Who is the 90's kid's Bowie/Prince?
April 22, 2016 7:05 PM   Subscribe

I'll delineate more under the fold, but in brief: Who were the world-opening figures in music (or arts generally) that got into the ears, hearts and minds of the kids born ~1985 and there after?

Perhaps it's the forced parallel of Bowie and Prince dying so close to each other, but it seems like there is a real cognitive watermark that each artist left on their young listeners, with a small generational divide between them. I'm ('79) sexually imprinted by Prince (the batdance video, specifically) and my sweetheart('73) is much more attached to Bowie. This is fascinating, as a few years seems to create a watershed point where one artist was more meaningful than the other to a nascent conscious. Microgenerations aside, they were both highly significant, however, we cannot come up with who the cultural successor would be, specifically for kids born after 1986.
Q: In that interval between Prince and the advent of the common internet, what artist told the outsider-feeling, but mainstream radio listening child that there were others like them, or brought an outsider prospective to them?
posted by Cold Lurkey to Media & Arts (94 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Kurt Cobain
posted by asockpuppet at 7:13 PM on April 22, 2016 [34 favorites]

Nirvana. Smashing Pumpkins. Rage against the machine. Beastie boys.
posted by chasles at 7:13 PM on April 22, 2016 [7 favorites]

Pearl Jam!
posted by susiswimmer at 7:20 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Kurt Cobain. Tupac Shakur.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:21 PM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

My daughter says Nicki Minaj and Laura Jane Grace.
posted by Requiax at 7:27 PM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Tupac, for sure. One of my roommates had a life-size poster of him.

I feel like Cobain was meaningful for an older demographic, though.
posted by SMPA at 7:36 PM on April 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

It's pushing it on "arts generally" but Matt Groening ('Simpsons', etc., of course) may be as big a name as any.

Otherwise, I'll go with Cobain, though he was out early.
posted by mr. digits at 7:37 PM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was born the same year as your partner, '73, and I'm a huge Prince fan, not a Bowie fan at all. My peers were Prince fans or non-Prince fans, but Bowie wasn't nearly as much on the radar other than for a brief period for Labrynth. I and some peers were also deeply imprinted by Nirvana. They hit in '91, and that seems a bit early for people born in '85 like you mentioned in your post...
posted by mysterious_stranger at 7:37 PM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Weird Al.
posted by tilde at 7:39 PM on April 22, 2016 [17 favorites]

I'm tempted to go with Nine Inch Nails. That said, your time frames seem out of sync to me, because your born-after-1986 cohort didn't turn 14 until 2000 at the earliest, so I think their pole star artists are likewise going to be late 1990s or 2000s. I actually find it a bit unusual that someone born in 1973 would be a "generational" fan of Bowie, or of Prince if born in 1979. I mean, it's true that they both had long careers with multiple reinventions and people can become fans of all kinds of things, including artists on a comeback arc who were popular when they were children or before they were born. My feeds are awash in Prince nostalgia (and were for Bowie nostaglia as well) but that's because a most of my social media peeps are Gen-Xers and so Prince was on his first big wave when we were coming of age, and Bowie enjoyed a hugely successful comeback during that same period.
posted by drlith at 8:00 PM on April 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

Red Hot Chili Peppers and REM might be valid answers, though their influence may have been on slightly older kids.

White Zombie, Nine Inch Nails.

posted by mountmccabe at 8:01 PM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Second MS. I was born in 71. Although I liked Bowie and certainly admired his genius, he always seemed a little ahead of my time. Prince was my guy. And the guy of all my peers. I am just gutted. As for who is going to carry on the flag, I just don't know.... My almost 16 year old daughter is a musician, she and her orchestra buddies love the oldies. Kansas, Prince, Steely Dan, EDM, they throw some new stuff in there as well and the current jam is the Hamilton soundtrack. In my house, the kids are taking a little bit of everything. They love and get inspiration from everything. That is just fine by me.
posted by pearlybob at 8:02 PM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

There is no true 90's equivalent for either.

They were both multi-talented, started young, self-generated, had multiple career arcs/points where they re-invented themselves, both were HUGELY prolific with their output, Prince was a masterful musician.... Most importantly, they both had strings of hits that were popular with listeners of all ages. Their popularity transcended fans of any particular musical genre. They both acted (Bowie much much more, and much better.)

In some ways, you can turn to the ladies... Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey both come to mind, maybe not 90's enough though? Jennifer Lopez is also a professional dancer and her acting is enjoyable most of the time (she was so so good in Out of Sight w/ George Clooney) and Mariah acts, too. I don't think either plays any instruments or produces.


Mega Star. Mega Talented. 90's...

Moby? Oh, dip! I know....


That's it. That's all I got for now. I'll be back if anyone else comes to mind.
posted by jbenben at 8:04 PM on April 22, 2016 [9 favorites]

I think that both Bowie and Prince spanned a large period of time. I was also born in 1979 and my friends and I all got obsessed with (older) Bowie in high school. My initial 80s Prince exposure was via teenaged babysitters before that and then, like you, the Batman soundtrack and then the early 1990s New Power Generation albums.

So while I enjoyed older Bowie (although I did see him live in the mid 1990s when he toured with NiN and mostly played stuff from his newer albums), I did actually experience some of Prince in the moment - singles on the radio, videos, etc.

I teach college students and it seems like Nirvana, Biggie, and Tupac are meaningful for them, but hey, I was a real live teenager in that era and thus I experienced it very differently than my students do.

Also remember that "kids today" have ALWAYS had the Internet and thus their music exposure is quite different than ours.
posted by k8t at 8:06 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

posted by Andrhia at 8:06 PM on April 22, 2016 [31 favorites]

Born in 1975. I liked Prince well enough but I was far more attached to Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails.

