5 Musicians Making Retro Sound New

It seems music is getting more futuristic every day. With increased dependence on technology, AI, and an endless amount of software going into the creative process, many of the songs made in 2023 sound like they couldn’t have come from any other era.

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While we’re not knocking this new musical path, it can be refreshing to hear a song that throws things back to a time when none of that existed. In celebration of such songs, we’ve rounded up five artists that have leaned heavily into a retro sound throughout their careers. From Leon Bridges to Meghan Trainor these artists are giving classic sounds a modern perspective.

1. Leon Bridges

Though he infuses more modernity into his music these days, Bridges’ early work sounded like it could’ve been released by any one of the soul crooners of the ’60s. His 2015 album Coming Home featured songs like “Brown Skin Girl,” “Daisy Mae,” and “Lisa Sawyer,” which made use of a classic waltz and retro lyricism. Who else was singing Princess, little honey with the polka-dot dress on / Ruby-lipped lady whose name I don’t know in 2015?

Since releasing Coming Home, Bridges has taken a more contemporary approach to soul, in an effort to move the ball forward. “I’m very thankful for what Coming Home did, but I didn’t want to be placed in this box and depended upon as this Sam Cooke prodigy,” Bridges told NPR in 2018. “I wanted to be able to take elements from Coming Home, but move the sound forward.”

2. Meghan Trainor

Many of Trainor’s songs are built around a ’50s doo-wop melody. From her breakout track “All About That Bass” to her latest hit “Made You Look,” Trainor has long made her love of a snappy, melodic beat known.

While the backing tracks are taken straight out of a ’50s pop album, Trainor’s lyrics are unmistakably modern. She sets her songs in a particular era by singing about body image in a way that would’ve been unheard of back then with unabashed candor.

3. Greta Van Fleet

Moving away from pop music, rock is also experiencing a throwback of sorts by way of Greta Van Fleet. Few bands have carried on the classic rock tradition more wholistically better than Greta Van Fleet. The Michigan rockers wear their inspirations on their sleeves, harkening back to the golden age of rock that saw bands like Led Zeppelin rule the world.

Though their sound has proven controversial for some rock fans, no one can deny that they’ve brought the classic rock spirit back to the genre and introduced it to a new generation of listeners.

4. Lake Street Dive

Lake Street Dive covers a wide variety of retro sounds. Fronted by Rachael Price, the group has a rich sound full of tight harmonies, big band horns, and soulful melodies that call to mind a number of classic bands.

“We want it to sound like the Beatles and Motown had a party together,” drummer Mike Calabrese told The Guardian. “We’re taking the elements of the ’60s and ’70s music we love and applying it to what we’re able to do with the four of us.”

5. Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars has gone through a number of sonic shifts – all of which have had a throwback feel. As one could guess from the title, Mars’ debut album Doo-Wops & Hooligans has a ’50s feel to it. Tracks like “Just the Way You Are,” “Marry You,” and “Talking to the Moon” feature lulling background harmonies that are deeply nostalgic.

In 2016, Mars’ sound time traveled to the ’90s with the release of 24K Magic. The album mimicked the vibe of ’90s R&B making for an interesting offering in the genre today.

Mars then went back in time to the ’70s for his Silk Sonic releases alongside Anderson .Paak. Their records are nostalgia fodder for lovers of classic soul music.

Photo: Lauren Dunn / *BB Gun Press

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