Vinyl album sales hit another modern high last year, due in part to 72,000 people in the US buying yet another copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles 1967 album was given a lavish 50th anniversary reissue, pushing it to the top of the vinyl charts. Clearly, nostalgia still sells—only three of the top ten were released in the 2010s (Ed Sheeran, and the soundtracks to Guardians of the Galaxy and La La Land). Which means that the incessant backwards gaze of pop-culture writing will no doubt continue to create a thriving market for retrospectives—some of it being more worthwhile than others.
And even if, as a former colleague point out recently, that 15th-anniversary retrospectives are killing the 20th-anniversary retrospective industry, get ready for another 12 months of friends sharing throwback thinkpieces on an almost daily basis. Here’s a primer of what to expect.
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend (2008)
If you read ‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’ you’d know that this album represented a massive turning point for music in NYC in 2008, the only city in the world with music.
Dawson’s Creek debuts (1998)
Some outlets are already on it! What does Pacey’s affair with his teacher look like in 2018? Did they really need to kill Jen off? Was it even really Dawson’s creek? Can’t wait for these pressing questions to be answered.
Breaking Bad debuts (2008)
Yes, it’s already one of the most-written about shows in the modern era, but doesn’t Walter White—an entitled prick with a shitty health-care plan—seem even more topical in 2008? Hell, if someone wants to do an oral history of every single time Aaron Paul yells “something something, bitch!” someone would read it.
Winter Olympics (1988)
Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards sucks at ski jumping and becomes a meme before memes really existed. Meanwhile the Jamaican bobsled team makes international debut at the Winter Olympics (which goes on to inspire the film Cool Runnings five years later).
Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
Is it the most indie album that ever indie albumed? Find out on Stereogum next month.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Who could have predicted at the time that this idiosyncratic Cohen Bros film about a philosophical slacker would generate one of the most dedicated cult followings of the past couple decades—with its own religion. Also, possibly the easiest Halloween costume to pull off last minute.
A real-time strategy game featuring alien races going at other alien races (Protoss all day), would convince players everywhere that one could actually make a living doing this thing.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
The film that launched a hundred thousand wannabe journalists/drug tourists, and effectively rekindled the career of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson remains a weird thing to watch. Director Terry Gilliam did a masterful job capturing the look and feel of a bad drug trip while also managing to romanticize the writerly act of staring at a blank page until the words start to flow. Johnny Depp and, especially, Benicio Del Toro give seriously committed fanboy performances, but, in all honesty, it’s way more fun and satisfying to just read the damn book.
Seinfeld “The Finale” airs (1998)
When the creators made the contentious choice to put the four main characters on trial for their behaviour throughout the show’s run, Seinfeld’s massive audience was forced to realize they’d been obsessively tuning into the lives of four total assholes for the past nine years. Cue an entire generation of comedy writers creating shows around unlikeable characters.
Johnny Cash - Live at Folsom Prison (1968)
It’s been 50 years since the release of this legendary intersection of pop culture and prison life, where the Man in Black sounds perfectly at ease shooting the shit with the inmate audience (“Do you serve everything in tin cups?”) and ripping through songs about killing a man just to watch him die, enduring a death penalty sentence after sleeping with your best friend’s wife, and doing cocaine with loaded weapons around.
Windows 98 is released (1998)
Startup music just wasn't as good as Brian Eno’s Windows 95 jam.
The Truman Show (1998)
Wild how Jim Carrey invented Black Mirror 20 years ago.
Personally, I do prefer Deep Impact, but Armageddon feels like the perfect movie for a ‘Does it Suck?’ with a ‘so bad it’s good’ thesis. (“Don’t wanna close my eyezzzz / Don’t wanna fall asleep….”)
Die Hard (1988)
Did you know Die Hard, a Christmas Movie, came out 30 years ago? It’s the only Christmas Movie ever. Only REAL basasses know Die Hard is a Christmas Movie. Yippee ki-yay!
