Your job doesn't define you. Your music does.
Kate Bush's triumphant chart return, the Prince Channel on Sirius XM, and Tears for Fears' bucket-list tour
"Stars are like diamonds, we fly across the sky for them. No one's gonna change who we are." -Tears for Fears
Disrupting the generational hierarchy, with music
I am starting an exciting new job today. I'll tell you more about it soon, but one of the things I've been thinking about lately is how I have not defined myself by my career. For years, when I worked at disparate jobs — from music journalist to advertising art director to charity concert producer to helping open the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and being the President of the Atlanta Press Club — I once thought that the variety watered me down, gave me a muddy identity, and kept me from gaining any recognition, despite credentials and accolades.
Now, I don't believe that's true. I am proud of the choices I made. As a Gen Xer, I was constantly updating my flight path to make room for marriage and parenthood and meeting the demands of the world as technology evolved more quickly than it had at any other time on earth. According to Bloomberg, Gen X made more money during the pandemic than other generations—we had no choice but to do it. Our flexible ("soft") skills are superior, and our unique cultural experiences, which blossomed at the height of globalism, have created a richly decorated bridge from the Cold War years across the turn of the century and into a new millennium. We are the glue, the connective tissue between generations and eras.
And music is at the heart of our superpowers.
We are united by the songs we know and love. The songs of our lives educated us and taught us to cope. The lyrics made us believe in ourselves. The rhythms set us free. Those sounds still matter to us in 2022, on the good and bad days of our middle-aged existence. Those bonds matter. That's why it's totally tubular when a Kate Bush song suddenly races up the charts, Sirius XM creates a temporary Prince channel, and a Tears for Fears tour fills Facebook with videos of incredible performances.
This is our summer.
Kate Bush's resurgence is bigger than Stranger Things
How she helped Gen Xers like me define ourselves
Kate Bush is an icon, a business woman, songwriter, singer and beloved collaborator (think Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up") who has recorded and performed some of the most creative pop music of the last century. When Netflix's throwback sci-fi teen series Stranger Things featured Bush's 1985 song, "Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)" in its season 4 premiere in May 2022, the song was expected to boost the artist's streaming numbers, as it had done with Toto's 1982 hit "Africa" in a previous episode. Instead, "Running Up That Hill" leapt from top of the iTunes chart to the #1 spot on Billboard's Global 200, effectively making it the most popular trackable song on the planet this week.
Early in her career, Bush's ethereal soprano voice enhanced the visual expression of her music, and she was an integral part of the video revolution, showcasing a performance-art edge in "Babooshka," "Cloudbusting," and "Wuthering Heights." Although her videos appeared in rotation next to Eurythmics, Pat Benatar, Madonna, The Go-Gos, Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper, and Whitney Houston on MTV, executives reportedly thought her original clip for "Running Up That Hill" was too weird and asked for a basic lip-sync version instead.
Luckily, Bush now has the last laugh. The private singer issued a statement about the recent resurgence of her music, saying how excited she was that a new generation knows "Running Up That Hill." (Check out PS 22 Chrous's version here.)
For those of us who grew up with her voice, this moment vindicates and validates our music and our identities. In the midst of chaos, a song can still change the world in an instant, and that gives me immense hope that humanity is not yet a lost cause.
Thank you, Nora Felder, as the music supervisor who placed "Running Up That Hill" in Stranger Things.
And thank you, Kate Bush, for everything.
Sirius XM has relaunched its Prince Channel
"The relaunch of The Prince Channel coincides with the debut of Notorious Radio and The Whitney Channel, as well as the return of The 2PAC Channel," the station says on its website. More Gen X music to savor. I'm so grateful I was able to see Prince at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta during his last public performances in 2016, days before his death. More about that in a future issue!