I'm guessing 1986 kids were getting into music in the early aughts, yeah? So, Radiohead.
posted by xyzzy at 8:20 PM on April 22, 2016

I was born just before your cut off, and mine are Dave Matthews, Kurt Cobain, Radiohead, and Dave Grohl, Weezer...I'm sure there are more, but those are ones that my peers (West Coast) connected over.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:31 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I was born in '82 and I grew up with the sense that Madonna was the coolest person around. She certainly pushed sexual boundaries, and I think women did start to feel more comfortable to express themselves sexually after her example.

That's not to say that I don't now find her obnoxious.
posted by imalaowai at 8:36 PM on April 22, 2016 [10 favorites]

I don't think there's a single obvious answer for this. I agree that Kurt Cobain's too early. A kid born in 1985 would have been 8 or 9 when Cobain died (although some of those kids likely knew who he was and more came to appreciate him later).

The answer would probably be young-ish artists actively making music around 1998 to 2002, hitting that sweet spot between 1.) popular enough to be known by a lot of teenagers (not just those into super-indie stuff) and 2.) compelling enough personalities to make a strong impact on them, beyond liking their music. I can't think anyone quite on the Prince/Bowie level. But in different strains of pop: Trent Reznor? Missy Elliott? Erykah Badu? Beck? Gwen Stefani? Pink? Thom Yorke? Kathleen Hanna? Bjork?
posted by lisa g at 8:44 PM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think your example of you preferring Prince and your partner preferring Bowie is more a matter of taste and not your pretty small age difference.

A lot of the answers being given in this thread make me shudder...but I guess Kurt Cobain comes close for some people.
posted by cakelite at 8:50 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I was born in '80 so I'm a bit too old, but ...

I sort of feel like the answer is "no one" -- at least not in the same way. No one had quite the same "beautiful weirdo" quality both Bowie & Prince had. If that's what you're going for.

I was lamenting earlier that I grew up with "weird" kind of being a default -- I had Prince, Boy George, Madonna, Michael Jackson, etc., in front of me all day. I know there were other pop stars, too, but these are the ones I remember. Later kids got New Kids on the Block (right age but I was never into them) and then Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Britney Spears, etc. And they're all fine pop stars but they definitely created a new "normal" that was ... really pretty normal.

I think Trent Reznor comes close to the weird and subversive, challenging sexuality, just in a very different way. Kurt Cobain is close but not quite the same (regardless of how influential as Nirvana was). Radiohead is pretty close, and as much as I love them, I don't really regard Thom Yorke as being a "figure" of pop music, really (and I don't think he wanted to be).

Maybe, in an odd way, Gorillaz? Possibly not what you're going for.

For women, maybe Tori Amos, at least in some ways -- she was definitely weird and quirky and did her own thing. Maybe Garbage/Shirley Manson. I also think Courtney Love -- at least for a certain period -- should be here. And, in a way, No Doubt and Gwen Stefani.

If you want more recent examples, I would say Grimes and Janelle Monae hit the "it's cool to be weird" buttons for me. I would've loved to have been a teen with them making music.
posted by darksong at 8:58 PM on April 22, 2016 [12 favorites]

posted by hazyjane at 9:06 PM on April 22, 2016 [7 favorites]

Jay-Z, Kanye, Beyoncé
posted by bluedaisy at 9:12 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

posted by castlebravo at 9:19 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I was born in the mid-'80s and I was going to say "no one"; my husband posits Lady Gaga, although obviously she wasn't famous in our formative years. She does seem like the next closest thing, though.

Cobain is definitely a few years too old for us. Same with Madonna, though she seems like an obvious inheritor. I loved Radiohead and it definitely spoke to the "weird kid" in me, but they're not a thing the way Prince and Bowie were. Honestly, I was just really into David Bowie. But my siblings are your age, so.

Also remember that "kids today" have ALWAYS had the Internet and thus their music exposure is quite different than ours.

Super not true for people born in the '80s...people didn't have reliable internet access until I was in high school, at least (and even then it was dial-up!)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 9:19 PM on April 22, 2016 [8 favorites]

Probably for the 00's kid and not the 90's, and possibly too early to tell, but Lady Gaga seems like she's from a similar dimension.
posted by neeta at 9:22 PM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

(Haha Goodbyewaffles beat me to it!)
posted by neeta at 9:23 PM on April 22, 2016

Daft Punk?
posted by RobotHero at 9:26 PM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

As much as it pains me to say it, My Chemical Romance, Evanescence. Played on the radio and listened to by the outsider teens who weren't listening to hip hop. Green Day was also popular - my students simply couldn't believe that Billie Joe Armstrong was older than their sad cardigan of a teacher.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:27 PM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm a mid-80s baby and Nirvana's heyday was when most of us were, at best, in Grade 1. It's something a lot of people I know circled back to in our teens, but it's not what triggered our musical coming of age, which for most of us would have started in the second half of the 90s. There's lots of great suggestions here that would have been relevant when someone who's now 30 was in high school, but it's harder to think of what we were listening to in Grade 6 or 7.

I'm not sure we had "weirdly flamboyant" as much as we had "weirdly thinky and outspoken" musicians. Alanis Morissette (at least for Canadians) and Lauryn Hill (as in Miseducation rather than her Fugees work), for example, introduced a lot of my contemporaries to feminism before we knew it was a thing.
posted by blerghamot at 9:29 PM on April 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

Weezer (born in '84 if it matters) Not on the level of Bowie and Prince, but very important to me and mine.
posted by a.steele at 9:30 PM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I definitely agree about Lady Gaga, although I feel like she's retreated from some her weirdness recently. But she's awesome and smart.

