Coachella: Changing with the Times

Like clockwork, Coachella just dropped its highly-anticipated roster of performing artists for the hungry, ogling eyes of its cult following. For many Gen-Z’ers and Millennials (such as myself), this year’s lineup is looking pretty stellar. Childish Gambino, Tame Impala, and Ariana Grande are set as the main headliners across the three-day festival and to say that I’m excited would be an understatement. However, on the flip side of that coin, I’ve also been reading some negative reviews of the lineup. Those who are disappointed mostly consist of older Coachella veterans, the generation that grew up with legendary rock bands, like Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine, taking over the Empire Polo Fields. Now, if you’re like me and you’re completely stoked with this year’s artists, then you might be thinking, “How could anyone hate this? The lineup looks liiiiiiiiiiiit”. But when you think about it, their dissatisfaction makes sense.

Taking a look at the bills of years past, Coachella has been undergoing a steady yet dramatic transformation. For a majority of its history, alternative/rock bands have dominated the stages because they were dominating the airwaves in the ‘90s and early 2000s, which is when the festival was gaining mainstream traction. From a marketing standpoint, a festival is going to book artists that harness a wide audience; thus, artist rosters will most likely reflect what sounds are popular of the time. Following that logic, alternative and rock music’s monopoly on Coachella has diminished this past decade as its presence on the charts has been replaced with the rise of the rap/hip-hop, pop, R&B, and electronic genres.

In 2010, the festival began reserving one of the three coveted headliner spots for a rap/hip-hop artist, starting with Jay-Z, whereas before all three were usually occupied by rock artists and bands. The year 2016 saw its first electronic artist headliner with Calvin Harris. The following year, Radiohead was the only headlining rock band, alongside Drake and Lady Gaga. Then, with the 2018 and upcoming 2019 productions, there is no headlining rock band to be seen.

Within the past decade, rock music has become the minority, and I think the Coachella veterans rejecting this year’s lineup are less upset with the roster itself than with the spotlight being taken away from the music they love. Their dissatisfaction is completely valid and understandable. It’s all about perspective. At some point in the future, I’m sure I’ll check out Coachella’s 2030 lineup and have the same reaction because music is always being reinvented, whether I like it or not. To stay relevant, a festival has to keep up with the times and mirror the demands of the consumer majority. And I’m okay with that. An evolution of the lineup means an evolution in music. The way I see it, the artist roster shouldn’t be an object of polarization but should be seen as an opportunity to learn the sounds of a particular time period and how music has evolved.

Check out past Coachella lineups here.

Check out this year’s lineup here.

- Julia Eunji Choi -

- @chuliajoi -

Raylene Pereyra