Young music listeners crave what is new and inventive, embracing music stars with real talent and a different sound than they’ve heard replayed on the radio over and over again. This generation is increasingly defining itself by its unique and varied interests, repelling narrow categorizations and instead embracing eclectic tastes. Hybrid music—the combination of different genres to create a new mix of sound and style—uses the Millennial sentiment of cultural splicing to make music that they want to hear. For example, though the 2013 remake of The Great Gatsby wasn’t the box office success it had hoped for, the soundtrack was a hit, featuring artists like Lana Del Rey and Jay Z blended with the movie’s 1920s vibe. The hybrid approach of pairing new music with a vintage story and style compelled Millennials to listen and gave them something to remember. There are countless throwback versions of current hit songs on YouTube, creating music that again is a hybrid of yesterday and today. Original songs sometimes don’t hold as much panache as the reimagined versions, and this hybrid style of new music groups mixing and matching genres, and sometimes decades, is what appeals to their millions of viewers. We’re taking a deeper look at three artists behind the most buzzed about hybrid versions of current hits to understand just who Millennials are tuning in for:
1. Postmodern Jukebox
What started as a revival of old-timey music has grown into the viral phenomenon Postmodern Jukebox, a project created by Scott Bradlee to push the boundaries of music genres. The group of musicians churns out a low-key operation in Bradlee’s living room, taking the musical background of jazz, swing, bluegrass, ragtime and old Hollywood and applying it today’s top hits. His “Vintage 1950s Doo Wop” version of Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” may be (in our honest opinion) better than the original, and the group’s “Grandpa Style” cover of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” adds dimensions to the music and lyrics that are so playful and catchy, one YouTube commenter reports “this is the only channel that my grandfather and I both enjoy.” Bradlee appeals to Millennials by putting “the music of their generation…into a time machine,” creating hybrid versions of old and new music that hasn’t been seen before.
In an American dream-like scenario, this group of five young vocalists came together just one day before NBC’s The Sing-Off premier in 2011 and went on to become the winners of the show’s third season. Since their big win, the acapella quintet has released two albums and a holiday EP, in addition to a variety of cover videos on their YouTube channel, which has 1.5 million subscribers and counting. Their recent version of Lorde’s “Royals” has garnered over 8.5 million views. Previously, the versatile group reeled in over 10 million views with popular covers of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” and Fun’s “We Are Young,” both beat-laden old-school rap departures from the original tracks. The group is inspired to “take instrument-free music far beyond anyone’s wildest expectations” and draws from a “dizzyingly eclectic set of musical genres,” using popular songs as their medium to set pure vocal ability and imagination at the forefront of new music.
Simply known as “a guy from Vancouver” who likes to make mashups, Isosine is the genius behind “Little Wrecking Ball,” a track that creates a hybrid of “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus and “Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons to produce both a musically and visually moving experience. Focusing on both the songs and videos, Isosine prompts reactions from fans on Twitter like “all I really want out of life right now is for Miley to publicly acknowledge how awesome Little Wrecking Ball is.” Isosine has been experimenting with mashups for the past two years, combining unlikely candidates like Justin Bieber and Slipknot for the video “Psychosocial Baby” that has gained almost 14 million views. This artist mixes genres in unexpected ways, drawing inspiration from mashup greats like Girl Talk, who gained popularity with Millennials before YouTube even existed.