For five straight weeks, the Billboard 200 album chart has experienced an onslaught of artists who held major relevance in the mid-2000s, particularly 2006 and 2007, followed by a period of lessened popularity and/or eventual inactivity. Hell, we don’t even have to stop there. Prior to Timberlake’s three-week reign, the No.1 album in the country belonged to Bon Jovi, a band that admittedly held more sway in its earlier days but still connected with 2005’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” and the 2007 album Lost Highway.
This week, Fall Out Boy took the top spot in America with its big comeback album, Save Rock & Roll, which debuts at No. 1 with 153,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The band beats out its closest competitor, Kid Cudi, by almost 20,000 copies, as the rapper’s Indicud slots in second.
Rewind to February 2007. That month, Fall Out Boy went to the top of the charts with the band’s third album, Infinity on High, buoyed by big singles “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s An Arms Race” and “Thnks fr th Mmrs” and the strong performance of its previous album, From Under the Cork Tree, which put the band on the map in 2005 and 2006.
Similarly, Paramore first found minor success on the strength of 2005’s All We Know is Falling, following the album up with Riot!, the band’s 2007 breakthrough that spawned major chart hits in “Misery Business” and “Crushcrushcrush.”
And then there’s Timberlake. The former ‘N SYNC’er just so happened to bring sexy back in mid-2006, dropping the wildly popular FutureSex/LoveSounds in September. The album produced three No. 1 singles in a row — “SexyBack,” “My Love” and “What Goes Around… Comes Around,” stretching JT chart dominance into 2007.
For the first part of the 2010s, however, none of the three acts where anywhere to be seen, at least musically. Timberlake made the best of the moment, continuing with the acting career he announced in 2006 he’d be focusing on for the near future and starring in major motion pictures such as The Social Network. His music popped up occasionally, mostly in his work with comedy troupe The Lonely Island and Saturday Night Live.
Paramore released Brand New Eyes in 2009 to general acclaim and notched its highest spot on the Hot 100 (“The Only Exception,” No. 24), but it seemed for awhile like frontwoman Hayley Williams might strike out on her own for good, especially following her guest spot on B.o.B. mega-hit “Airplanes.” After that single faded, however, music fans didn’t hear much from Williams or her band.
Fall Out Boy’s 2008 record Folie a Deux only managed No. 8 on the Billboard 200, with lead single “I Don’t Care” proving fairly underwhelming. Side projects from the bandmates followed, though singer Patrick Stump’s Soul Punk, Pete Wentz project Black Cards and The Damned Things, featuring Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley, weren’t exactly commercial successes..
By all accounts, comeback attempts by any of these artists could have gone wrong. It’s the difference between a massive tour fueled by a No. 1 album, and a massive tour fueled by nostalgia.
And yet. Here we are.
Timberlake was probably the surest bet of the group to come back strong. After all, he’s maintained a standing as one of the biggest pop stars in America despite his hiatus, and had some fairly formidable friends (see: Jay-Z, Timbaland) still on his side. The main question was whether Timberlake could change with the times. In response, he did, though he didn’t exactly assimilate into current trends; rather, he pulled off something new — or, at least, s0mething different from what’s on the radio at this point. Instead of pushing an envelope of pounding electronic beats, JT went for a fresh outlook on pop with horn-infused tunes and a general feel of lavishness despite simpler beats, melding the new soul with the old. Whether or not it’s a game changer in the current musical landscape remains to be seen, but the three-week stint at No. 1 for The 20/20 Experience certainly speaks volumes.
The others? Well, Paramore didn’t exactly leave on poor terms, given the general popularity of Brand New Eyes and Hayley’s success on “Airplanes.” That said, rock isn’t a commonplace element of today’s pop music, at least in the form it presented when Paramore was one of the genre’s biggest. Pop-punk just hasn’t found a home yet in 2013, and though it may be difficult to pin the album as a mere nostalgia trip just yet (though an acclaimed one at that!), the band’s self-titled release hasn’t become a radio presence just yet. “Now” is already slipping off the alternative and rock charts, though second single “Still Into You” is a wild card, having hit No. 1 on the U.K. Rock chart.
Fall Out Boy’s success might be most baffling. Along with being in a similar vein to Paramore musically in their original form, the band’s last album was so underwhelming that the band’s claim to “save” rock music with its new album title seemed laughable at best. Instead, Fall Out Boy changed with the times. Though retaining some of the band’s core elements, Save Rock & Roll not only feels current, but is also just plain fun. “The Phoenix” in particular features glitchy synths along with the band’s usual guitar attack, and Stump seems to have become an even better singer, more in control of his admirable range.
More importantly, why are these acts the ones topping the charts? Are the albums just that good, or is mid-2000s nostalgia taking hold in America?
It’s not like the current landscape of pop music is super predictable, anyway. Though Bruno Mars took the reins for a short time, other recent No. 1 songs in the country have included an ode to thrift store clothing in independent rap/production duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and “Harlem Shake,” a song spurred by its use in a popular meme of the same name, despite being made up of occasional vocal samples and a fairly repetitive musical underbelly. Even the most recent No. 1, Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason,” features Nate Ruess of the band fun., an alternative act that has fairly inexplicably risen to the top of the heap with music in stark contrast to the dance takeover that’s happened in recent years.
Perhaps this is the continuation of a backlash to the super-produced club anthems of artists like Pitbull, Chris Brown and more. Adele started it, and these guys are continuing her work, albeit in often different music genres.
One thing’s for sure: Don’t take upcoming releases from HIM, Goo Goo Dolls and Spin Doctors lightly. Seems like anything can happen these days.
The full charts this week include Fall Out Boy and Cudi at the top two spots, with Timberlake holding at No. 3, selling 75,000 copies. Blake Shelton remains at No. 4 with Based on a True Story, while the Yeah Yeah Yeahs debut at No. 5 with Mosquito. Meanwhile, Paramore drops to No. 12 after the band’s No. 1 debut, selling 27,000 copies of Paramore its second week.
-Kevin Rutherford, Radio.com