Not quite on the "mainstream" level, exactly, but possibly Dresden Dolls & Amanda Palmer? I saw Dresden Dolls in 2005 (ish?) and we were on the balcony of the venue. I saw a boy console his girlfriend who was insisting she really needed to go down and get on stage and sing (Palmer had invited people to do so) and I just felt "yes, I get you, girl." I like a lot of Dresden Dolls & even some of Palmer's solo work (but ... I have issues with a lot of what she does, honestly), but she does hit a lot of the "beautiful weirdo" notes.
posted by darksong at 9:44 PM on April 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

One problem is that I don't remember it being a super flamboyant time in music. A lot of the popular "alt" stuff was either pretty angsty: angry, broody, withdrawn. I also don't remember male artists doing a lot of playing around with gender or sexuality in the same way as they did before or after. But maybe it's selective memory.

That said, I was born in '84 and Trent Reznor and Billy Corgan both came to mind. Missy Elliott and Timbaland, Thom Yorke, and Björk seem like sane answers to me too. None of these were Prince-esque sex symbols, though. (Aaliyah, maybe??? If you count her film work? But her career was way too short, unfortunately.) Nirvana seems a hair early and Kanye and Beyoncé a hair late for this specific window in time, to me.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:02 PM on April 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

Outkast maybe? They were the most interesting thing in music from BOB through Idlewild. Wu Tang is a pretty huge cultural touchstone too for a slightly older cohort.

I think a lot of the above musicians were more relevant to kids born in the mid 70s like me. I was 18 when Kurt Cobain died.
posted by fshgrl at 10:04 PM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Bjork, Kanye, and Radiohead for *sure* - all are widely popular, endlessly inventive, personally affecting, and original (like Beck), and *influential* (unlike Beck, who I think is a culture-processing machine-maestro, just not sure tons of people found themselves imitating him. Whereas you hear shades of the others in artists coming out with stuff *now*. Though, unlike Radiohead, Beck and Kanye (and sometimes Bjork) are usually playful, kind of above pop music at the same time that they define it, like Bowie and Prince. So I think Kanye and Bjork tied - but I think both have a harder time occupying the dominant space B & P did because of strongly being committed to minority identities (Prince wasn't white, but was arguably white "enough" to capture a *very* broad audience) and because their music is (still) a *touch* too forward or niche for your uncles and aunts to like (while Bowie and Prince were arty, but made *pop* songs for the most part).

I don't think Madonna's too obvious, she hits a lot of those marks. But her music doesn't communicate a point of view so much as adapt and express the style of a moment that's passing. And it was always about *watching Madonna*, instead of creating a space for listeners to insert themselves. (Idk, I'd sing along to her stuff, but it never excited or resonated with me, or made me want to cry, or showed me anything new. I think Cobain and some others did that for a lot of people, but didn't hit the important points made by jbenben. Gaga, somewhere between Madonna and Prince. Maybe there's a Gaga + Bjork + Kanye tie.

Good comments from jbenben and in the Prince thread on the blue about how changes in the whole infrastructure made Pop Stars like the ones we've been mourning harder to make.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:21 PM on April 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm mid ’80s, and I would say "no one," as it has long been a gripe of mine that my teen years were such uninspired ones for music. It was the era of Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit. Some of the fairly sheltered kids at my suburban high school did seem to get that "mainstream outsider" fix from Marilyn Manson at the time, but I wouldn't put him there with Bowie and Prince. When he dies, you won't have kids born in the 80s crying in the streets.

I do agree Lady Gaga belongs with them, though -- she just came way too late for me.
posted by retrograde at 11:36 PM on April 22, 2016

I was born in '85 and Beck got me into Prince. Midnite Vultures in particular.
posted by town of cats at 12:13 AM on April 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

Ah, sadly. I'm with Duncan Jones concerning Gaga - just, no. And I really wanted to! She's sorta from my lineage, but only in the same way Madonna is (lower Manhattan club scene) and well... we all know how that is turning out. (Gaga is intelligent and talented, but she has not a whiff of originality about her. Even Grace Jones rips on her in her recent autobiography, and with good reason. Grace doesn't even do the Gaga the dignity of mentioning her by name. lol)

Bjork and Stefani and Manson (Shirley! Marilyn! Either!!) are good picks... Both No Doubt and The Sugar Cubes broke in the 80's. Bjork is the most interesting choice because if you've seen the film Dancer in The Dark, then you have cried your heart out. (Catherine Deneuve was in Dancer with Bjork, and Tony Scott's The Hunger opposite David Bowie - links up there...) Gwen Stefani is actually a fucking powerhouse of talent! Her stage performance is just amazing, but she's primarily a vocalist. I put Shirley Manson from Garbage on par with Roisin Murphy of Moloko, Roisin being a bit more ambitious. Both have originality and presence for days, neither was arena packing huge....

I agree the problem is largely down to how the record industry works. Both Bowie and Prince had bad awful no good contracts that vampire sucked their talent - both eventually broke free and went independent! My favorite story among many about David Bowie is how he lost negotiations to get out of his shit contract in the late 70's (or early 80's?) locked himself into a hotel room or similar and screamed and raged behind closed doors for a few days, and emerged to fulfill that obligation and never looked back. Prince became a symbol to get around his contract and eventually became Paisley Park. Bowie created some sort of financial investment instrument so that artists didn't need to sell their souls to record companies in the 90's. Visionaries, both, on multiple levels. And still packing Arenas.

I remember Pearl Jam did an end run to cut out concert sales behometh Ticketmaster in the mid-90's, I think they created a new concert sales system? So that was cool. Not sure how it worked out long term.

Kesha is having her own Bowie/Prince moment right now with SONY. That's interesting on SO MANY LEVELS. She started out as a song writer, so hugely talented, and then there's the veracity of her claims about Dr. Luke... Her past image is very commiserate IMHE with what it looks and feels like to be a young person sexually victimized, looking back it's so obvious she was going through what she claims, IMHE. I wasn't there, but her testimony rings true. She may emerge as a viable contender for this legacy once she's able to put out original music again. I'm watching her.

