What first drew my attention to the 15-year cycles in bouncy upbeat music was the contrast evident on the radio last year. They were still playing songs from the manic peak of the not-so-distant past of five years ago, alongside the much more mellow songs just being released. Now that those older manic songs have noticeably dropped off in airplay, and there's another year's worth of mellower songs, you can really sense how different the current mood is.
Rather than manic and invincible, the prevailing mood has shifted to mellow and vulnerable. Here are just a few examples from the 2017-'18 mood (compare to the songs in the first post on the 2012-'13 mood):
Looking back over previous cycles, this seems to be a recurring mood change. After the upbeat high-charging peak of 1997-'98, the next phase of 2002-'04 was more downcast and vulnerable. From the Spice Girls to Avril Lavigne in girl-pop, from the Backstreet Boys to John Mayer in sensitive-guy land, from Third Eye Blind to Linkin Park on the emo front, from Smash Mouth to Nickelback in alternative rock, and from Chumbawumba to Pink in the danceclub.
Some went through both phases of that cycle, with Christina Aguilera starting off with a sexualized techno sound in the late '90s ("Genie in a Bottle"), then switching to soft emo piano ballads by 2003 ("Beautiful"). In the current cycle, we see the same shift in Kesha from "Die Young" in 2012 to her new piano ballad duet with Macklemore, "Good Old Days". Daft Punk began upbeat with "Around the World" in '97, then mellowed out by 2001 with "One More Time". They took part in the current cycle's phases as well, starting with the high-energy "Get Lucky" in 2013 and mellowing out by last year in their collaboration with the Weeknd shown above, "I Feel It Coming".
Without going into so much detail for the time being, the same sequence of phases showed up in the earlier cycles.
After the manic peak of 1982-'84, the mood became more low-key and vulnerable by '87-'88 -- from new wave to power ballads, even within the same artist's career, such as the George Michael of "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" to the George Michael of "Faith" and "Father Figure".
After the manic peak of 1967-'69, there was a major mellow-out by '72-'74 -- from the Monkees, Tommy James and the Shondells, and Sly and the Family Stone, to "Lean on Me," "Killing Me Softly with His Song," and "The Way We Were".
Although it would be hard to call any part of the 1950s "manic," the early half was still more upbeat, like the Ames Brothers and the Four Aces, compared to the lovesick teenager mood of the late '50s, like the Everly Brothers and Ritchie Valens.
Having established two phases of the cycle -- a manic phase, followed by a vulnerable phase -- that still leaves the third phase. My hunch is to call it "decadent," but that doesn't really relate to the theme of invincible and vulnerable. It's more like terminal, moribund, and giving-up. Some respond to the "giving-up" mood in a submissive surrendering way, others in an assertive decadent way, but it's all based on the cycle coming to an end.
That will have to wait for another post, but to preview things, just think of the music of the late 2000s, the early '90s, the late '70s, and the early '60s.