December 15, 2021

Why Do We Love Throwbacks? It’s an Art – and a Science.

By Reggie Shah, Senior Director of Research and Insights, Audacy

You know the feeling. You’re listening to the radio, your favorite playlist, or a commercial on your streaming station. Suddenly, the first notes of that song start playing, and bam! You’re no longer here. It’s five years ago – or 15, or 50 years – and you’re listening to that same tune while playing at a 4th of July picnic, or dancing at your high school prom, or going on that first date with the person who became your spouse. 

Music has that unique power to instantly transport us to simpler, nostalgic times in our lives. Those classics and throwbacks that we love take us back to our own special moments and let us relive that happiness all over again. Nostalgia is so meaningful in our world that not one, but two days of the week are now fondly named for it: Throwback Thursdays, and Flashback Fridays.

Apparently, throwback music isn’t only good for our souls, though – it’s also good for our minds. The University of Toronto recently published a fascinating study suggesting that listening to beloved songs from years gone by actually enhances brain functionality in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

And it’s not just any music – it has to be your music. Maybe you rocked and rolled with ‘50s and ‘60s music, grooved to ‘70s disco hits, were totally into ‘80s freestyle and hair bands, were captivated by R&B or country songs from the ‘90s, or soaked up the post-punk revival of the ‘00s. Even if you weren’t alive when those songs were first popular, if they meant something to you in your youth, it seems they can help keep your brain healthy and engaged as you get older.

At Audacy, we’re right on the bleeding edge of today’s tastemakers and trends, and we’re definitely fans of the oldies, classics, throwbacks – whatever you call them. Whatever genre you call your own, we’re all in. We’re devoting whole radio stations and exclusive digital content to these ageless favorites.

We just launched 94.7 The Block in New York City, where ‘90s and ‘00s songs – 25,000 of them – all play back-to-back, commercial-free, to the delight of Millennials across social media. Smokin’ Oldies, our classics station based in Dallas, brings back the best of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Based out of Chicago, our 104.3 JAMS is all about classic hip hop. It features morning host Ed Lover, who introduced listeners to these hits on Yo! MTV Raps and New York’s Hot97 “back in the day”.   

Every generation and every genre has its nostalgia, and part of the fun is sharing the memories and the journey across ages and formats. There’s perhaps no better proof than sharing the actual band Journey. The group’s signature hit, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” reached a respectable #9 on the charts when it was released 40 years ago, but ever since it highlighted the season finale of The Sopranos and popped up a record six times on Glee, it has become a rock anthem that has become an original classic for people of all ages.   

And that, my friends, is the beauty of throwbacks. They encourage social interaction, with old friends and new ones alike. And in these chaotic days, we could all use some safe, fun, and even brain-benefitting ways to celebrate the truth that, as Madonna notes, “Music makes the people come together, yeah.”

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