Post Modern Jukebox: Taking Pop Music Back In Time
I believe there is some sort of ache for a time when class was a style. The 1920’s was a time of more than just jazz music but flapper dresses, champagne glasses, when texting was a telegram, cameras had their own instagram filters and there was just an overall a classy sense of being. Scott Bradlee, a composer and pianist of style, has decided to become a pioneer for taking popular music of now and reinventing it as if it were from the time when F. Scott Fitzgerald was alive.
But what is postmodern jukebox? It has been deemed the ever evolving collective of performers playing popular music in period styles. Bradlee grew up in Long Island, falling in love with jazz music at age 12. From there he expanded his love for jazz and became a successful self taught performer in the New York Jazz music scene. Around 2013 Bradley decided to become more focused on his production of postmodern jukebox. It started when he took nirvana songs and rewrote them in the style of ragtime. When he started his production work expanding to pop songs he did this with a rotating group of musicians covering various songs in alternate throw back styles, including jazz, ragtime, and swing. He started to gain notoriety when he released these restyles on YouTube. The game has changed so much with YouTube fame because you don’t need a record label to gain thousands of fans. All his videos were shot in his living room and it was within those confines he was able to gather a variety of horn players, upright bassists, his own piano, and a series of talented vocalists, as a rotating cast.
As the viral surge grew, especially when world renowned author Neil Gaiman talked about this new sound to his million plus twitter followers, the aftermath that followed Bradley consisted of interviews by news outlets such as NPR, and performing live on Good Morning America and Fuse. At any given show there are between 12 and 14 different musicians on stage, including an MC and a tap dancer. It’s great because since the cast is always changing it means that each city gets to experience a different set of musicians that no other city has seen before. In a word of auto-tune and machine made sounds, PMJ showcases going back to the roots of musical talent.
The term Postmodern Jukebox was thought up by Bradlee and he goes on to explain that he picked it without really giving much thought to it. To his fans, it is the element of nostalgia that draws you in, for a time that has passed, a time that we didn’t grow up in. But it’s nice in a way because it draws in the younger generation that listens to songs on the radio, mixed with the older generation that loves music from the past. The alternate universe of pop songs, the idea of hearing something familiar in a completely different context is imaginatively radical.
Pop music in a time machine can be seen as the corner stone of originality.
But is PMJ the new EDM? That is the question that only in time will reveal. But it has a good running so far, considering the current Postmodern Jukebox videos on YouTube have over 200 million views. Bradley does not stick to one genre, restyling songs such as Fiona Apples ‘Criminal’ to Katy Perry’s ‘I kissed a girl’. To Bradley, his idea was to take old styles of music and make it cool again… ‘Creatively cool’. He won’t compartmentalize into just one genre, he will even cover rock and metal, showcasing Guns n Roses ‘Sweet Child O Mine’. But my personal favorite to check out is Maiya Sykes rendition of Radio Heads ‘Creep’ is totally worth the YouTube search. The beauty of YouTube is that you can take a niche audience and have it grow into a pop phenomenon. Each week Postmodern Jukebox releases a new song on Thursdays.