While pop music of the last twenty or thirty years has been (mainly) anti-political, pop music in the late 60s and into the 70s was a different beast. Politically charged songs – songs with deeper lyrical meaning, calling out those who an artist disagreed with, or compelling the listener to feel some sort of emotion besides joy or heartbreak was an extremely popular tactic. Artists that grew out of the folk-revolution from early in the decade were now finding their second wind as the United States struggled with Vietnam, a series of devastating assassinations, and general turmoil in the world around them. Many of these songs that promoted looking at the world outside of one’s personal scope found chart success.
“In the Year 2525” by folk-duo Zager and Evans is one of those tracks that used the idea of a tumultuous future as a springboard to success. “2525” will always live on in history as the song that was at #1 for six consecutive weeks from July 12th though August 16th, 1969 a time period that spanned both the Apollo 11 moon landing and Woodstock. For a song that stayed at the top of the charts during such an important period in American history, “In the Year 2525” has gone down as one of the worst songs to hit the top of the Billboard chart, and since it was Zager and Evans’ only song of note, it has become one of the earliest examples of a “one-hit wonder.”
I’ll be perfectly honest, there isn’t much information about either Zager or Evans available online outside of the fact that they were the ones who sang that weird “2525” song that you’ve heard once or twice on the radio but never finished. As far as I can tell, they wrote this song in the early sixties, but it didn’t get any attention from a label until the world went upside down in 1968, only then did the song hit #1 a year later. Lyrically, “In the Year 2525” is about how the world is going to be super messed up “if mankind is still alive,” and talks about things like test tube babies, artificial memories, reliance on prescribed medications and pills, judgment day and the eventual determination by God if mankind is even fit to exist on this planet. That’s a whole lotta macaroni to fit on one plate, but Zager and Evans touch on all these things while rolling through the years 2525, 3535, 4545, 5555, 6565, 7510 (because you can only rhyme so much with the word “five,” and you need a key change after all those years), 8510, 9595, and then back to 2525.
“2525” is certainly a dark song, but it’s not one that inspires much thought today. It’s a song that got chart success strictly because of the environment it was released during and not for musical or lyrical merit. It turns out that listening to this song more than once is a pretty ridiculous thing, because one journey into the future is enough for me in one sitting. I have a prediction of my own about the future: if mankind is still alive in 2525, I’m sure there will be some humanoids listening to this song and going “ha, Zager and Evans, whoever you were, you guys were crazy. We’re way past all that.”