shows for Ghost. Also making noise from SoCal are garage-rock trio L.A. Witch, self-described "California doom boogie" band Death Valley Girls, disarming old-soul singer Lauren Ruth Ward, punk singer/guitarist Suzi Moon, and a host of other creatively bold women.

NYC is home to the firebrand vocalists of SuSu (Liza Colby, Kia Warren) and Woodstock, NY birthed fuzzy punk weirdos the Bobby Lees. Elsewhere, Australia's  Amyl & The Sniffers bring propulsive, in-your-face songs like "Guided by Angels" and ‘Hertz." Other shining lights include former Melvins collaborator and bilingual powerhouse Teri Gender Bender, plus plenty of young women making noise, like Pinkshift. While punk schoolgirls the Linda Lindas owe more to X than the Runaways, their cohort gives hope that the kids are alright.   

Classics Rock The Small Screen

Rock, mainstream and otherwise, helped make some of the coolest television shows even better in 2022. "Stranger Things" gave the 36-year-old Metallica song "Master of Puppets" new life among a younger crowd. (During their Lollapalooza set, Metallica paid tribute to the sci-fi show, and jammed with actor Joseph Quinn backstage.)

The Cramps’ goth-kitsch stylings made an appearance on TV sets via Tim Burton’s "Wednesday." The titular Wednesday Addams character danced her way into weird-girl hall of fame with the lo-fi legends’ 1981 version of "Goo Goo Muck." (And let’s not forget Ms. Addams' stellar cello version of the Stones’ "Paint It Black.")

The psycho-billy/horror-punk track was streamed on-demand over 2 million times in the U.S. — a more than 8,650 percent increase from the average 47 weeks before this year, Billboard reported. While it’s not quite Kate Bush-in-"Stranger Things"-numbers, it’s a nice bump that indicates a new generation of listeners for the wild and wooly lo-fi legends.

Other 2022 small-screen rock surprises include the sci-fi German epic period drama 1899, which uses a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s "White Rabbit" as its theme music. In an interesting anachronistic approach, the surreal period show uses songs that wouldn’t be created for more than six decades. The classic rock cuts include "Child in Time" by Deep Purple, Echo and the Bunnymen’s "The Killing Moon" and Black Sabbath’s "The Wizard." The sometimes-subtle song use certainly led to Shazams from kids and cheers from older folks.

Festivals Continue To Diversify

Once upon a time (not that long ago!) Ozzfest and Family Values were the "metal" festivals, Lollapalooza ruled the alternative nation, and rarely would the twain meet. (In a nod to the times, Ozzfest held a free, online-only virtual 2022 version that didn’t exactly draw raves from rock fans.) But 2022 saw the continuation of a sea change, with heaviness becoming the common denominator in a variety of festivals.

As demonstrated by Metallica at Lollapalooza 2022, and Nine Inch Nails and Slipknot billed alongside KISS and Red Hot Chili Peppers at the four-day Louder Than Life fest in Kentucky, sub-genres of industrial, metal, glam and alt-funk are meshing with ever-increasing ease. At Psycho Las Vegas, thrash band Suicidal Tendencies were billed alongside Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, while Wu-Tang Rapper GZA headlined a night that also featured black metal group Mayhem.

Vegas was also a destination in 2022 for the inaugural ‘90s and ‘early-2000s When We Were Young Festival, which served up nostalgia (and a few contemporary acts) from 64 of the biggest names in pop-punk, emo and hardcore. The sold-out event featured performances by My Chemical Romance, Avril Lavigne, AFI and Dashboard Confessional — acts which, back in the day, were often seen as reflecting separate subgenres.

Diverse rock festivals will continue in 2023 with the inaugural Sick New World festival. Set for May, the festival will feature bands once in the "nu metal"-plus genre such as System Of A Down, Korn, Deftones and Incubus alongside more diverse groups like Evanescence, GRAMMY-nominated hardcore hitmakers Turnstile, Chevelle, Mr. Bungle, Placebo, Spiritbox, and the Sisters of Mercy.

A Reignited Rage

Rage Against The Machine were one of the bigger bands that reunited for a tour in 2022 — joining the ranks of Pantera, the Mars Volta, Biohazard, Yellowcard, God Forbid, Roxy Music, the Gaslight Anthem, Taproot, and Sunny Day Real Estate.

But their tour was a long time coming. Rage first announced dates for a reunion tour in 2020  — their first full-length world jaunt in 20 years — but were sidelined by COVID. As the pandemic  raged on, racial and political unrest gripped America and the world, making Rage’s political musical messages in songs like "Killing in the Name" as relevant as ever.

The bright side? Rage’s self-titled debut (which celebrated its 30th anniversary in November) jumped back on to the Billboard 200 charts. So when the quartet played their first concert in 11 years on July 9, 2022 in East Troy, Wisconsin, hopes were high — and fan expectations were more than met. Yet two days after the tour began, singer Zach De La Rocha injured his leg; one month later, they canceled the European leg of their tour on doctor’s orders, and the remaining shows on the 2023 North American leg of the tour were scuttled due to the severity of de la Rocha's injury.

Rage closed things out with an incendiary three-night stand at Madison Square Garden beginning Aug. 11. De La Rocha was carried onstage by crew members and sang seated on an amp — but he brought the noise.

Backing Tracks Get The Spotlight

As metal and rock stalwarts continue to perform into their 60s and 70s (Mick Jagger turns 80 in 2023), fans still demand that their heroes sound like they did in their heyday, so it’s likely they might need some assistance. While it’s been a not-so-hidden secret that Ozzy used singer Robert Mason, hidden offstage, to supplement his vocals, bands like Aerosmith make backing tracks less of a secret, using singing keyboard players.

