The Culture Journalist
The Culture Journalist
Inside the TikTok shoegaze revival

Inside the TikTok shoegaze revival

Eli Enis and DIIV's Ben Newman discuss what the moody genre's viral popularity tells us about the changing nature of fame, fandom, and musical subcultures.

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Hey pals. Here’s a development that we never had on our 2024 bingo card: shoegaze is back, and it’s arguably bigger than ever. Andrea first got wind of this in October when she interviewed Slowdive, one of the architects of the genre, which dates back to the ‘80s and early ‘90s and is characterized by reverbed-out guitars, heavy feedback, and vocals that sit way back in the mix. On the heels of their fifth album, everything is alive, the U.K. quintet is enjoying a level of success that is unprecedented in their 35-year career. They’re selling more music than ever — they recently landed their first-ever Billboard Album Sales Top 10 — and their fanbase is skewing noticeably younger. As the band explained to Andrea, a lot of that has to do with one critical factor: Their music has gone viral on TikTok. 

Slowdive is hardly alone. In December, the Pittsburgh-based music journalist Eli Enis published an exhaustively reported feature for Stereogum called “TikTok Has Made Shoegaze Bigger Than Ever.” While perusing Spotify, he stumbled into a clutch of new shoegaze-inspired artists he’d never heard of — see: wisp, flyingfish, quannnic, and sign crushes motorist — who were wracking up millions of streams. Digging deeper, he discovered that these artists were even more popular on TikTok. Many of them were still in their teens, making tracks on a DAW in their bedroom or between classes at school. And some of them were being offered major-label deals off the back of just a song or two. 

What is it about shoegaze, a sound that originated roughly four decades ago, that is speaking so much to people in their teens and early 20s? How are platforms like TikTok changing the nature of what a career in music looks like, or what it means to be a fan, or even the sonic elements of a genre like shoegaze that get emphasized or deemphasized? And what do we gain, and lose, in a world where music dreams are made (and dashed) based on inscrutable recommendation algorithms, far removed from the physical scenes and communities that traditionally incubated these subcultural sounds? 

Eli joins us to talk about what he learned while reporting on the Gen Z-driven shoegaze resurgence and talking to its central players. We also tapped the perspective of The Culture Journalists’s very own Ben Newman, who in addition to being our new audio editor (welcome, Ben!!) also happens to be the drummer in a little band called DIIV, which you probably know in the context of an earlier wave of artists processing shoegaze influences in the 2010s. 

Eli Enis. Photo courtesy of Eli.

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Read Eli on shoegaze

“TikTok has made shoegaze bigger than ever”

“The new wave of American shoegaze”

“Drop everything, there’s a new Drop Nineteens Album

The Culture Journalist
The Culture Journalist
Cathartic conversations about culture in the age of platforms, with Emilie Friedlander and Andrea Domanick