Mainstream Heroes

Although the mainstream is plagued with crap like Britney Spears and Eminem, it is undeniable that there remain heroes - who honor music with their talent and at the same time popularity.

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This article is a rant in response to rants by people who insist that the 60's and 70's were the only times when music mattered, and that rock today is dead. True, the classic rock era was a renaissance period for music, similar to the original Renaissance when history's greatest composers such as Beethoven came out (correct me if I'm wrong). It is also true that there is quite limited talent in the today's music, and most of the musicians who are actually talented are found strictly in the underground.

But in defense, it is NOT TRUE that the mainstream is absolutely devoid of talent. There are many talented musicians and bands in the mainstream even today, although most of the time they are overshadowed by crap like Britney Spears and Ja Rule. It is stupid to think, though, that anything that doesn't sound like classic rock is tasteless and untalented. Music evolves. Led Zeppelin does not at all sound like Chopin. As a matter of fact, the similarities between Led Zeppelin and their contemporaries, The Beatles, are almost unnoticeable. Just like that, one cannot expect today's music to be even a little bit similar to classic rock.

To drive home the point of this rant, here are five bands that have honored music with their talent and, at the same time, their popularity. If you haven't already heard their music (which I seriously doubt), make sure to check them out. It'll be worth your while.

01. Rage Against The Machine. A band that has already achieved legendary status after their unfortunate breakup. They were one of the few bands of the 90's who managed to stray from the status quo, and revolutionized the way a guitar is played. Tom Morello is an absolute genius. Over and over, he has managed to utilize a limited number of notes to come up with incredible riffs. Furthermore, his knowledge of his hardware is limitless, and he is able to use virtually anything to produce unbelievable sounds from a cheap guitar. He has used whammy bars, Allen keys, and killswitches. Hearing his music, it's hard to believe he has only five pedals at his disposal. RATM is also inarguably the most influential political band since The Clash. Although RATM has disbanded, their music lives on in Audioslave.

Recommended listening: Killing In Name Of, Wake Up, Calm Like A Bomb, Guerilla Radio, People Of The Sun

02. Dream Theater. One of the few metal bands in the mainstream today. These five guys have such an incredible grasp on music theory that they manage to sound even just slightly like Beethoven and Mozart while maintaining their aggressive tone. John Petrucci is a guitarists' guitarist. His shredding skills rival those of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani (who he happens to play with in G3). With Mike Portnoy and John Myung manning the rhythm section, James LaBrie on vocals, and Jordan Rudess on keyboards, they form a formidable musical machine.

Recommended listening: In The Name Of God, The Glass Prison

03. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Perhaps the modern rock band that sounds closest to classic rock (aside from The Darkness and other bands that try too hard). Why do they sound like classic rock? Mostly because of the fun (usually pointless) lyrics. That was what rock and roll was originally about - just plain out having fun (think AC/DC and pre-Revolver Beatles). Perhaps the highest talent level in the band is bassist Flea. Flea's funk-based riffs have powered RHCP's music throughout, along with Anthony's energetic rap. John Frusciante is also one of the underrated guitarists of our time. Although his soloes are slow and simple, he has come up with one of the most memorable riffs of the 90's in Under The Bridge).

Recommended listening: Under The Bridge, Give It Away, Around The World

04. Incubus. One of the poppier modern rock bands, but also one of the most talented. What really defines Incubus' music is Brandon Boyd's lyrics (poetry is more like it). However, one cannot ignore how much effect the other guys have on Incubus' songs. Mike Einzinger (I just never learn how to spell it right) is amazing both as a rock and a jazz guitarist. Dirk Lance (before he left) and Jose Pasillas were heavily influenced by jazz, and it was evident in songs like Summer Romance and Are You In. DJ Kilmore's samples are unconventional to rock music, but they add a whole lot to Incubus songs like Nice To Know You. In their new album Crow Left Of A Murder, Incubus has experimented and produced more technical songs, which would be more to the liking of traditional musicians.