In October, a Twitter war began after Falling in Reverse canceled an Illinois festival gig, citing lost laptops. Reverse's Ronnie Radke posted an explanatory video message on TikTok where he said the band had "no other option" to cancel, because "as a band in 2022, you need your laptops. It's like driving a car without an engine."

Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx jumped online to agree with the use of backing tracks, but Sirius XM DJ/author Eddie Trunk was astonished. "First I heard about this I thought it was a joke to wind me up. How much longer are fans, promoters , media, just going to accept the epidemic of live rock shows… not really being live?"

Former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach, a veteran of Broadway, concurred with Trunk, while Radke tweeted at the metal DJ, writing: "you wanna talk hella s— about laptops but go watch kiss lip sync, Steven Tyler plays the piano then half way through the song he stands on top of piano while it sill [sic] plays yet here we are acting like they all don't use tracks you f—ing idiot."

Blackie Lawless, whose 40-year celebration tour with metal band W.A.S.P. earned rave reviews, admitted to using backing tracks. "If I'm a fan and I'm coming to a show, I want that thing to sound as good as it can," he said during a fan meet and greet that was posted on YouTube."When we go into a studio — and let me clarify that statement; that's me singing — we do choruses, we double, triple, quadruple the vocals," he said. "When I listened to live YouTube [recordings of our shows] and we weren't doing that, it sounded thin. When we started supplementing it, it sounded better.

"If I'm a fan and I'm coming to a show, I want that thing to sound as good as it can," he continued. "There are other bands — the QUEENs of the world — they cannot duplicate 24 vocals at one time. That's what they do on those records. If you want it to sound like those records, you've gotta have some help."

Even if Falling in Reverse got blowback from peers, their transparency is becoming the new norm. It brings the fans closer to their heroes, mere mortals who struggle with addiction, have personal lives, and occasionally use backing tracks.

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Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction on stage at Lollapalooza 2003.
Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction at Lollapalooza 2003.

Photo: J. Shearer/WireImage/GettyImages


'Lolla: The Story of Lollapalooza' Recounts How An Alt Rock Fest Laid The Blueprint For Bonnaroo & More

A new three-part documentary on Paramount+ traces the origin of Lollapalooza from its early days as a traveling alt-rock showcase initially conceived as a farewell tour for Jane's Addiction, to the three-day Chicago-based festival that exists today.

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 09:27 pm

Few music festivals have had the cultural impact of Lollapalooza. 

Conceived in 1991 as a farewell tour for Jane's Addiction by lead singer Perry Farrell, the festival quickly became a traveling showcase for alt-rock and counterculture. Its eclectic lineups, which also included punk, metal, and hip-hop acts, helped define a generation's musical tastes. 

A new, three-episode documentary, "Lolla: The Story of Lollapalooza," takes an in-depth look at the festival's journey over three decades. From its early days of bringing together alt acts including Nine Inch Nails, Living Colour, Pearl Jam, and the Beastie Boys, Lollapalooza has evolved into what it is today: a three-day festival based in Chicago's Grant Park since 2005. The festival remains an enduring celebration of alternative music.

"Lolla" explores how Lollapalooza defied expectations by both embracing and helping shape the emerging youth culture of the '90s — a rebellious, introspective shift from the flashy excess of the '80s. The docuseries highlights the festival's influence through a trove of archival footage and exclusive interviews with Lollapalooza co-founders, show promoters, bookers, MTV hosts. Of course, "Lolla" features a who's who of '90s-era rockers — including Farrell himself, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, Donita Sparks from L7, Ice-T

To watch "Lolla" is to open a time capsule for alternative culture, one where the stage becomes a symbol of generational change. Read on for five takeaways from the documentary, which is now streaming on Paramount+. 

The Reading Festival Served As Inspiration

For their farewell tour, Jane's Addiction decided to emulate the UK Reading Festival's approach to curating live music and alternative acts in a multi-day, open-air forum (where bands like the Buzzcocks and Pixies played to crowds of 40,000). 

Jane's Addiction had been scheduled to play the 1990 Reading Festival, but Farrell partied too much the night before after a club gig and lost his voice, and the band had to cancel. Drummer Stephen Perkins and future Lollapalooza co-founder Marc Geiger decided to check out the event anyway, which planted the seed for the future tour. 

"Reading was a cornucopia of artists, and scenes, and curation, and it was such a vibe," recalled Geiger in an interview scene from the doc. "I remember saying, 'Perry, we have to do it.'"

Farrell was game after missing his chance to see Reading first-hand. So Lollapalooza co-founders Geiger, Don Muller and Ted Gardner, who was also Jane's Addiction band manager, got to work emulating the Reading model. In addition to live music, Farrell wanted something "completely subversive" with booths to engage festival goers with everything from henna tattoos and art galleries, to nonprofit and political organizations like Greenpeace, PETA, the Surfrider Foundation, and even voter registration for the Rock The Vote campaign. The result was art and activism combined with commerce.

Lolla Was Born From The Death Of Jane's Addiction

Although Jane's Addiction had a big buzz with their third album, Ritual de lo Habitual, the band was on the edge of  dissolution. "We really couldn't stand each other," admitted Farrell. Ready for his next act, Farrell saw the opportunity to end on a high note with Jane's Addiction. "The best work we did, we left on the stage at Lolla," he said in the doc. 

