4 Reasons The Monkees Are Back on Top
Seventy-something rockers still hit the concert trail these days. And when they do, their fans typically hit the restroom as soon as they say, "here's a little something from our new album."
That won't be the case this summer when fans line up to see The Monkees.
The so-called pre-Fab Four just released a new album, its first featuring new material in 20 years. And people are gobbling it up. "Good Times!" made a splash on the Amazon.com sales charts. It also debuted at no. 6 on the Billboard album charts, ahead of Adele, Rihanna and Chris Stapleton.
The album is a Frankenstein's monster of sorts, stitched together from material originally written decades ago as well as new songs by Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and Noel Gallagher (Oasis).
And it's good!
Of course, plenty of "good" albums fail to crack the charts. Why are The Monkees, on the road in support of their signature show's 50th anniversary, suddenly hitmakers when they should be cashing their Social Security checks?
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1. No Politics, Just Song Hooks
The Monkees came of age during the late 1960s, a time teeming with social strife in the U.S. The Vietnam War. Simmering race relations. The hangover from President John K. Kennedy's assassination. Yet most Monkees songs avoided that tumult. The songs on "Good Times!" do the same, centering on buoyant hooks, not sober, potentially divisive messages. That resonated then. It still does today.
2. Nostalgia Matters
Wonder why a glorified karaoke show like "American Idol" became a sensation? The show's singers belted out the classics, the songs we knew and loved from long ago. That's part of The Monkees' appeal. We've been hearing their songs for decades, and tracks like "I'm a Believer" (AKA the "Shrek" song) introduced them to a new generation.
3. They Still Monkee Around
This critic saw the band's 1986 reunion tour and was surprised to see the show featured plenty of comic antics. Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones never took themselves too seriously. Then ... or now. Dolenz keeps telling us the band isn't a "band," it's just a TV show on a rerun cycle. That's partially true, since an industry ad seeking "4 insane boys" created the series that spawned their music. Yet the musicians' penchant for downplaying their gravitas while embracing their comic roots endears them to us.
4. Overdue Respect
Few bands took the critical beating The Monkees received back in the '60s. They don't play their own instruments! They're a fraud! They were no Beatles! Rinse. Lather. Repeat. The charges were partially true. The famed Wrecking Crew played the instruments on the band's first two albums. The Monkees were, initially, just a TV show. Yet the band members fought for, and won, creative control over their music starting with the "Headquarters" album. And, decades later, we routinely celebrate musicians who lean on Auto-Tune devices to enhance their sound. Heck, who can forget how the Grammy Awards hailed Milli Vanilli as the "Best New Artist" of 1989 even though they didn't even sing their own songs? In short: The Monkees got a bad rap. Now, with perfect pop gems like "Pleasant Valley Sunday" still on the radio, we can appreciate what they did all the more.