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From Taylor's Eras to Luke Comb's "Fast Car": Brandon Harvey on 2023's pop music trends

Taylor Swift performing the Folklore act of her Eras Tour set. This year, a film of the tour became the highest-grossing concert film ever.
Taylor Swift performing the Folklore act of her Eras Tour set. This year, a film of the tour became the highest-grossing concert film ever.

This week on Kaleidoscope, WYSO music culture contributor Greg Simms Jr. spoke with Brandon Harvey, pop culture enthusiast and lead singer of Dayton’s Party Punch Band. In the interview, Greg and Brandon reviewed the biggest sensations in American pop music this year, from the landmark success of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour (and concert film) to Luke Combs’ chart-topping remake of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.”

Few can deny that this has been a landmark year for Taylor Swift. “She’s been doing 2023 in a big way,” Brandon Harvey said. The singer embarked on her sold out Eras Tour in March, and in October, a film of the tour became the highest-grossing concert film ever, rocketing her to billionaire wealth. While Brandon said he’s not personally a Swiftie, he acknowledged her talent songwriting. “I mean, the songs are catchy,” he told Greg, “You can’t knock that. That’s what keeps you in the public eye when it comes to the music industry.” They also talk about how the industry has changed, and how Swift compares with superstars of the past, like Michael Jackson and Madonna. “If Prince and Michael Jackson had [streaming] back in the day, how much more popular would they have been?” Brandon wondered.

Next, the conversation turned to 2023’s country hits, like Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night” and Luke Combs’ “Fast Car,” which Greg said are two of the biggest tracks of the year. Brandon attributed the chart-topping success of country music this year to listeners’ yearning for something “homegrown.” He said Luke Combs’ cover of “Fast Car” is great because it conveys a sense of authenticity— the same quality that made Tracy Chapman’s original 1998 song a classic. Brandon talked about how Luke Combs transformed Chapman’s hit for a new generation, while retaining its depth.

“Even with Fast Car being a remake, the theme of the song is a homegrown feel. I mean, when Tracy Chapman did it, you felt those words when she sang them. I know I did. When I heard them, I was just like, ‘wow, that's kind of deep.’ And when she did it, we were still in the age of excess—we got to have money, money, money and cars and cars and cars. And she's talking about, ‘my dad, he's on the outs and, things are rough where I'm going, and where I'm from.’ And for Luke Combs to take that song and bring it into this era—people still identify with it, it still resonates with a lot of people. It resonates with a new generation now.”

They end the conversation by talking about Brandon’s work with Party Punch Band. “We want to do songs that will keep you on the dance floor all night,” he says of the band’s shows. You can find more information about the Party Punch Band on their website, http://www.partypunchband.com.

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Greg Simms Jr. is a veteran content creator and cultural expert who's worked for numerous digital publications over the years. He's a resident of Greene County, but he's always aware of social-cultural events happening all over the Miami Valley. To contact Greg, email him at: grgsmmsjr@gmail.com
Peter Day writes and produces stories for WYSO’s music department. His works include a feature about Dayton's premiere Silent Disco and a profile of British rapper Little Simz. He also assists with station operations and serves as fill-in host for Behind the Groove. Peter began interning at WYSO in 2019 and, in his spare time while earning his anthropology degree, he served as program director for Yale University’s student radio station, WYBC.