Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Is “boomer music” making a comeback?

Rachel Choi
Illustration by Rachel Choi

Opinions expressed in Beacon Op-Eds are not necessarily shared by the entire staff. It is the responsibility of Opinion editors to elevate each individual’s unique voice. 

“This is Led bloody Zeppelin,” my dad said, grinning. “You’re going to love them.” 

At the beginning of lockdown, he gave me his old record player and a hefty collection of vinyls. I spent the better half of that summer listening to the discographies of Aerosmith and Fleetwood Mac, holding the same records my dad purchased in stores decades ago, before rock was considered a dead genre in the early ‘90s. Yet now in the 2020s, it seems as though classic rock is gaining appreciation from an unlikely crowd. 

Gen Z, who according to Wallaroom Media makes up 60 percent of all TikTok users, is showing an interest online for the classic rock genre. Gen Z users such as @jesskeo and @conniemcleann devote their entire pages to their favorite rock artists and songs, introducing their majority young followers to “boomer music” through a contemporary lens. 

Given that a large proportion of all TikTok users are Gen Z, the app has become a place where the music of the older generation is translatable for the younger. Songs like “The Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd and “Starman” by David Bowie have blown up on TikTok, allowing for Gen Z to get a glimpse at rock ‘n’ roll in a way that’s familiar to them—through fifteen second videos on their For You Pages. 

Music streaming services have also made classic rock accessible for a younger audience. Thirty-four percent of Spotify users are Gen Z, according to Billboard, meaning countless young adults have access to infinite classic rock songs at their fingertips. Not to mention, the Spotify algorithm will curate playlists and recommend songs if the listener shows an interest in a certain genre.    

But why does this genre resonate so much with Gen Z? 

Rock was a counterculture of a predominantly conservative society in the mid-twentieth century, one where the bounds of conformity were broken. Rock artists were often credited for their energetic performances, such as with Jimi Hendrix, who famously smashed his guitars on stage, and even lit one on fire once.

Rock artists were also known for being flamboyant and not shying away from defying gender norms. Freddie Mercury, for instance, wore colorful and (dare I say) GAY AS FUCK outfits when performing. In the “I Want to Break Free” music video, he, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon all dressed in drag, sparking controversy upon the video’s initial release. 

Classic rock dismantled conformity during the rise of suburbia and the idea of the nuclear family. Today, we are witnessing regressive legislation in the United States push towards conformity, such as with the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the banning of drag shows. Gen Z, being the most progressive generation to date, has looked towards classic rock as cathartic, where being flamboyant and zealous are encouraged. 

Gen Z women in particular resonate with artist Stevie Nicks, given how her celebration of femininity and self-empowerment has carried over across generations. The idea of a young woman taking the stage and loudly expressing who she is deviates from the expectations set for women, especially during the second wave when feminists were viewed as hysterical. Gen Z women look towards Stevie Nicks as an example of empowerment in a world that diminishes femininity. “Silver Springs” has become a fan favorite on TikTok, with young women screaming the lyrics, “You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you.” 

When my dad first gave me his vinyl collection, I thought that I was the only person in my generation who found this music intriguing. I was quickly proven wrong when I realized the sheer amount of young people who appreciate classic rock as well. I’ve been in cars where everyone knows the lyrics of the AC/DC song playing and have bonded with classmates over the Beatles during icebreakers. When I went to Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road tour in 2022, about half of the people around me were in my generation, all gathering together to appreciate an artist that our parents loved at our age too. 

This newfound love for classic rock is seen in how fans beg Harry Styles to bring back the rock era from his first album, or the appreciation that the band Greta Van Fleet receives for their raspy voice and guitar riffs—and the fact that they sound like Led Zeppelin. 

Looking back, my dad was right: I fucking love Led bloody Zeppelin.

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