The 5 Worst Trends Started By the Class of '99
Chris Gray's write-up of the Brian Setzer Orchestra's "Christmas Rocks" show at the Arena Theatre a couple of weeks ago got me thinking. These days, the swing maestro seems to be comfortably settled into his own little niche in the music industry, playing swingin' Christmas carols to grown folks. But back in 1999, he was ridin' high on the pop charts. The Swing Revival was of the year's biggest trends, and Setzer was right on the cutting edge of a hot new look and sound.
Photo by Jason Wolter Brian Setzer strikes up the band. Er, orchestra.
Now, to put it kindly, he ain't. The Swing Revival was one among many odd little musical fads that took hold of the mainstream in the late '90s. In fact, identifying and exploiting new fads was the dominant business model of the record industry at the time, and it was successful as hell. Record companies had never sold so many copies of hit albums before, and they certainly haven't since.
The king of swing seems to be doing all right for himself, at least. But catching up with Setzer got me curious about what the other survivors of 1999's Year of the Fad are up to these days. Who was buying all of those Jessica Simpson and Coal Chamber CDs, and why can't those artists still move tens of millions of units?
Hey, the holidays are all about reminiscing. Let's revisit the Top 5 musical trends of 1999 and poke around for some answers, shall we?
5. The Swing Revival
Photo by Jason Wolter
Led by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the Cherry-Poppin' Daddies and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, a Swing Revival was in full, uh, bloom in 1999. Couples took swing-dancing classes together, and guys at my high school wore zoot suits to prom. It was certainly novel: Ska acts like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones had softened up rock audiences for a full-blown brass attack, and for a while there, the 1930s became retro-chic.
Honestly, I still find it a little inexplicable. Swing sounded loud and fun and happy, I suppose, even if it was hardly to my taste then or now.
Zenith of Popularity: In 1999, Setzer's cover of the Louis Prima tune "Jump, Jive an' Wail" won the Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. That same year, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy played the Super Bowl XXXIII half-time show.
Why It Was Lame: The whole trend was started by a motherfucking Gap commercial. The mall retailer used Prima's version in a "Khakis Swing" commercial in 1998, and I guess they must have sold a shitload of pants, because pretty soon swing was all over TV. At least you could dance to it, but the nostalgia burned out quick in the mainstream.
Where Are They Now? Setzer just brought his Christmas set to the Arena Theatre. BBVD is keeping a lower profile, but they're apparently still active. The Cherry Poppin' Daddies are set to release a new double album in 2013, if you're into that.