In the early '90s, alternative acts were not selling out massive venues. Organizers were on edge, hoping fans would buy tickets and show up to not one, but 28 U.S. tour dates featuring the seven-act lineup for the first-ever Lollapalooza.

What nobody expected was the watershed success. The first show saw fans sweat it out to see their favorite acts in Phoenix, on a day with temperatures well over 100 degrees. Nine Inch Nails' equipment melted in the heat, leading the band to destroy their failing gear before walking off the stage. 

Despite initial hiccups, the tour wasn't hindered. Lollapalooza's first year sold out in a majority of venues holding 15-18,000 people, driven largely by word-of-mouth and favorable coverage by MTV.  

"I think everybody knew and ultimately felt, 'wow, I'm sort of lucky to be here — I'm part of something,'" recalled Geiger in the doc. "It was bigger than anything these artists or fans had seen at that time."

Lollapalooza '92 further mixed genres on the main stage — like gangsta rap (Ice Cube), grunge (Pearl Jam) and shoegaze (Lush) — while greatly expanding the line-up on a side stage upon which Farrell and Perkins introduced their new band Porno For Pyros, alongside many other acts. Lollapalooza's model was born. 

Early Years Embraced Racial Inclusivity, But Lagged Gender-Wise

Right from the start, Lollapalooza organizers mixed up the bill beyond white artists that traditionally headlined rock concerts long before and after Jimi Hendrix performed at Woodstock and Monterey Pop. Part of why Lollapalooza thrived is the inclusion of bands like Ice-T's Body Count, Fishbone, and Living Colour — favorite headliners during the early tours.

Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello credited Living Colour with helping build "the alternative arc" and opening doors for Rage. "Without Living Colour, Rage Against The Machine doesn't get a record deal. Ever," Morello said. 

A big moment came near the end of the '91 tour when Ice-T and Farrell squared off to cover Sly and the Family Stone's "Don't Call Me ******, Whitey" in which they tersely trade verses, then end up tangoing across the stage. It was a provocative performance that grabbed headlines and the audience's attention months after the high profile police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. In '92, Soundgarden showed solidarity with Body Count by performing their controversial track "Cop Killer" with their guitarist Ernie C onstage in Miami. 

While Lolla embraced racial diversity, the early line-ups were male-dominated. Lone female act Siouxsie and the Banshees were a favorite in '91 and later Lollapalooza main stage artists, like Sonic Youth, Babes In Toyland, Lush, and the Breeders — which had more if not all female members — were outnumbered by their male counterparts.

Read more: 6 Female-Fronted Acts Reviving Rock: Wet Leg, Larkin Poe, Gretel Hänlyn & More

Donita Sparks noted that L7 got booked in '94 only after they fired off a bluntly worded fax to the organizers. "We got the offer," Sparks said, "but we had to push the issue. And we had to fight for it. 'Cause that's how much we wanted to be on Lollapalooza, and more importantly, that's how much we felt we deserved to be on Lollapalooza.

Female artists would eventually receive their Lolla dues, with Billie Eilish, Lorde, HAIM, Miley Cyrus and Karol G performing as festival headliners, and artists like Lady Gaga starting out as side stage artists before exploding in popularity and returning to headline the fest a few short years later. 

It Became A Victim Of Its Own Success

Lollapalooza from years '91 to '93 were the purest in terms of alt-rock acts, but as the event drew a wider range of talent and demand, it began to suffer a bit of an identity crisis. After all, it's hard to be a beacon for the underground scene once that culture is above ground.

By Lolla '94, attendance set records and alt-rock had hit the mainstream while grunge peaked and critics bemoaned its growing conventional status. Former second stage booker John Rubeli revealed that Nirvana turned down a $6 million offer to headline the '94 tour because of frontman Kurt Cobain's fear of selling out. Cobain's suicide a few short weeks later changed the scene. 

In '95, the festival returned with more indie bands on the mainstage, but some were eclipsed by bigger artists like Coolio, who drew a bigger crowd to the parking lot side stage. Increased popularity drove commercial sponsorship, and the event became more expensive. Ticket sales dropped. Then in '96, Farrell quit his involvement with the festival for a year in protest over the booking of Metallica, whose aggressive music and audience he felt were out of step with his vision.

"I felt disrespected," Farrell said. "I'm not putting this thing together to make the most money. I'm putting this thing together to make the most joy."

Upon his return in 1997, Farrell's inclusion of electronic acts like the Orbital and the Prodigy were, to some ears, ahead of the curve. The festival then went on a six-year hiatus. 

Lollapalooza returned on shaky legs for its 2003 tour, which included Audioslave, Incubus, the Donnas, and the reunion of Jane's Addiction. But it was truly reborn in 2005 as a three-day event in Chicago through concert promoters C3 Presents (who co-executive produced the "Lolla" doc).  Admittedly, some of the 21st century headliners like Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Journey, and Paul McCartney would never have fit the '90s festival bill. 

Times have changed and, today, the festival has embraced its conventional success while retaining its original genre-spanning reach with the Killers, Melanie Martinez, Skrillex, and Tyler, the Creator included on this summer's lineup.

Lolla Was A Model For Coachella, Bonnaroo, And Beyond

Prior to the arrival of Lollapalooza, rock festivals were usually single weekend events that took place in a fixed location, like Woodstock in '69, Steve Wozniak's US Festival in '82 and '83, and European festivals like Reading. "I just think it's the first American, truly eclectic concert series since Woodstock," said Ice-T. "And even Woodstock wasn't as eclectic because Woodstock was pretty much all rock."

