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The Swingin' 90s

Illustration for article titled The Swingin 90s

While we are all waxing nostalgic about the wonderful music that was produced in the 1990's let us not forget that many, many terrible music fads also reared up during this decade. One of these fads was the resurgence of swing music.


It's not uncommon for musical styles to make a comeback many decades later. In the late eighties Janet Jackson recorded an entire album in the style of early 19th century R&B. So in 1998 when the league of evil robots that controls music were looking for the new "it" thing swing music seemed like a natural choice. There were obviously many parallels between the 1930's and the 1990's. There was an economic downturn in both decades. The United States was currently in between wars in both eras. People really seemed to enjoy smoking in both time periods. There's probably more.

One of the leading figures in the swing revival was Brian Setzer who originally became famous with his rockabilly revival band The Stray Cats. I don't fault Setzer for trying to bring back rockabilly. It's decent music and I have good hair for pulling off that look. He really lost me with The Brian Setzer Orchestra though. I began thinking that he was aging backward through time like a guitar slinging Benjamin Button. Setzer was joined by many other mediocre bands with interesting names such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Cherry Poppin' Daddies. That last band's name makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit and I apologize for having written it.


Along with awful swing music came awful swing dancing. I don't believe I have the core strength to pull of most of the moves involved and frankly it just seems dangerous to me. The dancers always seem to be one sweaty palm away from a traumatic brain injury. The swing scene wouldn't have been complete without appropriating the fashion of the 1930's or at least what people in the 1990's believed it was. All over the place men were rocking zoot suits and the ladies were breaking out their sailor pants. I also put a lot of blame on swing music for the rise in popularity of hipster hats.

By the end of the decade swing music had started to once again fade into the background. Hepcats no longer hung out on street corners chewing on toothpicks and flipping coins. In the middle of the next decade Christina Aguilera released an album with some swing music but, although it was successful, we were spared a second revival. The late 90s should serve as a cautionary tale for all of us; swing music is not dead. It is merely lurking in the shadows, ready to strike at any moment.

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