Recommended listening: Stellar, Battlescar Scralachtica, Take Me To Your Leader

05. Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl has been called many things. Among these, he has been acclaimed to be the most interesting person in rock. He is also arguably the most influential person in today's rock. The Foo Fighters have been very consistent performers under Dave's leadership. Their timeless songs and hilarious antics have more than made up for their lack of technical skills. In the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl got to reveal his beautiful singing voice, which had never been heard in his previous band, the legendary Nirvana.

Recommended listening: Everlong, Times Like These, Learn To Fly

There are so many more amazing musicians in the mainstream, that to list them this way would take days. Other musicians that I think deserve special mention though are the following: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Daron Malakian (SOAD), Rhino (Mudvayne), Deftones, Slash (Velvet Revolver), Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), etc.

Remember, good music isn't dead. It's alive as ever. You just have to know where to look!

62 comments sorted by best / new / date

    MrScary07RR
    the least known band up there is the most talented, DT, they arent mainstream at all.
    SilentDeftone
    scumfuc_69: #1: all tom morello did was use way too may effects to mask his lack of talent. even beginners can tey doing that.
    Know Your Enemy. 3:15 into the song.
    frusciante_5
    Hpda5121: correct me if im wrong but i thought it was their former guitarist that came up with "under the bridge" [POSTED: 23 October 2004 - 11:42] no you are incorrect, john frusciante came up with that riff about 2 years after the former guitarist (hillel slovak) died of drug overdose
    R00k13
    Dream Theater is definitly not in the mainstream line in my opinion. And no not a lot of people know dream theater but thats the type of band that once you hear it..your stuck to the melody...I would put them in progressive must listen to list...
    AnnaPlaysGuitar
    I've never heard of Dream Theater before. I had never heard of RATM before, either, until I became completely obsessed with them. Nice article. And, the 60's and 70's had alot of shitty mainstream music too... society just chooses to forget about that. So, the best music of our generation will similarly be preserved, and the Britney thrown out. People will look back at us and think, "Hey, that Slash guy was pretty good. Why aren't all our mainstream musicians that talented?"
    Brink Hyren
    You should have definitely had Metropolis Part 1 for a recommended song for Dream Theater. Other than that, an okay article, even though I don't entirely agree with you on Foo Fighters and Incubus, but oh well, you mentioned Dream Theater, so I'm happy.
    roo6339
    you coulda chosen better incubus songs to recommend... such as idiot box, wish you were here, sick sad little world, drive etc... but overall, a good job.
    shepwarp
    True, the classic rock era was a renaissance period for music, similar to the original Renaissance when history?s greatest composers such as Beethoven came out (correct me if I?m wrong).
    Beethoven wasn't a Renaissance composer! He was actually quite recent... a Romantic composer...
    scumfuc_69
    #1: all tom morello did was use way too may effects to mask his lack of talent. even beginners can tey doing that. #2: RHCP; whether simple are not, their only good album was californication which only had about 4 or 5 good songs. sure they have a unique sound, but aren't really original. #3: Everlong is the foo fighters only good song. #4: SOAD, mudvayne (illiterate idiots!) all play simple music and I have to wonder why most of you hate punk when most metal (especially these days) is overly distorted sludge-sounding anti-music. One good punk band you should check out is the Damned. Their guitar riff for "life goes on" was recorded in '82 & sounds almost identical to nirvana's come as you are....hmmm.
    Lymbe
    Korn should make No1 in this article. they have good lyrics and are heavy enough not to be mainstream...but somehow they are. and scumfuc_69 so u are saying that RHCP's "city of angels", "my friends" and "under the bridge" are not decent songs because they were not in californication??? or are u 14 y o and I'm wasting my time?
    darkstar9814
    good list, i agree w/all the bands on their, esp RHCP, great band. Lymbe, it was the top 5, korn may have been 6 or seven
    sellout250