Lollapalooza's successful tour format inspired other popular tours and live events, especially in the mid-'90s. During the festival's break during the late '90s and early 00's, niche festivals like Ozzfest, Vans Warped Tour, and Lilith Fair stole the show. These festivals not only continued Lollapalooza's legacy by bringing diverse genres to cities across the country, but transformed the live music scene into a cultural phenomenon. 

While epic, genre-spanning weekend festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo have been raging since the early aughts, Lollapalooza first proved that a seemingly radical idea could grow and thrive. Incorporating a mix of rock, hip-hop, electronic, and alternative acts, inclusivity and mobility became a festival blueprint. Today, Lollapalooza is tapping into international audiences and local music scenes with versions of the festival in Argentina, Berlin, Stockholm, Paris, and even Mumbai. 

Lollapalooza's success proves that the media and music industry often don't realize the size and passion of certain scenes and subcultures until they're brought together in the right setting. By uniting diverse musical acts and their fans, Lollapalooza highlights eclectic talent but also shows just how much people crave that representation and diversity.

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Metallica - Live 2003 - James Hetfield - Kirk Hammett
(L-R) James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett of Metallica performing in 2003

Photo: Brian Rasic/Getty Images


5 Revealing Facts About Metallica's 'St. Anger': 20 Years On, The Controversial Album Sounds Better Than You Think

Get beyond the snark about the snare sound and the lack of guitar solos, and 'St. Anger' sounds like a refreshing mid-career reset for the heavy metal lifers.

GRAMMYs/Jun 5, 2023 - 06:43 pm

Since its release in 2003, there's been a consistent (pingy) drumbeat of chatter about Metallica's St. Anger.

The quixotic snare sound — which bassist and producer Bob Rock claimed he spent about 15 minutes crafting — is central to the St. Anger discourse; a Google search for "metallica st. anger snare" yields about 661,000 results. As for why the eight-time GRAMMY winners uncharacteristically nixed guitar solos? That question yields millions of hits.

Then there's the 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster, one of the most uncomfortably revealing portraits of a rock band engulfed in a mid-life crisis. Memorable moments abound, but for one scene alone — drummer Lars Ulrich's Middle Earth-looking dad hearing a take, and telling his son to "delete that" — the film is a must-watch.

Given the controversial status St. Anger has accrued, it may seem like the metal community may want to, well, delete it. While your mileage may vary, this hotly debated album shouldn't be consigned to any internet-snark dustbin.

Listening with the benefit of temporal distance, tracks like "Frantic," "Some Kind of Monster" and "The Unnamed Feeling" sound raw and alive — perhaps of their time, given its adjacency to then-ascendant nü metal. Ultimately, they conjure the sensation of a reset, rather than a capitulation to trends. 

Today, St. Anger seems to hew less to the reputation it's engineered, and more to Rock's characterization of the thing: "To me, this album sounds like four guys in a garage getting together and writing rock songs. There was really no time to get amazing performances out of James. We liked the raw performances… we just did it, boom, and that was it."

To mark the 20th anniversary of St. Anger, here are five facts about the album.

Metallica Started The Album In An Old Army Barracks

By 2001, Metallica hadn't released an album of original material in almost five years, since 1997's Reload (a follow-up to the previous year's Load). 

While these sessions ground to a halt due to personal upheaval and frontman James Hetfield heading to rehab — and the band later continued work at a new studio in San Rafael, California — this no-nonsense setting befitted the unvarnished quality of the music.

Bassist Jason Newsted Left The Band Early On

Newsted was the second bassist for Metallica, after the tragic 1986 death of Cliff Burton. Newsted's departure came the month they began St. Anger, which destabilized progress on the album.

"Due to private and personal reasons, and the physical damage that I have done to myself over the years while playing the music that I love, I must step away from the band," Newsted said in a statement. "This is the most difficult decision of my life, made in the best interest of my family, myself, and the continued growth of Metallica."

St. Anger Represented Intense Catharsis For James Hetfield

As Hetfield put it, St. Anger was a valve for which to release intense psychological pressure.

"There's a lot of passion in this. There's two years of condensed emotion in this," he told Metal Edge magazine at the time. "We've gone through a lot of personal changes, struggles, epiphanies, it's deep. It's so deep lyrically and musically… It's so hard to talk about, you really need to hear it."

Accordingly, St. Anger is nothing if not visceral — and two decades haven't sanded off those sharp edges.

As St. Anger's Recording Wound Down, Robert Trujillo Joined On Bass

While producer Bob Rock recorded the bass parts on St. Anger, his instrumental involvement 

would prove to be transitional; Robert Trujillo joined Metallica on bass in February 2001. 

Having played on all ensuing Metallica albums, 2008's Death Magnetic, 2016's Hardwired… to Self Destruct and 2023's 72 Seasons — all of which were warmly received by critics — Trujillo is now the longest-serving bassist in Metallica.

Critics Were Polarized, Then As With Now

While some contemporaneous critics knocked St. Anger as everything from "an ungodly mess" to having "underwent more processing than cat food," not everyone characterized it that way. 

Allmusic called it a "punishing, unflinching document of internal struggle"; Rolling Stone said "there's an authenticity to St. Anger's fury that none of the band's rap-metal followers can touch."

As for the band themselves, they've seemingly come to accept St. Anger, warts and all. 

"There are things I would like to change on some of the records, but it gives them so much character that you can't change them," Hetfield said in 2017. "St. Anger could use a little less tin snare drum, but those things are what make those records part of our history."

