The Rolling Stones Make a Bid for Cross-Generational Appeal With Collaborations on Hackney Diamonds

The rock band, which formed in 1962, makes a bid for cross-generational appeal on its new album with Sydney Sweeney and Lady Gaga collaborations.

The Rolling Stones Make a Bid for Cross-Generational Appeal With Collaborations on Hackney Diamonds
Rolling Stones "Hackney Diamonds" – Press Conference

The Rolling Stones have always had a flair for the dramatic, and the announcement of their 24th studio album—the first original release in 18 years—was no exception. The steadfast rock band left no stone unturned for Wednesday’s event, which had undeniable youth appeal for a band that formed in 1962.

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Media and selected guests assembled at the Hackney Empire, a theater in the trendy Hackney borough of East London. The venue, no stranger to stage production, was made over with red drapes, smashed chandeliers, and a bedazzled take on the iconic tongue logo that defines the band. Mick Jagger, 80, Keith Richards, 79, and Ronnie Wood, 76, were joined by The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon for a live-streamed interview to promote their new album, Hackney Diamonds, a collection of 12 new tracks releasing on Oct. 20. The name, Jagger told the audience, is London slang for shards of glass: “It’s like when you get your windscreen broken on a Saturday night in Hackney and all the bits go on the street,” he quipped.

Read more: The 17 Most Anticipated Albums of Fall 2023

There was a gaping absence on-stage following the death of the band’s fourth member, Charlie Watts, in 2021. But the band revealed that two tracks recorded with Watts in 2019—”Live by the Sword” and “Mess It Up”—will feature on the album. “Ever since Charlie has gone, it’s different,” Richards told Fallon and audience members. “Number four is missing.” He added that in his lifetime, Watts recommended Steve Jordan as the musician to replace him should anything happen. The upcoming release follows the 2005 album A Bigger Bang, as well as a 2016 collection of blues covers titled Blue & Lonesome. Despite Jagger’s comment that the 18-year gap between original releases is because they are “lazy,” the band has toured extensively in this time.

The band also let slip—whether intentionally or not—that Lady Gaga will feature on the song “Sweet Sound of Heaven.” Fallon also recounted some of their tamer rock ‘n’ roll moments, which included Richards setting off smoke alarms backstage on Fallon’s talk show. Fallon concluded the interview with questions from fans across the globe, including Argentina, France, and the U.S. One fan said that Jagger and Richards had been together longer than he and his wife, and asked what the secret to a happy marriage was. Jagger simply responded “not speaking too often,” which invited raucous laughter from the crowd, as did other instances of the band’s enduring personal chemistry.

The promotion of Hackney Diamonds has been a well-oiled machine. Last month, a fake advertisement for a glass repair company of the same name began circulating in the local newspaper the Hackney Gazette. The ad features lyrics from the band’s greatest hits, as well as a website and phone number which led to the recorded message: “Welcome to Hackney Diamonds, specialists in glass repair. Don’t get angry, get it fixed.” On Monday, the team shared a less cryptic video on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, with Fallon answering a phone call from the band and agreeing to join them in London for the “New album, new music, new era.”

Universal Music also brought in a collection of social media personalities with large online followings to promote the event. Lifestyle influencer Damien Broderick—who has over 1.2 million Instagram followers—and Eddie Wailes, a stylist and fashion influencer, both posted from the event and tagged the music corporation. The young talent, which also included models and actors, posed for photographs at the VIP arrivals and posted about the album on their platforms. While they stopped short of creating a TikTok challenge to promote the band’s first single “Anger,” which is out now, the label seems to have its sights set on capturing Gen Z’s attention. 

No clearer was this than when Fallon made the surprise announcement that Anger” would star Euphoria actress Sydney Sweeney. The video, which premiered before the audience, shows Sweeney in an all-leather outfit, hanging out the back of a red convertible, while the billboards the car passes show archival footage of the Stones in action. Sweeney, 25, sat front-row at the event with her mother beside her. “This is the biggest thing ever,” Sweeney told Fallon of the career highlight, adding that she didn’t know it would be the first single but she loves it.

Between the global livestream, which reportedly held 53,000 viewers at its peak, and the young buzzy talent, the aging rockers seem keen to market themselves for as broad appeal as possible. Will all these conscious efforts to appeal to Gen Z and millennial listeners help the band remain cool to a new generation of listeners? Theirs is not a sheen that fades easily, though at least one of Wednesday’s attendees didn’t inspire confidence. In the Old Ship pub, a few doors down from the theater, attendees gathered to collect their wristbands and wait for admittance. One journalist declared that he had brought his son along with him. When asked if he was a fan of the Rolling Stones, the boy said no. He was, as his dad later shared, a big fan of Jimmy Fallon’s.