Rihanna. Rihanna more than Beyoncé. Beyonce has acted, but Rihanna has an edge and originality that cuts deeper somehow. It will be interesting to see how she shapes her career, she's still young and she is terribly artistically flexible. Beyonce doesn't have that flexibility. They're like comparing Sarah Vaughan to Ella Fitzgerald - both GREAT - Sarah has more heart.

So... Kesha could be our Queen. Or Rihanna when she decides to really lean in.

Sorry I mentioned Beck, even though he's hyper talented. He really has not sustained the promise Two Turn Tables and a Microphone brought way back when. Even though he's still winning awards.
posted by jbenben at 12:51 AM on April 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

I was born in '86 and i feel like for me and my friends it was Tom Waits. Like, I remember going to the Chicago Art Institute on a summer scholarship in high school with a bunch of other artsy weirdos, we'd all argue over what music to listen to while drawing but literally everyone agreed on Tom Waits and Bowie.

Not contemporary to us, but having grown up in an era where "pop music/the radio sucks" was pretty much the only opinion I heard from other people who felt weird, we kind of ended up looking backwards.
posted by moons in june at 1:03 AM on April 23, 2016 [8 favorites]

Shout out to RadioHead as something I feel no deep affinity towards, but gosh do they come up over and over and over and over again from the folks younger than me - proof I am sometimes inflexible! Even Prince covered them!!
posted by jbenben at 1:10 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bjork and Stefani and Manson (Shirley! Marilyn! Either!!) are good picks... Both No Doubt and The Sugar Cubes broke in the 80's.

Those are all bands I saw play live in high school and I'm 10 years older than the OPs target audience. It's interesting to see who listened to what where. In my world Bowie, The Clash, were my older cousins music (10-15 years older), Prince, Madonna etc were my older siblings music as younger teens (5+ years older). Not super popular with my age group ever. Guns n Roses was probably the last 80s band with any kind of mass appeal. Raves were still fun but the best years were already past for me too. No Doubt, Nirvana, Garbage, Public Enemy, NWA, Portishead, Massive Attack etc were our music*. Then............. nothing? A lot of people are referencing bands that had been around a long time by the time a kid born in 1987 got really into music. I think the internet just made it harder for any one artist to make it in the mainstream and to maintain that success beyond one hit song. Rihanna is pretty glamorous, so she's got that going for her, but she's not a musician, I don't think she writes anything. Stefani is closer in spirit to what OP was looking for I think.

*I once saw Bjork (sugarcubes) and Public Enemy at the SAME SHOW. Ah, the 90s. I miss you.
posted by fshgrl at 1:52 AM on April 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Came here to say Bjork, No Doubt, Garbage, Weezer and Beck for me (born in 85). Maybe also Fiona Apple.
posted by thebots at 2:59 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, though that came much much later.
posted by thebots at 3:00 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was born in 85. Kurt kobain died when I was 9, nirvana was before our time.

I think radiohead is the closest we've got.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:47 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think one of the biggest problems with what the music scene became in the 90s was that it diluted many of the things that made Bowie and Prince unique. The focus on Authenticity and Integrity prized the most boring elements of classic rock masculinity and devalued eccentricities that made artists like Prince and Bowie unique. There was Cobain, and to a lesser extent there was Scott Weiland, but most of the soundtrack for 90s weirdos was boring Viking classic-rock-in-waiting.

Of the Gen X artists, the closest I would say to Prince are Tori Amos and Beck. Tori in particular has the musical virtuosity down, and she's also eccentric in ways that don't feel forced.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:28 AM on April 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

So many of these artists listed above are still more relevant to Gen X folks than those born in the 80s. My husband was born in 1986 and Kurt Cobain died when he was what, 6? His music imprint is late 90s/early 00s.

I'd make a case for indie darlings such as Jim James or Ben Gibbard. Not as flamboyant as Prince or Bowie, but certainly influential. I can't imagine the 00s without Death Cab for Cutie, My Morning Jacket, Modest Mouse, etc.
posted by cabingirl at 4:59 AM on April 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh yeah, and here's a wacky one to consider: They Might Be Giants.
posted by cabingirl at 5:00 AM on April 23, 2016 [8 favorites]

I was born in 1988. Kurt Cobain died when I was 6. He was not my David Bowie. My boyfriend, who was born in 1982, was obsessed with Nirvana, but I'm just too young for them to have even been on my radar. In 1994 my favorite album was Yellow Submarine.

David Bowie was my David Bowie - my friends and I watched Labyrinth a lot.

I would suggest Janelle Monae as the best descendant of David Bowie and Prince, especially because she makes badass music and plays around with gender. She's right in your age bracket - she was born in 1985. Tightrope came out in 2010.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:00 AM on April 23, 2016 [11 favorites]

I'm ten years older than your target and Radiohead is my generation and a bit younger but not ten years.

Kanye is the only thing that comes close, though I've some sympathy for Rihanna & beyonce-except afaik they write their own stuff.

But I think the more important point is that it is unlikely to be guitar driven rock/pop.

There are lots of candidates (gaga, monae, etc) where there isn't the longevity yet to be able to formulate this argument. Like Gaga is basically a one album story at this point.
posted by JPD at 5:39 AM on April 23, 2016

Weird not to see Damon Albarn mentioned (although Gorillaz gets nod on its own) when thinking about Bowie equivalents. Multiple reinventions, mixed media, popularity spanning three decades.

Is he as significant a creative force as either Bowie or Prince? I'm not sure. But he's surely the closest modern analogue to Bowie in terms of his approach to his career and his general career path.
posted by howfar at 5:53 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Good point about Gaga and I suppose Madonna's a bit too out of the range dates wise ... And though I mentioned Weird Al, NIN should have been in there. Head like a hole, indeed. Maybe they aren't 'big' enough but I'd go with Bjork and Sinead O'Connor as well.
posted by tilde at 6:02 AM on April 23, 2016

Awesome question. My husband and I spent about a half hour debating this.