Unflinching, daring and unpolished, St. Anger is one of the ultimate "line in the sand" albums in heavy music history. Whatever your perception of this ugly-duckling entry is, take its 20-year anniversary as an opportunity to revisit its fury with fresh ears.

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Wednesday Addams dance scene still
Jenny Ortega as Wednesday Addams, doing the now-viral dance to the Cramps' "Goo Goo Muck"



From "Stranger Things" To "Beef": How TV Shows Are Giving New Life To Pop Songs From The Past

From '70s love ballads to aughts pop-rock singles, television is leaning into nostalgia by incorporating decades-old pop songs into their narratives. Check out seven tracks that hit TV series ushered back into the mainstream for a new wave of music fans.

GRAMMYs/May 16, 2023 - 01:16 pm

Thanks to the prevalence of streaming platforms and social media, it's become easier than ever for a song to be catapulted to the top of the charts. And combining hot pop tracks with must-see TV is a recipe for a viral moment — and a boost in sales for music makers. 

For some artists, licensing music to a popular show is one of the fastest ways to rack up streams and downloads, attract a wider audience, and secure a new stream of revenue. sLuckily for music makers who hope to land a sync deal on a major streamer, the market is thriving. In the first half of 2022, synchronization royalties were valued at $178 million according to the Recording Industry Association of America's mid-year report — a $50 million increase compared to the same period in 2020.  

While sync licensing can offer exposure to new talent, it can also introduce older artists to a new wave of fans — see Harry Nilsson's dozen or so uses in "Russian Doll," which brought the singer renewed attention 25 years after his death — or elevate a song from obscurity, as with Malvina Reynolds, whose 1962 song "Little Boxes" became the theme song for the Emmy-winning Showtime dramedy "Weeds."

As syncs gain ground in the music industry, expect more pop hits from yesteryear to make a viral comeback — and some, like Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill," may break world records in the process. Check out seven pop tracks that experienced a resurgence on TV. Spoilers ahead.

"Running Up That Hill" Unlocked The Key To Survival

From memes of Eleven stealing waffles to epic Halloween displays, the hit Netflix show "Stranger Things" has had its fair share of viral success across social media — including breathing life into classic rock songs from the '80s. When music supervisor Nora Felder was tasked with finding the perfect song for the showdown between Vecna and Max in the season 4 episode "Dear Billy," Kate Bush's alt-rock classic "Running Up That Hill" was high on the list. 

"It immediately struck me with its deep chords of the possible connection to Max’s emotional struggles and took on more significance as Bush’s song marinated in my conscious awareness," Fedler told Variety in 2022. 

The song, which peaked at No. 30 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1985, was an instant hit among "Stranger Things" fans. Shortly after season 4 hit Netflix, Bush landed the first Top 10 Billboard 100 hit of her career; the song reentered the charts and peaked at No. 4. And on the heels of this milestone, the visionary singer will take her place alongside the greatest artists in music history when she gets inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this year. 

"Long Long Time" Underscored A Post-Apocalyptic Love Story

Toward the end of one of the most touching episodes of 2023, HBO's post-apocalyptic drama "The Last of Us" brought fans to tears when "Long Long Time" crackled to life on an old truck radio, punctuating the love story between two beloved characters. Linda Ronstadt's GRAMMY-nominated 1970 ballad of enduring unrequited love received a huge bump on the streaming, racking up a 4,000-percent increase in streams on Spotify alone.

"I knew that song needed to hit certain things about longing and aching and endlessly unrequited love," Craig Mazin, TLOS director and executive producer, told Variety. "I could not find the right song for the life of me. I was trying and trying, and then I texted my friend Seth Rudetsky, who is the host of SiriusXM on Broadway and a savant. I told him, ‘Here’s all the things I need,’ and two seconds later: Linda Ronstadt, 'Long, Long Time.' I was like, there it is. That’s it!"

"Drive" Highlighted Characters' Motivations, On & Off The Road

When selecting a song for "Beef" — a show about a pair of elder millennials on a mission to destroy each other's lives over a road-rage incident — Incubus' breakthrough single "Drive" might not be the first track to come to mind. Even though the characters are introduced to each other while driving, music supervisor Tiffany Anders and "Beef" creator Lee Sung Jin chose the song because it touches on how fear can drive a person's behaviors and actions. 

Anders and the creators used the 1999 track in two different ways. First, Danny (Steven Yeun) offers a compelling performance in front of an audience of adoring parishioners. As the credits roll, Danny's cover transitions into the track by Incubus. Thanks to the sync, "Drive" received a 15-percent bump in streams while quadrupling its weekly digital downloads shortly after the series launched on Netflix. After a clip of Yeun's performance went viral, Incubus lead singer Brandon Boyd uploaded his playful reaction to the cover on TikTok.  

"Cornflake Girl" Drew Lyrical Connections In A '90s Teen Drama

From props and dialogue to a stacked musical lineup, the Showtime drama "Yellowjackets" is a love letter to the 1990s. The gripping, suspense series follows the aftermath of a plane crash that leaves an all-girl high school soccer team stranded in the middle of nowhere with a narrative that unfolds in 1996 and the present day. To reinforce the nostalgia, the series brought in a slew of actors from hit '90s movies to play present-day versions of the distressed high schoolers: Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci and Lauren Ambrose. 

