Thursday, July 26, 2018

Overload Nostalgia

There's a phenomenon* in the arts, culture, fashion, and everything else that's capable of being current or trendy. It can happen to anyone, although it happens most often to people who seek depth rather than breadth in their interests. The phenomenon is: any effort aimed at being as thorough as possible will eventually end up dooming someone to living in the past.

I call it Overload Nostalgia.

Not an overload of nostalgia, but rather, overload that causes nostalgia.

Here's an example: I've listened to 46 albums that were released in 2018. I'm on pace to listen to approximately 79 albums released in 2018 by the end of the year. That's a lot of albums for someone who doesn't work in the music industry. However, it's a tiny fraction of the albums that have been released in 2018 so far, let alone the ones yet to come.

If I attempt to listen to every single album released in 2018, I'll be listening to 2018 releases well into the 2020s. If I add on every 2016 album and every 2017 album, I'll be well into the 2030s, despite the supply remaining fixed. By the time I reach some albums that are new to me, the artists will be nostalgia acts. There's simply no way to process this much information without everything getting horribly backlogged, and - here's the key - my hypothetical 2016-2018-obsessed self missing out on all the great albums of 2019, 2020 and onward.

This applies with other media, such as paintings, books or video games. It's especially bad with watching or reading the news. One day's current events, told from every outlet's perspective, and then including various places' local news items, could take a near eternity to read.

While this is all very fun, what's the practical application?

Overload nostalgia:
  • Helps explain why we need canons, in everything from books to music to movies, even when we disagree with them or temporarily abandon them. Any oldies radio station sifting through every single '60s song, for example, would take years before returning to an old favourite.
  • Cuts slack for the seemingly excessive trendiness of popular media. Surface-level analyses are important because depth can result in the entire outlet becoming bogged down in a single event or topic.
I post this as I listen to a classic heavy metal album from 1990 that I had never heard all the way through before. Next, I'll put on something else.

*A trope, if you will.

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