In 2020, I bought an Audio-Technica record player to replace what was arguably the worst record player in the game, a Crosley Cruiser; the briefcase Urban Outfitters kind every popular indie tumblr blogger flexed. Obviously, I secured a vinyl copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours to accompany it. What’s the point of getting a new record player if you don’t buy a new record that you’ll listen to 2-3 times, then watch slowly collect dust in your living room (but hey, at least it’s on display, so people think you’re alt and cool for wasting money on records you never listen to)?
Flash back to corded phones, juke boxes and faded diner glamor. It seems like today you trade money for time. Long gone are CDs, mixtapes and mp3 players. We are now gifted the convenience of on-demand music, any genre, anywhere, for less than $20 a month. In a post-telephone, smartphone-heavy Spotify world, Stevie Nicks remains a dominant force on the streaming totem pole. Her music is widely accessible and majorly exposed, with the tap of your finger on the screen of your phone.
Nicks’ most prominent music venture (besides her solo artist endeavor) is unarguably her time as Fleetwood Mac’s lead singer. “Dreams,” the band’s number one hit, has over 1 billion streams. Its success is no secret; the song rolls me through an experience similar to what I imagine floating through time and space in a handmade, embroidered prairie dress with dirt on my feet, flowers behind my ears, and rusty tambourine in my hand would feel like. The borderline-folk, Jimi Hendrix-Dolly Parton mashup makes me want to hold hands with everyone I don’t know and skip through the hillside during a perpetual golden hour, temperate climate in August. Chartmaster.org’s “Most streamed artists on Spotify” tool lists Fleetwood Mac as the 140th most streamed band of all time, beating Pink Floyd by four spots.
Stevie Nicks unquestionably had to adhere to the specific aesthetic constraints that Fleetwood Mac offered up to the general public. The band was majorly successful in its own right, but Rumours is repetitive and niche enough to be immediately recognized and categorized in its own little world. Her abandonment of Fleetwood Mac in 1990 fostered her own creative growth and holistically seems more personal-- a much needed refresh introspectively and professionally.
“Edge of Seventeen,” Nicks’ most distinguished song released in 1982, has most notably been rendered alongside Miley Cyrus in “Edge of Midnight,” maintaining its relevance for over 50 years. This was her first solo project post-Fleetwood Mac, and labeled her the “Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll” by Rolling Stone magazine, undoubtedly setting her up for posthumous fame before the 21st century even hit.
Her success in Fleetwood Mac surpasses her success in her solo 80’s albums. Her voice fits much better with folk than it does with puzzling electro-synth, no matter how distinct her vocals may be. It clashes, and it’s awkward, but she’s still talented. She receives critical acclaim for her debut solo album Bella Donna, and obviously so. Everyone and their mother knows of it. But her 80’s albums fall short of the glamor and mystique associated with Bella Donna, and that indescribable sparkle doesn’t revive until the next century with Trouble in Shangri-La.
Fleetwood Mac is much more basic with the lack of Nicks, and nothing to write home to mom about. If they didn’t divorce, they could have used each other's strengths to conquer an era they separately get lost in. Unfortunately, their vibes fit much better with the 60’s and 70’s, and neither of them should not have hopped on the mainstream 80’s train and created something more original, together or apart.
Thank God for the 90’s and Street Angel’s Y2K album cover glory, and “Blue Denim” and “Destiny” to wrangle her talent into something more manicured and aurally feasible. However, the album reigning supreme after all this time is still her first.
Nicks truly found her place again in 2001 with Trouble in Shangri-La. The background music doesn’t disservice her distinct sound and instead adds to the intensity she effortlessly exudes. Deeper and sultrier, its dulcimer and heavy post-production nostalgia distinguish it as an early 2000’s trendsetter. Anyone who tries to come close musically reads as stale. It’s hard to specify this album categorically, in the most endearing way possible. “Trouble in Shangri-La,” “Planets of the Universe,” and “Sorcerer” reign the most successful, and for good reason. What other songs from this era are filled with that much mystique? Trouble in Shangri-La references music trends that agree with her persona, lyrics and voice, unlike her albums from the 80’s.
Acts like Florence + the Machine successfully capture her essence and claim her as inspiration. And Florence + the Machine, especially of late with “Kings,” is an inspiration in and of itself. And that should be interpreted as a compliment.
Stylistically, Stevie Nicks as a solo artist or Stevie Nicks in Fleetwood Mac may not be your cup of tea. However, it is general consensus that she possesses obtuse amounts of talent in any music avenue she partakes in. It is plain as day when an artist is into the music for the craft and passion rather than the money or fame. Fortune will come if you’re talented enough, but will fade if you give in to big-box agencies who throw you money, force you into a box, and zap your creativity. Her talent never fades, and neither will her legacy; her unique sound will be around for generations to come and will be recognized and appreciated by all, no matter the genre preference of the individual listening.
Written by Catherine Spohn