Gen Z flooding to ‘lost’ music genre shoegaze to cope during lockdown

The hashtag #shoegaze currently has 31.1 million views on TikTok, with bands such as Slowdive attracting Gen Z listeners with their serene and inclusive vibe.

Ever heard of the musical genre ‘shoegaze’?

Despite its relatively niche cult status among dedicated music fans, it’s recently seen a spike in newfound popularity with Gen Z on platforms such as TikTok, Spotify, and YouTube.

The hashtag #shoegaze has amassed an impressive 31.1 million views on TikTok alone, with users creating definition videos, throwing out recommendations to followers, and even performing their own meme versions of songs.

It’s everything you’d expect from a social media trend in 2021.

What is shoegaze all about, anyway?

But what exactly is shoegaze? It sounded foreign to me until recently, and is only comprised of a few select bands from the 80s and early 90s.

Put simply, it’s a subgenre of music that features reverb-heavy, dreamy, late eighties rock. Think bands such as Mogwai, Slowcrush, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive.

It arguably reached peak popularity with My Bloody Valentine’s 1991 album ‘Loveless’ which was an overwhelming critical success and an iconic album for the genre. Still, even Loveless only got to #24 on the UK Albums Charts.

Shoegaze would never ‘dominate’ the music scene even in its heyday, which makes its recent resurgence all the more interesting.

How does the genre help to soothe during lockdowns?

Shoegaze’s minimalist lyrics and repetitive structure offer a relaxing and positive mood setter for a period of intense distress, what with anxiety-inducing lockdowns and seemingly ever-changing social distancing rules.

As 16 year-old fan Jude Atkins says, ‘the atmosphere of shoegaze really fits with the bleak, post-COVID, world we’re in. Everyone’s trapped inside and shoegaze has a very dreamy quality to it.’

That aptness has translated into new playlists and hand curated video streams, which are available in abundance on both Spotify and YouTube. Check this one out, for example, which focuses on Japanese shoegaze tracks that feel ‘other worldly’.

Dev Lemons, an adamant TikToker who unpacks song meanings, says that shoegaze’s ‘blend of softness and chaos sonically feels like the experience of growing up’.

Older, original artists of the genre have gotten involved too. Slowdive is still going strong, having released an album as late as 2017, and prominent shoegaze band Cocteau Twins even have their own meme-filled Instagram page.

Experiencing shoegaze in a post pandemic world

Will Shoegaze’s resurgence cause a tidal wave on the pop music scene as a whole?

The answer is probably no, considering the eye-watering numbers that tracks like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallions ‘WAP’ can generate online, particularly when they’re tied to specific dances or tailor-made social media challenges.

For context, the ‘WAP Challenge’ has more than 1.5 billion accumulative views on TikTok. Producers are now utilising maximalist approaches that capitalise on the 30 second retention rates of social media platforms, taking things to loud, hip-hop focused extremes – that’s a far cry away from the mellowed out nature of shoegaze.

With that being said, it’s still gained enough momentum to take its seat on the table of niche musical sub-genres and it may well have a prosperous future ahead, especially as our need for ambient and relaxed vibes becomes ever more obvious.

Even if it doesn’t, we can just be the trendy musical buffs who keep in the loop outside of the mainstream, right? That’s what really counts, after all.


This article was originally written by Robert Collins. ‘I’m Rob, a post-grad from City, University of London where I studied Magazine Journalism. I have a life-long interest in politics, having studied it at BA level, and am fascinated by the times we live in. Other subjects I love writing about are social change, the climate crisis, and music’. Visit his LinkedIn, his Twitter, and check out his site here.


Love our partners.

Wait, don't go yet!
Sign up to our newsletter
Thred straight to your inbox 
(what could be better)
Click right here!