We have come up with Pink and No Doubt.

His initial reaction was Justin Timberlake, but upon a question reread, we both agree that JT is not really "outsider".
posted by kellygrape at 6:35 AM on April 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

What's Ask Metafilter without questioning the premise? I was born in 1975 into a middle class Asian family trying to fit in to white culture in Florida. I'm totally wrecked by Prince's passing and was just greatly bummed by Bowie's. Prince and Bowie were superstars who defined their breakout eras and continued to make great music. The outsider narrative doesn't fit. Look at pictures of the 70s and 80s, the cool kids wanted to fit in to that universe. Nothing else explains how much purple there was in the 80s.
posted by advicepig at 6:53 AM on April 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

In this fantastic interview filmed in '99, Bowie talks about how pop culture had become so fragmented that there wasn't a single group or artist who had personified the '90s.

"The point of having someone who leads the forces has disappeared...The audience is at least as important as the artist."
posted by Dwardles at 7:11 AM on April 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

1986 to 2016 is several micro generations.
My son was born in 1992, grew up listening to Tupac and Eminem and Little Romeo.
At age 16 his mind was blown by Evanesence.
At 18 he said "Mom, have you heard of this band? I really like their music!" Who was it? The Beatles.
posted by SyraCarol at 7:12 AM on April 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Those 90s icons (Tupac, Kurt Cobain) are tricky because they're too closely tied to genres--where some of the best parts about Prince and Bowie were their genre-spanning pop genius. Nobody comes close, not in terms of record sales, hit singles, longevity, versatility, or talent.

Lady Gaga desperately wants to join that level but she doesn't have the talent or any original ideas. Her "weird" is calculated and bland. Anyone can wear a kooky outfit. But can anyone do so much cocaine they black out on entire years of their lives and accidentally record an album like Station to Station?! I'm not glamorizing the drugs (and it's worth noting that Bowie got sober and still did amazing work) just--you can't fake that kind of magic.

If Beyoncé played guitar, she'd be a good candidate for us. Reaching back, it will be a bum out when David Byrne passes, because he's got the public (genuine) weirdness and talent and versatility.
posted by witchen at 7:44 AM on April 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

That's a good one, witchen. I was thinking really hard about Byrne (played Glass Elevator at my wedding) ... but thout that might be my preference rather than a reaching influence. Lauper, too.
posted by tilde at 7:49 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Born in late 1983, I was a goth, then a punk, then an emo/indie kid. For me: David Bowie via Labyrinth (but not Kurt Cobain, he belonged to my older sister), Queen ("We Are the Champions" was in one of the Mighty Ducks movies), Trent Reznor/NIN, Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes, the Mountain Goats/John Darnielle, and now Janelle Monae. My high school bestie who was a bit more goth would probably add Marilyn Manson to that. These are the people I can imagine writing sad FB/FB-equivalent posts about 30 years from now.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:53 AM on April 23, 2016

Gaga is definitely in this mold, regardless of authenticity, but she's a bookend on the other end of the generation I'm considering here, I think.

I realizing this question is all the more tricky because of the subjective nature of who means what to you when... answers like NIN and Bjork could be correct, as they are beautiful weirdos nonpareil within the right timeframe. But did they galvanize young people? To really answer that we'd have to be inside the mind of a 12 year old circa 1998.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:14 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

But did they galvanize young people? To really answer that we'd have to be inside the mind of a 12 year old circa 1998.

I was 14 in 1998. The videos for "Closer" and "A Perfect Drug" were like distilled puberty moments for me. I remember trading mix-CDs on which I printed and illustrated the lyrics of "A Perfect Drug" and there was a time when I went to sleep every night with The Downward Spiral playing on repeat. There was a goth guy about two years older in my high school who was among the first of us to get tattooed--it was the NiN logo--and I remember hanging out and lending him my gunmetal gray lipstick and watching him peel that tattoo.

The other kids would often shout the lyrics to "The Beautiful People" by Manson at us (our entire goth clique, 9th grade in 1999). Manson seems almost cringe-worthy to me today--I think Reznor has held up better over time--but both Manson and Reznor were major unifiers in weirdo culture for us at that age. If you wore all black, if you got called into the principle's office after columbine because they were afraid you were part of the "Trench Coat Mafia," then you listened to Manson and you listened to NiN.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:57 AM on April 23, 2016 [12 favorites]

I was going to say "So many of these artists listed above are still more relevant to Gen X folks than those born in the 80s," though PhoBWanKenobi's answer would contradict that. But NIN was the thing when I was in high school with a bunch of us born in '76-77. The Downward Spiral came out in, what, 1993? 94?
posted by salvia at 9:10 AM on April 23, 2016

Trent Reznor MAYBE, on your criteria. He's evolved into spanning a lot more genres and his fans at this point are more widely spread than (us) gothy weirdos in high school. Bjork, I think, for sure.

Currently, Janelle Monae. Kanye for the genre-expansion and hugeness. Kesha is a REALLY interesting mention. Grimes and FKA Twigs if they get way bigger. Beyoncé would need to get weirder, and so would Rihanna.

Dare I say, Miley Cyrus? She's still REALLY YOUNG.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 9:12 AM on April 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was twelve in 1998! And I listened to...David Bowie! I remember listening to both the White Stripes and the Strokes as being life-changing "now I am cool" moments, a little later I had me some Modest Mouse and some Decemberists and Dresden Dolls and I listened to "In the Airplane Over the Sea" so many times that my high school roommate bought me my own copy. But what I made mix tapes of and watched videos of and generally obsessed over was David Bowie. Who I learned about from Labyrinth, yes, but first from a Turner Classic Movies broadcast of the final Ziggy Stardust show, and then from Livejournal communities and geocities websites.