    yes john fruicantie (sp?) is very underrated. oh and yeah dave sang back up in nirvana AND, and wrote and sang a song called "marigold" which is a b-side on the "heart shaped box" single. overal great article
    nirvana4lf
    correction on the article: Dave Grohl's voice WAS heard in NIRVANA. He was backup vocals for the band, and one NIRVANA song called Marigold, he did all the singing, the guitar, and the drums. Also, like you said about Anthony from RHCP, that goes along perfectly with Kurt Cobain.
    tremontifan
    where is limp bizkit on there
    ha ha ha ha....wait, you were kidding, right? anyway DT rules, i wish they were mainstream ,but they're not
    welton
    Slash123: ^the thing about marigold was already said you ***ing hawk dont be a dick i've never heard a dream theater song so i guess they arent that mainstream. these are some other good incubus songs: deep inside 11am sick sad little world
    sloweffect
    heeyy everybody!!! incubus ruless!!!! any of you there doesnt like incubus???
    Hpda5121
    frusciante_5: Hpda5121: correct me if im wrong but i thought it was their former guitarist that came up with "under the bridge" [POSTED: 23 October 2004 - 11:42] no you are incorrect, john frusciante came up with that riff about 2 years after the former guitarist (hillel slovak) died of drug overdose thanks, i just remembered after you said that
    sithian476
    Personally, if I were to ask everybody I know, most of them would recognize who Dream Theater and Rage Against the Machine was... You can pretty much call a band mainstream when their CDs are in major chain stores and get played on the radio.
    4stringshredder
    Dave and Taylor are a couple of the best drummers on the planet.
    HAHAHAHAHAHAH.....oh, that's hilarious. Has the world's drummer population suddenly been reduced by 95% and they're two of the few drummers left? Also, thanks for mentioning Dream Theater. If more people would get a chance to listen to these guys the world of music would be a better place. People would finally realize how terrible a lot of mainstream music is. A few more awesome DT songs (The list in the article was WAY too short): -Peruvian Skies. The song may seem like it's off to a slow start, but wait for the guitar solo-it's incredible. It gets a lot heavier and faster from there. -Lines in the Sand- Just an awesome song all-around. Excellent guitar solo. -A Change of Seasons- You won't be going anywhere for a while on this one, so grab a snickers. This tune clocks in at 239. -This Dying Soul- Awesome heavy intro, plenty of instrumental parts, cool song all-around. Their new DVD at the Budokan is incredible. If you're a Dream Theater fan or a fan of prog metal, you NEED this DVD.
    SilentDeftone
    Also recommended is Dream Theater: 5 Years In A Livetime/Images & Words in Tokyo. Found it for 12 USD at MediaPlay (they carry some of the greatest music around without too much britney-spears-esque crap). I'll have to go check out the Budokan DVD when I've got some extra cash?
    Flowerpot
    Great article! I agree with most of the choices, but what about Muse? They are relatively mainstream and if there's anyone more talented than Matt Bellamy on the scene at the moment I'd like to hear about them. His work with the piano is incredible, and his guitar work is also progressively different.
    godofthunder
    There's nothing wrong with 'mainstream', its a label that is as limiting as 'metal' or 'punk', you get all sorts of preconceptions about what a band will be like. take The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Led Zeppelin. Half of Led Zep 2 is the same sound as Hendrix got on Are You Experienced. I barely realised it was a Led Zep album at first. The point is, there is so much damn music around that there are similarities between virtually every band. My band writes stuff that sounds like Sabbath, RATM or Metallica, but it's all original. Everything's been done. Tom Morello's sound was diferent, regardless of his skill, and thats why people were drawn to it. These days, bands like Pink Floyd and The Clash are more popular than Britney Spears, people find Flyod 'cool'. Is that what makes a band mainstream? Trying to define a band as alternative or mainstream is like trying to define a band as rock or metal... what criteria do you use. Or are they not mutually exclusive?
    helterskelter4
    hey, this is kinda ridiculos if you think about it. This guy is more or less just naming bands he likes. I'll stick to zeppelin and the beatles if you don't mind...
    bassdrum
