Beatrice Crawford walks us through our bizarre obsession with reunion tours and asks, does a reunion for the sake of ticket sales trample a once-great musical legacy?
With another tentative promise of an Oasis reunion cropping up in Liam Gallagher’s Twitter feed this February, music-lovers around the world have once again been confronted with a hotly debated topic: band reunions. If true (but, of course, we’ve been lied to before), Oasis could be joining the leagues of bands like JLS, My Chemical Romance, and The Pussycat Dolls, who have all made plans for reunion tours in a post-Covid world. But all of this begs the question: why do we want reunions so much? Is there dignity in staying gone, or is the perpetual break-up-and-make-up cycle of our favourite bands ultimately a good thing?
There’s a definite sense of nostalgia when we think of our old favourite bands coming together again. With everything going on in the world right now, maybe regressing to simpler times via music is only natural. As Spotify Wrapped was being announced last year, I started to notice a trend amongst my friends: we had all seemingly reverted into our early-high-school selves with our music choices (far too many All Time Low songs had managed to creep into my "Top Songs of 2020" playlist). We all need a little nostalgia to get us through at times; it seems natural to want to see a band that once gave you comfort get back together. Surely, if there’s still a demand for the bands we grew up listening to, and if there’s some semblance of hope to be gleaned from said bands in current times, then there’s no harm in a reunion. But, if this is the case, does the comeback ever truly live up to the hype? While there’s a chance of sustained success, a poorly-done comeback always has the potential to ruin a band’s legacy — maybe it would just be better to reminisce in the glory days and let sleeping dogs lie. Is a reunion purely for the sake of nostalgia’s worth it?
Of course, for bands with particularly messy breakups, a reunion could seem promising to members and long-term fans alike. After witnessing a decade’s worth of (uncomfortable) public arguments, many Oasis enthusiasts may want nothing more than an amicable reconciliation of their favourite artists. In a case such as the Gallaghers, when a band breaks up at the peak of their career, there's always a feeling of wasted potential — what more could they have become if things had turned out differently? Perhaps a reunion could give such bands the chance to get their legacies right, once and for all. Take That are a perfect case study in the field of successful reunions — while their mid-90s breakup was mourned by teenagers across the country, the band’s comeback a decade later resulted in some of their biggest hits and cemented the band’s place in the UK music charts for several years. The fans are happy, the band is on top of the world again; it’s a win-win, right?
However, more cynical fans may side-eye reunions as a dishonest money grab. As the reunion craze has ramped up over the past couple of decades, one game plan seems to have become a favourite amongst those seeking a comeback: utilise the public’s nostalgia to throw out a few lazy comeback singles, do a nationwide tour, then disappear again for a few years. Does such a reunion for the sake of ticket sales simply trample on once-great legacies? It feels especially unconvincing when the band in question once vowed they’d never get back together — remember when Mel C ruled out a Spice Girls reunion back in 2005? Yeah, me neither. Insisting that we go see all of our favourite 90s boy bands perform their "final tour" tours, only for them to announce the same thing a year later, seems like a wasted effort on all fronts. Can a line be drawn between the artists genuinely seeking a comeback for the sake of the music, and those pursuing a desperate money grab? What does this say about our music industry, when artists can so blatantly trample their legacies for the sake of a sold-out tour or two? While there will always be the odd money-making stunt, it’s difficult to argue that reunions are always a bad idea. Above all else, surely if a band still has the fan base and the drive to produce more music, there’s nothing wrong with a little reunion tour every now and then to lift our spirits. Perhaps, if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that reunions are now as much a part of a band’s life cycle as splitting up — maybe it’s about time we accept it.
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