The sounds of the '90s are also given new life in the series. Among them, Tori Amos' 1994 single "Cornflake Girl" was deployed during a pivotal scene in the season 2 opener. (The song also closes out an episode of the A24 revenge comedy "Beef.") "The lyrics in connection with the ending of the first episode felt like a befitting underlying message," music supervisor Nora Felder, who also revived Bush's "Running Up That Hill," told Variety.  

"I’ve always felt that the meanings behind Tori Amos’ lyrics tend to be multi-layered, which adds to their fascination. When I first heard 'Cornflake Girl,' my take on its core meaning was that it deals primarily with betrayals between women," Felder continued. "'Cornflake Girl' adds to the anticipation of things to come with these rich multilayered and downright compelling female characters, our Yellowjackets."

"I Was Made For Lovin' You" Brought Disco To The Battlefield 

Released in 1979, KISS' platinum-selling hit marked a new era for the group and was initially met with criticism for featuring elements of disco, instead of the band's usual hard rock. Decades later, "The Umbrella Academy" ushered the track back into the pop-culture conversation — for an epic fight scene between a group of assassins known as the Swedes and series' heroes Lila, Diego and Five. 

More than four decades after its release, "I Was Made for Lovin' You" received over 4 million U.S. streams in August 2020, a month after the Emmy-nominated series' launch.

Based on the graphic novels created by My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way, the Netflix superhero series is known for repurposing pop anthems for fight scenes. Included in the soundtrack are They Might Be Giants' "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" in the pilot and Frank Sinatra's "My Way" in the season 2 opener.

"Master Of Puppets" Summoned The Underworld In The Most Metal Way Possible

Season 4 of "Stranger Things" had another knock-out musical moment, courtesy of GRAMMY-winning heavy metal rockers Metallica. In the season finale, edgy fan-favorite Eddie Munson attempts to draw Vecna's underlings' attention in the Upside Down by playing the title track of the band's 1986 album as loudly as possible.   

"It was another one of those ‘it has to be this song,’ moments," Felder told Variety. "This part of the story was anticipated to be a pivotal and especially hair-raising scene in which Eddie heroically stood tall for the fight of his life. I believe the Duffer Brothers felt that playing ‘Master of Puppets’ throughout the extended scene was the clear choice. No other song was discussed further, and we jumped in to clear it straight away."

Metallica embraced the song's resurgence and expressed gratitude for the wave of love being shared across social media for the influential thrash metal banger. "It’s an incredible honor to be such a big part of Eddie’s journey and to once again be keeping company with all of the other amazing artists featured in the show," the band said in a statement about the track which received a 400 percent bump in streams after the series launch. 

"Goo Goo Muck" Made Wednesday Addams Go Viral

This supernatural horror comedy follows the clever and morose Wednesday Addams as she tries to find the culprit behind a local murder spree while navigating the never-ending drama at Nevermore High. As with all great series about high schoolers, there's always peak drama at the school dance. Wednesday's spin on the trope took social media by storm thanks to a dance sequence set to the Cramps' 1981 psychobilly cover of "Goo Goo Muck." 

Across TikTok and YouTube, fans donned their best Wednesday getup to recreate her dance routine, giving the novelty song about a monster that lurks at night a major bump in streams and a new lease on life. According to Billboard, two weeks after the show hit the streaming platform, listeners in the U.S. streamed "Goo Goo Muck" more than 2 million times.  

The Expanding Universe of Music Sync: How It Works, What Are The Opportunities

man at computer with headphones editing audio

Photo: Eduard Goricev / EyeEm


The Expanding Universe of Music Sync: How It Works, Understanding The Opportunities

Sync is one of the hottest parts of the music industry today, offering new opportunities for songwriters and recording artists. In this explainer, unpacks the sync landscape, from different sync opportunities to how professionals get paid.

GRAMMYs/May 3, 2023 - 02:34 pm

The following article does not represent the opinions or recommendations of the Recording Academy or its staff. 

When Kate Bush’s "Running Up That Hill" was featured on a May 2022 episode of the popular Netflix streaming series "Stranger Things," the response was staggering. First released in 1985, "Running Up That Hill" re-entered the UK singles chart, eventually reaching the No. 2 spot. In the U.S., the song peaked at No. 3. Meanwhile, Spotify streams for the 37-year-old song increased by 9,900 percent in the U.S. alone.

The renewed runaway success of Bush’s signature tune might have been unexpected, but its use in "Stranger Things" was deliberate: The song was chosen to synchronize with the onscreen images. Grieving over the death of her brother, Sadie Sink’s character Max draws strength from repeated listens to the song.

Thanks to these kinds of uses of music, songwriters and artists are finding a potential new source of strength in their own careers. And that practice of song placement in motion pictures — music sync — is one of the hottest parts of the music industry today. 

Music sync offers new opportunities for songwriters and recording artists alike, whether they’re music industry veterans or young artists seeking to find their way in the music business landscape.

In its mid-year 2022 report on music revenue, the Recording Industry Association of America estimated the value of "synchronization royalties" for the first six months of the year at $178 million. That figure represents a 29.9 percent increase over the same period a year earlier. According to research service Music & Copyright, as much as 17 percent of all music publishing revenues now come from sync licensing.

What Are The Primary Markets & Emerging Opportunities For Music Sync?

The bulk of music synchronization opportunities come from the traditional markets of film, television, advertisements and gaming. Catalog music from established artists, contemporary material and new music written specifically to sync with the images on screen can all become key components in these audiovisual media. 

Film and television applications account for the majority of sync uses in recent years; that growth tracks with the significant upswing in streamed content from services like Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Peacock, and Paramount+. Figures on the use of sync in gaming aren’t as easily available, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s greater than thought, and growing, too.

