It’s always a gamble when artists from the past try to make a comeback in a new era. For music fans of alternative music from the 1980s and 1990s, 2020 was somewhat of a refreshing year for legends releasing new material. Here are some standout examples.
Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
What happened to Fiona Apple after her 2012 Idler Wheel album? Well, she did record several songs with other artists, but none could be described as memorable as her 1997 “Criminal” smash. Her latest album took about five years to record, partly at her home studio in Los Angeles. The 2020 experimental album made the top five when it was released in the spring, driven by the adult alternative single “Shameika.”
Midnight Oil – The Makarrata Project
The Australian political band came back with a message in 2020 about recognizing the indigenous people of the nation and their struggles. Released by Sony Music Australia in late October, the album features the lead-off single that came out in August called “Gadigal Land.” Another single called “First Nation” was released in September. It was the band’s first new studio album since 2002. The project started with 20 tracks but the finished 33-minute set was narrowed down to 7 tracks.
Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts
Trent Reznor has stayed active in the 21st century, but none of his recordings have matched the success of NIN’s 1989 release Pretty Hate Machine or the band’s subsequent major selling albums of the nineties. He has, however, scored motion pictures such as the 2010 film The Social Network, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Film Score. In 2020 he released a pair of softer sonic NIN albums called Ghosts V and VI available free on the NIN website. A New York Times writer called it “largely meditative.”
Pearl Jam – Gigaton
While the Seattle band has maintained a steady stream of new albums this century after an explosive career in the nineties, their latest effort, Gigaton, was the first in seven years. The 57-minute album contains 12 tracks, mostly written by vocalist Eddie Vedder. The band has maintained the same line-up since 1998, when Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron joined. Five singles were released from the new album in 2020, with “Superblood Wolfmoon” getting the most airplay on rock stations.
Stabbing Westward – Dead & Gone
After delivering aggressive industrial rock throughout the nineties, the Illinois band broke up in 2002. They reunited in 2016 for their 30th anniversary then released Dead & Gone in early 2020 on their own label. The title track was released as a single, which did not appear on any of Billboard’s rock or alternative charts.
Repackaging from Tears For Fears
The year also gave a new life to celebrated albums of the past, such as Songs From the Big Chair by Tears for Fears. To celebrate the album’s 35th anniversary, Universal Music reissued a deluxe box set that included a new 12-inch vinyl picture disc. Band members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith appeared in an interview for the BBC series Classic Albums in February.
Gambling vs Music
A lot has changed with the music industry since late last century when alternative music rivaled the popularity of pop music. These days’ fans are more interested in having access to music libraries than just buying a CD or music download. While the global music industry hit its peak in the late nineties and now earns close to $20 billion per year, online gaming has now surpassed $150 billion per year in annual earnings.
Today one has to wonder if consumers have more intense interest in online music streaming or online gambling on sites like these. It’s understandable if alternative musical artists who did well last century are exploring alternatives for making money this century.
The 2020 pandemic led to a massive shutdown of live venues around the world, limiting a musician’s way to make a living. Meanwhile, online gaming remains a rapidly growing internet force.