The Tears for Fears Tipping Point tour is a joyous reunion
The backstory: After blockbuster hits in the 1980s, singers Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith parted ways in 1991. Orzabal kept going and reunited with Smith for Tears for Fears' 2004 album, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending. The group plodded through the 2010s with spotty summer tours, strained relations, and long-distance business dealings: Orzabal and his family remained in England; Smith and his wife were raising young children in Los Angeles. TFF's music surged effortlessly on streaming after a new generation discovered remakes of 1983's "Mad World" and 1985's "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." In 2015 Tears for Fears had a breakthrough: they played in a tent at Bonnaroo and the Xers and Millennials in the crowd freaked out over "Head Over Heels" and "Shout," screaming every word before Orzabal's voice could even reach the mic. So, the pair joined Daryl Hall & John Oates on a 2017 comeback tour, put out a greatest hits compilation, and began working on ideas for a new studio album. Tragically, Orzabal's wife of 35 years died in July 2017 after battling depression and alcoholism, forcing the cancellation of the remaining tour dates, sending the singer into grief and rehab, and putting the future of TFF in jeopardy. Next came a handful of shows, including a legendary 2019 appearance at Shaky Knees, where the crowd continued clapping and chanting for 15 minutes after the band left the stage. The coronavirus pandemic arrived in 2020 and shut everything down but thankfully provided Orzabal and Smith the chance to finally hole up, heal up, patch up their friendship, and write songs. The Tipping Point album was released in February 2022; My favorite line from a review on RecordCollectorMag.com, describes it as "an album blazing with a refulgent light that illuminates the darkness." That's accurate (read my review here).
Why you should see the current tour: Roland Orzabal told The Guardian: "If there is a God, this is what he put us on Earth to do." After seeing Tears for Fears perform this show, I believe it! Here's a link to setlists; the concert is a love fest. Everybody loves a happy ending, indeed: Orzabal's remarried and healthy again; Smith's daughters are off to college and couldn't be prouder of their dad, who gets some of the biggest cheers each night when he sings "Break the Man," a feminist anthem he wrote for them. While relishing my favorite memories of "Pale Shelter" and "Sowing the Seeds of Love," I began making new ones by hearing renditions of the latest tracks "Long, Long, Long Time" and "My Demons." Onstage, the music captured the zeitgeist in a human way that going viral on TikTok or syncing a song on Stranger Things cannot. In Atlanta, a run of "Suffer the Children," "Woman in Chains" and "Bad Man's Song" featured Georgia singer Lauren Evans and the crowd went wild. At a show in Los Angeles a few days prior, the audience held up their phones during "Rivers of Mercy" and sang along as Orzabal reportedly became overwhelmed with the twinkling lights and emotion (see the heartwarming video above).
What it all means to me: My affinity for Tears for Fears is not fandom (coming soon: my rant about the need to distinguish fandom from listening and why it's nearly impossible for women to talk or write about music without being called "fans"); it's about how vividly their music (and concerts and conversations) have resonated with me over the years. In high school, TFF intersected across friend groups no matter what neighborhood you lived in; in college, I studied in Germany in the autumn of 1989, where their Seeds of Love album was the soundtrack to watching the Berlin Wall fall right before our very eyes. (How Gen X is that?) When I moved to New York in the early 1990s, I interviewed Roland Orzabal for a cover story about 1993's Elemental (no link - print only!); I caught up with Curt Smith in 2010 for an AJC feature about his Twitter prowess, his guest spots on the TV show Psych, and being a famous dad, and we reconnected in 2016 when he visited dulcimer player Ted Yoder in Indiana; Orzabal and I dissected the longevity of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" for a 2019 Economist feature, and since 1985, I have seen the band perform on all but two of their U.S. tours. I listen to their music as much as any other artist in my collection and owe many grateful moments to their melodies. Watching their Tipping Point concert from the front row Sunday night, I realized just how deep our connection runs. When I look back across the decades, I know that music has been there for me when people could not be. The songs we carry with us are not determined by our income or our jobs, yet they define us in ways nothing else can.