I saw Tony Bennett was trending on Twitter the other day, and I'm not sure if this makes me a bad person or just an unobservant one but my first thought was: Oh, god, Tony Bennett's dead. It turns out that the 84-year-old Last Crooner Standing wasn't dead--he was just making an appearance on American Idol's season finale, singing a lovely duet with Haley Reinhart, who was born 40 years after Bennett's first hit song.
I think this is something particular to the music industry; artists and bands peak as young as football or baseball players, but through luck and persistence they can represent their eras and continue to influence popular culture at an age where most everybody else is retired or dead. Tony Bennett is representing the crooning era of popular music more than 50 years after rock and roll displaced it in the public mind; who's going to be doing rock and roll the same service in 2061, when the new global hegemony rolls out the final episode of season 60 of Idol?
Alternate Future Number One: Eddie Vedder, Ambassador of Grunge and Guttural Shouting. After Da'Quan Yamamoto is eliminated following the "Judges' Choice of Ringo Starr Songs" round, he and Vedder sing a heartwarming, nostalgic rendition of "Even Flow," dedicated to the group of homeless children that is scheduled to be launched into the sun following that night's season finale of So You Think You Can Avoid Being Launched Into The Sun.
Vedder, like Bennett, has just kept on doing his thing more than fifteen years after grunge peaked as a going concern. Provided he survives the Great Ticketmaster Purges of 2034 and the rise of Grand Moff Ticketron in 2044, he seems like an ideal candidate to serve as the ambassador for the 1990s into his hundreds.
Alternate Future Number Two: Justin Timberlake, Ambassador of the Boy Band and Mid-Aughts Minimalist Space-Pop. Mei-ling von Richthofen, eliminated after being successfully thrown out of the steel cage during the second and final Candlebox round, will sing the "Take it to the bridge" part of SexyBack while Timberlake dances proudly on his new robot legs, which have been the talk of the robot tabloids for the better part of a year. Meanwhile, Da'Quan Yamamoto will be taken to an actual bridge, and thrown from it.
Timberlake managed to survive the fall of the boy band era and become more popular than ever before as an adult, but by 2061 he'll be the last man able to represent both eras. Just as the 1920s are now remembered as Al Capone dancing the Charleston on top of a flagpole, Timberlake will be remembered as the pre-teen sex symbol who helped America get through both 9/11 and the Y2K crisis by reminding us that there would be, someday, a time for both FutureSex and LoveSounds.
Alternate Future Number Three: Tony Bennett, Global Autocrat of the New World Order, Crooner-in-Chief. After his well-received stint on American Idol in 2011, Tony Bennett, who left his heart in San Francisco following a deal with a local practitioner of the Dark Arts, will begin gathering political power under the guise of his continued efforts as America's Adorable Grandfather.
I don't want to give too much away, but by 2061 he performs in the season finale of New World Order Idol every year.