    Actually Dave Grohl sang backup in Nirvana...And what was the point of this article?
    magicam
    I agree with a lot of this. All of the bands listed are great contributors to music. However, can you really call RATM mainstream? Were they ever popular enough to achieve that status? did they have a hit no.1 single? And how the hell can anyone in their right mind call Dream Theater mainstream? Sure they may have an easy to listen to sound but they aren't popular enough to achieve this title. Secondly I accept that the likes of Britney Spears and Ja Rule are garbage, but I don't agree with the comment made about eminem in the title. Eminem is undoubtedly one of the few lyrical genius' left alive today along with Marilyn Manson and a few others. Several of his songs are political, they are cleverly structured and he is just a genius at what he does. 99% of hip hop is s**t, but i won't accept Eminem being dismissed so easily. If anything, he should added to your list. Also in places you seemed to have a warped conception of the term 'mainstream'. For example, Deftones, what the f**k? They are as alternative as alternative bands get. Since when have they had a chart topping smash? Surely that is what is meant by the word mainstream. All in all though a good effort, you were right with Chili's and Foo Fighters....not too sure about the others though.
    Cakefighter
    Except most of those bands don't make that many CDs or have a place on the charts lately except Incubus. They do rule though.
    amotesharei
    dream theater aint that mainstream. ok they are very well know for people into prog (like myself) but i doubt any random person would know them. lets just say they arent as well know as the others u mentioned
    Matty Ramone
    I dont know any Dream thearter songs and oh ya I loved all those top ten rage songs and got sick of radio playing there songs over and over and over again they were truely mainstream and EMINEM IS FN GARBAGE wow way to make fun of Michael Jackson, like thats never been done before
    civildp1
    I heard that the new eminem single and video are just a huge red herring, and that his new album is the most political one he's done. But if ut isn't, this is the end of eminem
    stormchaser
    That's a good artice, but 2 of those bands aren't mainstream. RATM and DT. If you tell someone off the street you like RATM, they will either say "what's an RATM?" or give you a wierd look and back away slowly. same with dream theatre. I suppose you could call them mainstream to people who like that kind of music, but mainstream to the mainstream, no. good article anyway, I really agreed with that.
    battleofla
    They are more mainstream than a lot of bands, but saying flea is the most talented members of the chilis is pure blashempy (Spelt wrong but hey) otherwise good artice, though on an overdone subject
    Damage_Inc_suey
    That's a good artice, but 2 of those bands aren't mainstream. RATM and DT. If you tell someone off the street you like RATM, they will either say "what's an RATM?" or give you a wierd look and back away slowly. same with dream theatre. I suppose you could call them mainstream to people who like that kind of music, but mainstream to the mainstream, no. good article anyway, I really agreed with that.
    I agree with the dream theatre, but i don't know anyone who doesn't know ratm, they are pretty damn famous. And ja rule, eminem and britnye spears are garbage i cant see any other point of view on that
    Lymbe
    Interesting... kinda makes u wonder what exactly is mainstream to a rocker but good article, and a good answer to all those crying to bring classic rock back. IT WOULD NOT BE CLASSIC THEN!!! also for Dream Theatre, check out "Fatal Tragedy" genius solo and the lyrics give me the damn creeps
    SilentDeftone
    Your recommended listening for Dream Theater isn't their best effort by a long shot. I'd recommend Pull Me Under, Dance Of Eternity, and Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper. Dream Theater isn't mainstream, but I'd say RATM is. The RHCP don't always have pointless lyrics. You get points for mentioning DT, my favorite band
    kerrang
    good article man-right about Dave Grohl hees everywhere, must be worth a fortune-great musician.
    frigginjerk
    why did you say that the foos lack technical ability? Dave and Taylor are a couple of the best drummers on the planet. And i've seen the foos live. they are a tight band and both Dave and the lead guitarist can shred solos. They just don't do many on the records.