Energizing, Thought-Provoking, and Nostalgic: The Music of MGMT

Man listening to music laying down.

MGMT, a band founded in Connecticut at Wesleyan University by Andrew VanWyngardn and Ben Goldwasser and ultimately joined by drummer Will Berman, bassist Simon O’Connor, and guitarist and keyboardist James Richardson, joins together a range of pop and rock genres, generating a unique and irresistible feel. The band formed practically on accident, originating from two college students, VanWyngardn and Goldwasser, just wanting to share music and experiment with each other.

MGMT tiptoes between indie pop, synth-pop, psychedelic pop, indie rock, psychedelic rock, and neo-psychedelia. Spotify describes MGMT as an “eclectic, brainy pop group, with psychedelic overtones.” Their music keeps you guessing, it’s easy to lose yourself in it.

The band was initially called The Management and existed just as a pair between VanWyngardn and Goldwasser. They didn’t take themselves too seriously, and all their live performances were closer to performance art than a concert. According to Goldwasser, MGMT “started out as a complete joke. We’d play shows, but usually our shows were just the two of us singing along with an iPod. We weren’t playing instruments, it was more of a spectacle than an actual live concert. People didn't know whether to take it as a complete joke or not. It was kind of funny seeing how other people would try and gauge their reactions by us; like, they seemed like they were trying to work out whether we took ourselves seriously or not. It left people feeling very confused. That's something that we’ve always enjoyed doing: confusing people."

It wasn’t until long, however, that MGMT meant serious business. After releasing two demos and an EP, MGMT signed with Columbia and RED Ink in 2006, releasing their debut album Oracular Spectacular the following year. Their next studio album, Congratulations, was released in 2010. 3 years later, their third album, MGMT, was released. Their fourth album, Little Dark Age, was released in 2018 and has since been followed up with their 2019 single “In the Afternoon.” This single was fully self-produced and independent from a label. “In the Afternoon” is haunting and layered with up-tempo keys, bass, and dragging vocals. The song has a darker feel than their previous tracks.

They continued on their independent label, MGMT Records, to release another single “As You Move Through the World” in March 2020. This single is slow, fuzzy, ambient, and mostly instrumental. The 7 ½ minute track takes you through a journey, where time seems to slow, and you wonder what world it is that MGMT is moving you through.

MGMT has received much praise over the years. The group was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist and the song “Kids” was nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 52nd Grammy Awards.

Three of their singles from their first album Oracular Spectacular, “Kids,” “Electric Feel,” and “Time to Pretend,” gained immense popularity in 2007 and beyond. All three of these singles have between 200 million and 400 million listens on Spotify. Through these singles, MGMT inspires early 2000s nostalgia in many listeners and energizes them with a feeling of youth.