It is one of my mother's convictions, which she mentions every so often when I go back home to visit, that my generation is much less defined by music than her was, in the 60s. And I don't agree with her, but I do agree that even in the early-internet era we were sampling from a lot more places and tended to have fewer "I listen to only this and am defined by this" artists. If anything, my friend groups defined themselves by what comedians we listened to and what web-cartoons we watched.
posted by theweasel at 9:13 AM on April 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

(Forgot to add: I was all about the Napster and the Limewire and the OurTunes in my early dumb years, and I do feel like my choice among all the things I COULD download was stuff I'd actually heard about and heard was good, which probably tilted towards stuff that had been out since the early 90s at least. I did get into Beck and Radiohead that way. Couldn't have cared less about Nirvana, though. I agree that's more Gen X than early Millennial)
posted by theweasel at 9:17 AM on April 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

For me, personally, it was Jarvis Cocker.
posted by howfar at 9:54 AM on April 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think this really depends upon where you live. I'm in the UK (used to be in Scandinavia) and I'd say people like Jarvis Cocker, Damon Albarn, Bjork and Radiohead (not just Thom Yorke) are lodestars. For one very specific subset of a generation also Pete Doherty, possibly, though he's squandered his potential.

Cosign Miley Cyrus and I'm really interested in what she does next.
posted by kariebookish at 10:06 AM on April 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

The 90s kid's David Bowie is probably gunna be Dave Grohl.

For me personally it's gunna be P!nk, but I don't think it'll have the same collective impact as Dave Grohl dying.

For my brother (80s kid) it's totally going to be Jon Bon Jovi though. Oh and Billy Joel.

For later years? Your millennials and all that? I agree with people saying Lady Gaga and Beyonce. I feel like people really really respond to their music on a level they don't with say, Katy Perry for example.
posted by Dimes at 10:14 AM on April 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was 12 in 1997 and taped the It's Oh So Quiet and Human Behaviour videos. My mom eventually told me I had to STOP PLAYING THOSE OVER AND OVER AGAIN IT WAS DRIVING HER TOTALLY NUTS. I really do think she was a big influence in my interest in art and 'weirdness' and questioning norms. That's just me but I do have a lot of friends my age who experienced the same.
posted by thebots at 11:52 AM on April 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was born in 1982. I think for a lot of kids born in the 80s in South Asia the answer to your question is going to be Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and Radiohead. I've found a shared love of these bands to be a "thing" amongst many people my age who grew up in India/Pakistan/Bangladesh.

Without wanting to generalise, my guess is that they are some sort of cultural touchstone to a lot of Westernised, privileged kids who grew up in the 90s in these countries, and liking them was how you identified yourself as a cool kid. (I was not a cool kid - I liked the Pet Shop Boys.) We didn't have access to English language radio, but we did have Indian MTV.
posted by Ziggy500 at 12:09 PM on April 23, 2016

NIN was never exclusively goth though. I was most definitely not into the goth scene and I and everyone I knew loved them in high school and college. Skinny Puppy was maybe an outsider goth industrial band but NIN were pretty mainstream. At least on the west coast.
posted by fshgrl at 12:48 PM on April 23, 2016

UK '82 baby here.

World defining/influential within music: Radiohead. PJ Harvey. Jarvis Cocker. Madonna.
Courtney Love but its complicated.

Figures I feel a great deal of affection for, and will feel sad about but less influential:Michael Eavis (Glastonbury organiser). Stephen Fry. Elton John. Boy George.

Already passed away but massively influential: John Peel, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett. Michael Jackson.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 12:49 PM on April 23, 2016

The Downward Spiral came out in, what, 1993? 94?

'94, but I think you have to keep in mind that it's not necessarily about what was released like, the exact year you turned 14. In the pre-broadband era I got most of my music via word of mouth and burned CD-Rs from older friends; for people I knew who had cable, it was partly music videos, and videos that were kind of notorious like the Closer video were still in rotation. (It could also be partly growing up in the suburbs, where things may have taken a little longer to percolate through the local culture.) Anyway, for whatever reason, I definitely filed NIN with my own generation and not with previous ones.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:29 PM on April 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I grew up in central Pennsylvania and was born in 1985. My Bowie and Prince were... Bowie and Prince. Labyrinth made sure we knew Bowie since birth, and a cover of "When Doves Cry" featured heavily in Romeo + Juliet. Plus, we are, obviously, millenials -- do you remember how many times we played "1999" in 1999?

That said, to me it seems obvious that the artists that most follow in Bowie and Prince's footsteps in terms of artistic and mass commercial achievement -- and in terms of beginning long and productive careers during our formative years -- are Kanye and Beyonce. They emerged on the music scene at the turn of the millenium, and they have been continuous -- and continuously evolving -- presences not only in music but in pop culture as a whole.

At least for me, many of the artists listed above (like Radiohead, Beck, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, etc.) were both too old to feel generationally formative, and frankly haven't had the continued longevity into our adulthood that are part of what have made Bowie and Prince so meaningful.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 1:51 PM on April 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Thinking about Robyn, too--she's had popular songs (Call Your Girlfriend, Dancing On My Own) and various metamorphoses, and her start as a teen pop star is a compelling narrative.
posted by pxe2000 at 2:06 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Born in the 80s. I am nodding with most of these answers, but I think I have moved beyond them in a lot of ways. Meanwhile groups like Bikini Kill and Le Tigre are as relevant as ever.