Rich Robinson of Warner Chappell Music notes that his company has observed an industry-wide increase both in sync content and in the variety of platforms for it, though more traditional media remain strong. "We've definitely seen a growth in TV over the longer term," he says, adding that the market for sync licensing in advertising can be volatile. "How [much] brands spend on advertising is intrinsically linked to the economic climate."

However, "media these days is so expansive," says Sam Loughlin, Creative Licensing & Production Services Manager at digital music distributor Music Gateway. "Podcasts, audiobooks and e-sports are huge these days. And obviously, there’s social media as well."

Global Sync Licensing Trend Report, a 2022 white paper commissioned by music licensing platform Songtradr and Digital Music News, also identified new placement opportunities in gaming, long-form web content and fitness platforms.

Wendy Griffiths, owner of sync licensing agency Truly Music, adds motion picture trailers and TV show promos to the list. Separate from the films and programs themselves, these works have their own sync needs. The market for promos of shows on various subscription streaming services are now as big of a sync market as TV or advertisements, she says.

TV network promos and the world of sports each have their own music sync needs, too. "There are so many opportunities for artists in the sports world," says Griffiths, "because they license a high volume of music." Robbie Hancock, a singer/songwriter and head of artist networking community Sync or Swim Music, adds the use of instrumental cues and slot machine music. "And overhead music: I’ve gotten music licensed for burger joints and shopping malls."

How Will Sync Be Used In Future Applications?

Technology is also driving the widening of the market for sync. Complex and evolving concepts like the metaverse (virtual- and augmented-reality experiences), web3 (a next-iteration version of the internet that employs token-based economic models) and NFTs (digital identifiers that can be sold or traded) are finding their way into modern life and popular culture — and sync opportunities are developing alongside them. 

"We’re watching the development of the metaverse closely and what that will bring in terms of more sync opportunities," says Wende Crowley, Sony Music Publishing’s Senior VP of Creative Marketing, Film & TV. Robinson expresses a similar perspective and notes that at Warner Chappell, they’re following the growth in NFTs and other technologies, and the ways in which sync might figure into their futures.

Robinson points to so-called microsync or micro-licensing (for user-generated content like that found on TikTok) as another potential growth market sector. This form of sync didn't exist a decade ago.

"The industry is clearly trying to figure out how to monetize music in these metaverses and virtual worlds," notes Griffiths. And music synchronization is finding its way into those media.

Are Particular Artists Best Suited For Sync?

Music supervisors for film and TV typically provide a brief explaining their needs, and it’s the job of sync consultants to address those needs. In response, sync agents often seek to cultivate a roster of artists that’s as wide as it is deep.

For music synchronization in commercials, artists who have an existing following have an advantage, says Loughlin. But for many other sync applications, the sound and character of the music — and its suitability in a particular audiovisual context — is of greater importance than the name behind the music.

"There are probably ideal artists for different types of syncs," says Jon Mizrachi, Head of Sync at Brooklyn licensing agency Bodega Sync. "But I don't know that there's one particular kind of artist overall who's just great for everything." 

He explains that every use of sync is on a project by project basis, specific to the media in which the music will be used. "Something that's really great for ads could be terrible for film and TV," he says. "Something that's good for video games could be really bad for trailers."

"Songwriters who can write emotional music that will support scenes get placed more often," says Hancock. Music supervisors for film and television often look for "a song with universal lyrics [focused upon] one emotion." He says that such sync placements are characterized not by "the artist and the song being the star, but [instead] supporting a scene, the director's vision, or the actors on screen.

"The best suited sync artist would be one that is open to studying sync," Hancock says. "They realize that there's a lot that they still need to educate [themselves] on in order to get licenses in sync, whether they're going through labels, music publishers, music libraries or direct to music supervisors."

"Perhaps the most intriguing sync trend of 2021 was the clear-cut preference for music that accentuated the visual media at hand," concluded the Digital Music News white paper. And that accentuating quality can take many forms, depending on the context.

In the ad world, for example, Southern rock and Americana are hot. "Automotive brands sometimes want songs with a masculine, country-style voice," says Griffiths. When it comes to film and TV, she has noticed an increasing demand for international music. "We've made a concerted effort" in that area, she says, noting that her company has even established contacts in the Eastern bloc.

Griffiths notes that many ad agencies looking for music sync want "new, cool, edgy, discover-it-first" music. At the same time, sync opportunities are by no means all about new music. "Catalog is king," says Griffiths. Her company is seeing a "revitalization of catalog and classic tracks" from the 1950s through the ‘90s — a potential opportunity for artists who have been in the business for a while. "I jump on anything from [those eras], especially if it’s a hit or has a recognizable quality."

The 2022 white paper identified dance and electronic as the genres experiencing the most popularity in sync, followed by R&B, rock, hip-hop, blues and country. Not surprisingly – against a backdrop of a global pandemic – it also identified the most popular moods evoked by sync music as happy, hopeful and uplifting.

"With ever-expanding streaming content, we have more opportunities across all genres," says Crowley. "Much more [now] than previous years where there were distinct sounds and trends that tended to sync more than others. Now we're seeing equal opportunity across the board; from Americana to hip-hop, it’s all fair game."

What Should Artists Keep In Mind When Seeking Sync Opportunities?

There’s a growing contingent of songwriters and recording artists who choose to focus primarily on creating music for sync opportunities. Such artists are often characterized not by a specific sound or style; rather, their defining quality is versatility. 