The Dark Knight (2008)
This one will be a bit of a twofer, as it’s also the 10-year anniversary of Heath Ledger’s death (he died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in January of 2008). It’s been said a lot, but his Oscar-winning portrayal of the Joker in Dark Knight towers so far above every other superhero movie performance it’s scary. As for The Dark Knight itself, there is some value into looking at the film in 2018. First off, DC’s continued attempts to replicate it’s “dark” themes via Zack Snyder and co. have been not-insignificant failures and have threatened its ability to compete with the cheery (and better produced) Marvelverse. On the other hand, no Marvel film (or any other superhero film) have quite matched The Dark Knight in terms of its visuals and standout scenes. (But the less said about some its plotting and its third act, the better.)
That ‘70s Show debuts (1998)
Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
Could Beyonce’s Lemonade exist with this album? (Probably, but the parallels are too delicious for a critic not to indulge.)
iMac G3 (1998)
The candy-coloured desktop computer goes on sale, marking the return of Steve Jobs and the start of Apple ubiquity.
Google Inc. (1998)
With the help of a significant investment, the search engine becomes an incorporated company and the World Wide Web is forever changed.
“Too big to fail” (2008)
Investment bank Lehman Brothers collapses, signalling a new peak in the financial crisis.
The Hunger Games book comes out (2008)
Once again, YA fiction tops the bestseller lists.
Sex and the City debuts (1998)
White feminism in stilettos!
Remember the good ole’ days of 2008 when being hilariously unqualified for office usually meant you were not elected to said office?
Barenaked Ladies release “One Week”
The single from Stunt allowed them to finally crack that elusive US market and propel them beyond being just a quirky Canadian phenomenon to a legit pop stardom, complete with a Jason Priestley-directed documentary.
Britney’s …Baby One More Time is released (1998)
Featuring the timeless love anthem “E-mail My Heart.”
American History X (1998)
Two words: curb smile.
(Also, this terrifyingly realistic depiction of young people being seduced by racial hatred and neo-Nazi iconography is even more terrifyingly relevant in 2018. Seems like the moral of this story wasn’t brutally blunt enough for an entire new generation of shitheads to understand.)
They Live (1988)
Here is a list of things that John Carpenter predicted with this 30-year-old film:
Capitalism is a scam.
Global warming is man-made.
Branding is everything.
Plaid shirts and dark sunglasses are timeless.
Rowdy Roddy Piper was totally underrated.
Aliens are (probably) real and (probably) in charge of everything.
Democracies can quickly become dictatorships.
As we still wait for Half-Life 3, seems as good a time as any to write 5000 words on arguably the most influential game of the last 20 years.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
Is it the greatest Nintendo game of all-time? Find out this November.
Obama wins! (2008)
What a time to be alive! But also, sighhhhhh.
Twilight the movie comes out (2008)
Tweens discover goth. Kristen Stewart discovers aloofness.
Beyoncé releases “Single Ladies” (2008)
The single from her I Am… Sasha Fierce album enshrined Bey’s place as the soundtrack to every bouquet toss at every wedding reception for the rest of eternity.
808s & Heartbreak (2008)
Kanye releases his Auto-Tune heavy masterpiece, pissing off a vast number of his fans and redefining pop music at the same time.
Chinese Democracy finally comes out (2008)
It feels like only 10 years ago that we only waited 17 years for a new Guns N’ Roses album. Spoiler alert: It didn’t age well.
While not great in any measure, Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot update of the Hitchcock classic created excessive hand-wringing about the very nature of remakes—a concern that seems rather quaint now with so many singular films/shows/books spawning copious reimagined versions, both fanfic and official. (Shout out to Bates Motel.)
Baldur’s Gate (1998)
This role-playing classic basically turned a little-known Edmonton developer Bioware into an international powerhouse….that eventually got bought by Electronic Arts and made the ending of Mass Effect 3.