And now, later in life, I would say Grimes and Beyonce and Bjork are showing different ways to be a woman, and to be awesome.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:17 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'll add Annie Clark / St. Vincent to the number of musicians who might have a career worth remembering a few decades on.
posted by lmfsilva at 2:25 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was born in '88, and on a pure musical level, for me it was Radiohead. And Bjork, and maybe Tori Amos a little. (Madonna was also important to me, but not in an outsider sort of way.) I also spent my early teens into the, let's be real, terrible nu-metal/rap-rock nonsense (lol Linkin Park and Evanescence and Staind), but that wasn't foundational to me in the way Radiohead ended up being.

My caveat is that I was a pre-teen/teenager who was let loose among the wilds of Napster/Kazaa/Soulseek, and it made me absolutely omnivorous in my music tastes, and gave me some musical touchstones that weren't necessarily among the norm in my peer group. I somehow became a devoted fan of Depeche Mode starting at, like, age 11. (The last things I was downloading as Napster was in its death throes and file names were becoming increasingly obtuse in an effort to avoid takedowns? Depeche Mode's back catalogue.) Also, ever since I was a kid, I've never especially cared about my favorite musical artists beyond the music. As in, I didn't care about their image or band gossip or their music videos or really anything aside from the music itself. So I didn't have any real sense of my favorite musicians as any sort of role model or style icon.

So I don't know how representative I am! I do know, though, that the "everything can be found on the internet" nature of music in the 00's meant a fair number of my peers were able to develop weirder, more niche musical interests that weren't necessarily in line with the Top 40. The mix CDs we passed back and forth in high school didn't actually have that much top 40 on them.
posted by yasaman at 3:29 PM on April 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Honestly I think as far as bending sexual and gender expectations, being truly talented and not afraid to explore dark themes of loss and redemption and sexual realities and feelings, being multi-talented in a way that wasn't at first apparent, and again bending and twisting sex and gender like those two, I might have to say for us it's Lady Gaga. She scares us, she delights us, she inspires us. Am I wrong that this is how you dudes a bit older felt about Bowie and prince when they were newer artists?

We were too late for the alternative of the 90s though I remember looking up to older kids who listened to green day or whoever. And Cobain was dead by the time we went to pre-school.

Also our generation will be hurting the day we lose Adele. I know none of these people play instruments. These are the times we live in.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 4:12 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah oops - Beyoncé. I can't imagine an artist more of my peers would be more heartbroken to lose honestly.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 4:41 PM on April 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Born in 84 and for me I would say it is DJs, which is a completely different kind of populism and idolatry. But I know that I got very emotional when Frankie Knuckles died.
posted by kaspen at 5:07 PM on April 23, 2016

I was born in 1985, and the artist that most tapped into my feelings of outsiderness - and cultivated a following of people who felt similarly - was Savage Garden. Their impact isn't going to be on the same level of Bowie or Prince, but in an era that was chock-a-block full of boybands and girl groups, they were an accessible musical point for people who grew up in places where non-mainstream music was hard to find but who didn't necessarily connect with bubblegum pop.

Madonna would have the same devastating impact towards people of our age group if she died. Bjork was definitely The Weird One and I guess she'd fill that niche but she seemed way more subcultural rather than the massive cultural behemoth Prince and Bowie were, which is why I lean towards Madonna.

I feel like a lot of people are quoting alternative/indie music, but don't underestimate the impact of the Spice Girls. Their "Girl Power" thing was really big for girls my age and was a precursor to the zillions of girl groups that'd follow, and I know that many of us found some comfort and escapism in their larger-than-life personalities and music.
posted by divabat at 5:57 PM on April 23, 2016

data point: my sweetheart was born in '72 -- she took up art school (at university level) a couple years ago; the morning the news of the death of David Bowie spread around she was in class and the professor (which is about her and my age - maybe five years older than us, tops) and she were completely distraught - he fired up the projector attached from his laptop and put on Heroes from the Concert For New York; pretty much none of the 50 or so other people in the classroom, save maybe five, had any idea who that guy was; they are all from '95 or so.
posted by _dario at 6:32 PM on April 23, 2016

But, yeah, the music you love is generally the one you are exposed to during your formative years -- say 13 to 20? So, for someone from the 1985-1995 decade, we're talking about music from 1998 to -um- a few years ago? We're missing another parameter here, which is the test of time -- now we "know" that Sgt. Pepper, Dark Side of the Moon, OK Computer, Surfer Rosa, Purple Rain, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, Beggars' Banquet, Debut, So, Unknown Pleasures, Mezzanine, Nevermind (and so on and on and on) have been generation-defining records by generation-defining artists. But we cannot know that for what is coming out today. I have a vague idea that Gaga might (just, might - I concur with the observation above that her weirdness is too tame and convenient) be some such artist. Or Beyonce. I know for sure that Amy Winehouse was more than a promise. I think Die Antwoord might be that.

I'm also convinced that the next generation-defining true musical genius might be playing or singing something that I'll barely recognize as music, let alone understand or appreciate. And that's probably a generational barrier.

In short: it's hard to tell now. You should ask the same question in 20 years.
posted by _dario at 6:55 PM on April 23, 2016

What about Perry Farrell (Jane's Addiction/Porno for Pyros/etc)? He was one of the elder statesmen of alt-rock by the late 90s, he definitely felt like a beacon of weirdness on mainstream radio, and I'd argue that Jane Says was kind of the Ziggy Stardust of my born-in-the-early-to-mid-80s social circle — that one anthemic song that felt like an auspicious sign whenever it came on the radio, that you'd recognize from the very first note and turn it way up whenever it came on.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:25 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think it's just as likely that someone born in '79 would identify with Bowie and someone born in '73 would identify with Prince, as the other way around. Given your examples, someone born in '86 might name Springsteen - or anyone else who had been recording in the decade or so preceding their birth.
posted by she's not there at 9:13 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

the music you love is generally the one you are exposed to during your formative years

I think for us older people it's also the shows you went to. Especially small shows or all ages when bands still felt like something you and your cool friends knew about and not everyone in the universe. It was more of being part of a scene. Someone gave you a tape or took you to a show and you had an experience to go along with the music that set it firmly in a time and place for you. A music loving kid these days is just as likely to hear a band from Croatia or Australia as the local bands and probably found it on youtube while alone. What used to be a communal experience has become more of a solo thing like reading. That might be why dance music is still so much more vibrant and innovative.
posted by fshgrl at 9:57 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Born mid-80s. Millionthing Radiohead (specifically The Bends and OK Computer era), Beck, and Bjork. Michael Jackson was very important early-on, when his career was still huge in the mid to late-80s. Prince and Bowie felt a little too mature until I was a teen.