Sam Loughlin, Creative Licensing & Production Services Manager at digital music distributor Music Gateway, believes that creating music in various genres is a good strategy for songwriters seeking to gain a foothold in the sync field, but he cautions against taking that approach too far.

"If someone has never written a rap track before, then they do it and it's not very good, obviously it's not going to compete with the guys that are doing rap day in and day out."

Most every industry professional interviewed for this story emphasizes one specific point. "There isn't really a right or wrong way to go about it as long as the music is authentic," says Loughlin. "Don’t chase a trend," concurs Wende Crowley, Sony Music Publishing’s Senior VP of Creative Marketing, Film & TV. "Authenticity is the key."

"The [first] things that I look for are quality production and quality songwriting, then a particular type of songwriting that’s not narrative or specific," says  Mizrachi. Lyrics that mention a person’s name, a place or a brand automatically limit their potential use in sync applications. "If a song is telling its own story, it can sometimes contradict the action that is going on in the scene," Crowley says. "The more general the lyrics, the more opportunity they will have to work [with the] picture."

Who Gets Paid For Sync Licensing, And How? 

The potential bragging rights and increased profile that can come from having one’s songs featured in a sync arrangement are significant. But there’s a bottom-line benefit as well, and it's important to understand how payment is structured in the world of music synchronization.

The two primary parties involved on the receiving end of sync payments are publishing rights holders and master rights holders. Publishing rights holders, explains Loughlin, "control the concept of the song: lyrics and melodies." Master rights holders control the recording itself.

As Mizrachi explains, the most common formula of distribution to those parties is 50/50, an arrangement known in the business as MFN ("Most Favored Nations"). But depending on the situation, each side can be subdivided among additional parties. 

"For a famous track, these rights will likely sit with a music publisher who represents the songwriters, and a record label that will own the recording," Sam Loughlin notes. "The publisher will take their share and distribute the rest to the songwriter or songwriters, based on their contribution percentages."

Mizrachi adds that owners of publishing rights may receive "two income streams if the production is aired on television: upfront fees for licensing (paid by the production) and additional back-end performance royalties" paid by the entity that aired it.

The master rights often belong to the artist, but again, other parties can be involved. A record label may have exclusive rights to the recording or even ownership of the master recordings per a record deal with the artist. Mizrachi takes a breath and adds, "The terms of such a deal vary and can be very complicated."

Loughlin notes additional important details that shouldn’t be overlooked. "For a cover recording, the master owner usually gets less." And for independent singer-songwriter-artists who handle their own publishing and aren’t signed to a label deal, "they may own 100 percent of their rights, meaning that they receive 100 percent of the publishing and master fees."

Griffiths notes that a band generally shares publishing equally have approval rights to the manner in which their songs are used; songwriters who own a small percentage of the copyright generally defer to the artist/band member with a larger share. As always, there’s an important and major exception: When an artist sells their catalog — as many classic artists have done of late — they give up those approval rights.

"If the artist wants to control the master and copyright, they need work-for-hire agreements with everyone contributing to the work," Hancock cautions. "That includes engineers and producers that they have hired." The alternative, he notes, is to cut those parties in as collaborators. In that case they, too, are entitled to a share.

Sorting out as many potential conflicts or complications as possible before pursuing sync opportunities is important, says Hancock. He encourages artists and songwriters to make sure their music is easy to clear for use. "Have a designation for power of attorney to ensure they only need to go to one person to license the music," he advises.

In film and television, music supervisors are often the people who make decisions regarding sync. "They want you to have your ducks in a row by pre-clearing your music before it even gets to them," Hancock emphasizes. "The last thing a music supervisor wants — especially if, say, the show is airing tomorrow — is to have to talk to five band members about the deal."

What Does The Future Of Sync Look (And Sound) Like?

The widespread demand for music synchronization means that music supervisors are on the lookout for music of most every kind. That means that artists who choose not to allow sync of their music could be met with a dismissive shrug. 

"If you're like, ‘I'm too cool to license my music,’ [for television]" Mizrachi explains, ". "There are going to be 20 other artists with music that can accomplish the same thing." 

British singer/songwriter Bishop Briggs has two albums, two EPs and a Billboard hit ("River," No. 3 on the U.S. Alternative Chart) to her credit' she's also found success in the world of music sync. According to online database, Briggs has placed 31 songs in 153 sync appearances. "Whenever my music gets synced, it feels like I get to be a tiny part of the storytelling of whichever moment it’s placed in," she tells

To date, Australian artist Tones & I has released one album, an EP and a dozen-plus singles including the worldwide No. 1 smash "Dance Monkey." Sync licensing is turning into a significant part of her career, too: 12 of her songs have shown up across more than 55 sync placements. "Sync gives [my songs] a whole new life, and a pathway for the music to reach further than imagined," she says.

A songwriter himself – and one with 1,500 successful sync placements – Hancock offers a bit of wisdom on the subject of music synchronization. "As musicians, we [should] do more of what we can control – which is make more music – and then trust our partners to place the music." 

And he urges artists to not let rejection discourage them. If a given song is passed over for a particular project, "It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it," he says. "It just means that it's not the right fit for that specific use, whether it's a film or TV show or documentary or commercial. Just keep going and keep putting out music."

"Big things are happening in the multibillion-dollar sync space," concludes the Digital Music News white paper. "And even bigger things are on the way." For artists interested in pursuing sync, the future looks bright. "I've been doing this for almost 20 years," says Mizrachi. "There are more sync opportunities now than there have ever been."

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