The Cardigans were also quite important, as were No Doubt, Alanis Morrissette, Lauren Hill, all of which seemed to perfectly encapsulate a time and an attitude.

But then there were also the world-opening indie musicians who felt very important during that time, like Belle and Sebastian.

Why are so many people mentioning Dave Grohl? This seems...not right, IMO. Foo Fighters felt like something 13-year-old boys and guitar teachers liked, exclusively, but maybe I just wasn't their audience.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 10:20 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

In terms of cultural impact, other name worth mentioning (although, for a slightly older audience) is Brett Anderson of Suede. He pretty much spearheaded what became Britpop, and his early stage presence was this one. When the lad's mag, Cool Brittania style britpop spearheaded by Blur and Oasis took over, they were unsurprisingly relegated to the second line (along a change of lead guitar).

For an even older audience there's Morrissey, although he has eroded a lot of his support since the 90s because he blurred so much the "take me seriously" / "don't take me seriously" line it's impossible to say when he was being his acidic, playful self, or just an asshole.

In the middle of first wave indie and britpop, there's The KLF of Drummond and Cauty, between sampling ABBA (and others) without any permission, then disposing creatively of the records on the trip back from trying to meet them) the money burning, the novelty #1 singles, shooting blanks in the Brits, the strange guests, and the anthemic stadium house bangers.
posted by lmfsilva at 4:03 AM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just in case anyone has anything else they'd like to chime in with, a point of clarification on the end of the era I'm looking for: By "the advent of the common internet" I was meaning when high-er speed internet was more often found in homes. Thus my cutoff is before filesharing was taking off, so about 2000-2001.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:20 PM on April 24, 2016

I think there's a distinction to be made between "artists who will be mourned specifically for their outsiderness" and "artists that would be mourned because of how meaningful they were to people alive in their heyday".

In the time span you're asking about, a lot of the more indie/alternative/outsidery bands are still relatively niche. So many of the names being quoted here involve people that will definitely attract mourners when they die, but not likely to the point of Bowie or Prince.

The people that WILL draw that impact? Spice Girls. Britney Spears. Backstreet Boys. Nsync (and Justin Timberlake more specifically). Maybe even Christina Aguilera.

I've noticed a revival of those artists lately, away from their bubblegum top 40 roots, and more into a nostalgic appreciation of the days of the late 90s and early 2000s. People - especially those my age - are appreciating them in a way they weren't appreciating them before: for instance, people are now way more compassionate about Britney's meltdown now than they were when it happened and regard her as being extremely strong given the circumstances.

Beyonce would definitely have a huge otherworldly impact to the level of Bowie and Prince, but the reason for that impact is VERY recent. In the timeframe you're asking about, she was in Destiny's Child, a girl group like any other.
posted by divabat at 12:09 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am an '87 baby, and frankly, Prince is my Prince. <3

I would say for someone my age who grew up when I did, I'd be looking for that triple whammy of someone with long-term staying power, immense talent, and who is near-universally beloved.

With that criteria in mind, the biggest ones I can think of would be Dave Grohl, Beyonce, Snoop Dogg, and Justin Timberlake, at least for the "formative years between the late 90s and mid-to-late aughts" crowd.

Looking to the future, I can easily see Lady Gaga and Adele being added to that list.
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:00 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Born in '81 — Richard D. James
posted by mike_bling at 1:45 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I almost said Aphex Twin also, as kind of a beacon for a certain type of weirdo coming of age in the mid-to-late 90s; his videos were at least intermittently accessible to someone who only had access to the "mainstream": Windowlicker, Come To Daddy, etc. And his music and persona were often the exact opposite of sexually magnetic, but his work (and face, kind of ironically) are pretty iconic. I don't think he's as much of an alt-mass-appeal kind of figure compared to e.g. Radiohead or Björk, though — maybe that's a little different for people who grew up in the UK, I don't know.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:53 PM on April 25, 2016

I was 14 in 1998, and at the time I thought OK Computer was like some kind of revelatory vision of the world or something (and I still think it's pretty great). So, for me, it's Radiohead.

But, look: Radiohead were very popular at their peak, but they weren't quite as popular as Prince or Bowie. The members of Radiohead, even Thom Yorke, were never as interesting or edgy as personas as the likes of Bowie and Prince. They made music that was interesting and (relatively, for popular rock) edgy, sure. But they don't really have much of a persona outside the music. They seem like perfectly OK dudes, probably fairly eccentric, but they're not like Ziggy Stardust or anything.* I'm not even sure I'd recognize all of them if I saw them walking down the street, and I have pretty much every song they have ever recorded in my collection.

If you could somehow cross Bjork with Beyonce**, and add in a little Kanye and Trent Reznor maybe, then I think you'd have something like it. But, obviously, those are all different people.

*This is a thing which has has happened to rock music in the past two decades or so - basically since the demise of grunge. How many great rock bands that have emerged in the past twenty years have had weird or iconic personas? I honestly can't think of any.

**Beyonce was the first person to pop into my head to answer this question, but though she's obviously a huge star and a cultural icon, she's always been pretty mainstream.
posted by breakin' the law at 2:40 PM on April 26, 2016

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