Rock Is Dead (In The USA)

Don't let the Grammys fool you. Rock is dead. The Grammys are a fairly conservative association that tends to reward those whose creative peak is past them.

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Don't let the Grammys fool you. Rock is dead. The Grammys are a fairly conservative association that tends to reward those whose creative peak is past them. A better indicator are year-end sales (easily found if you google Billboard year-end charts). One look over the 2009 year-end charts and one thing stands out: the lack of any top rock acts.

Taking numbers from the top forty groups, there are a grand total of eleven groups that are categorized as rock of some variety, and looking further down the list the trend continues, with a grand total of 26 of the 100 top-earning artists coming from rock groups. The aforementioned list covers a variety of rock groups, from the easy rock of Coldplay to the harsh metal of Metallica, but the singles list is even worse, with only 13 of the top 100 songs originating from the rock artists.

This news spells trouble to those looking to make rock a creative vehicle. Rock has been a driving force behind much of the creativity of the past decades, its influence omnipresent throughout the close of the century. The majority of pop music of the seventies fell under what we would classify as rock. Even pop music of the eighties was strongly indebted to this phenomenon. The emergence of grunge, post-grunge, and nu-metal seemed to ensure the commercial viability of the rock n roll genre, but those genres have slowly shriveled to only a few musicians still making a living. Nickelback, Three Doors Down and Creed have all experienced disappointing album sales over the past two years, and newer bands with smaller fan bases (Three Days Grace, Hinder, AFI and others) have also failed to match previous sales.

The challenger to the rock throne seems to be electronic-oriented music. Strongly influenced by the funk/disco branch that evolved from R&B opposite Rock n Roll, electronic music has dominated the charts over the past year. 70 of the top 100 singles trace their success to electronic hip-hop beats or dance music. Critically electronic music is enjoying increasing popularity, as three of the top album nominees from this year's Grammys came from these genres and a club-driven single won Song of the Year for the first time ever.

Not only electronic, but country music appears to have sucked away some of the life from rock n roll. Many of the same people that were drawn to earlier forms of rock n roll have been lured in by the crossover appeal of country. Since the success of Garth Brooks, country music has increasingly crossed over to poach many of the easy rock buyers. Country music has had no qualms about emphasizing pop-rock guitars in order to bring in would-be rock consumers. This, coupled with a willingness to substitute pop instruments for more traditional country instruments in radio singles, ensures that country is enjoying a strong, cross-sectional appeal to consumers.

Rock itself is struggling. No new genres have emerged to revitalize the rock scene. Metal is successful, but consumers of metal have little love for the more radio-friendly rock genres. A few pop acts embrace aspects of guitar-based rock, think Cobra Starship and their hit Good Girls Go Bad, but by and large rock finds itself at a crossroads. Will it be able to reinvent itself in order to survive? Or will it linger as a genre that has its occasional practitioners but little mainstream presence? One thing is certain: if there is no new creative force to revitalize rock n roll, it will slowly fade into a shadow of its old self.

So this is where the challenge emerges to anyone wishing to be successful in the rock genre: how can you grow as a musician to make your music something more than a tribute to heroes gone by? How can you invigorate new energy into an old brand of music?

Now, more than ever, it's time to break the box of the past. What's necessary is a new way of thinking, a willingness to experiment and have fun. One quote that has stuck said something to the extent that rock and roll is the music of the people; they could sing along with it, and dance with it. It stuck in their heads, its rhythm made you move. That is what is lacking more than anything else in rock. No longer the music of the people, rock has become dominated by seizure-inducing guitar-play or mass-produced ballads. Either rock will find its rhythm, or lose it entirely to another genre that willingly embraces it. The upcoming years are crucial in the development of rock, as it deals with the twin forces of electronic and country music. Rock needs to recast itself if it wishes to stay above water in the riptides of the music industry; I hold out hope that it can be redeemed.

Ben Histand is a fourth-year Business student with an interest in finding out how pop culture works, and has spent entirely too much time finding out how Marvin Gaye is the same as Led Zeppelin, and why Led Zeppelin sold a whole lot more albums.

Dotted Music 2010

136 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Ginzeo
    This was a good read. Rock (and it's many other divisions, like classic rock, metal etc.) is my favorite genre of music.
    Shasui17
    there have been some good points and bad points made from my point of view I think rock is not dead more like it has moved underground... a bit like punk rock realy.. and yes the record industry is dying we have things like Itunes so you can upload a track or 2 if ya know how or if you know some who knows how effectively cuting out the middle man but there is still a need for promorion other wise how will "joe public" know you have new album out or doing a gig in town.... but the real thing that is killing rock off is the current trend in music. here in the UK a lot of radio stations are pumping out a load of dribble that thay pass off as music looking at the top 30 I see only 2 or 3 rock bands the rest is this pop shite and rap.... music for the brain dead if you ask me and its cause of that rock music not just old school rock... but metal aswell is in decline in some ways sure the fan base is there but how ever its not geting the air time it needs.... well thats the opinion of this idiot!
    Vabolo
    To quote Neil Young on the subject, "My,my, hey, hey, Rock'n'Roll is here to stay..." So what if Rock is dead? That never stopped Elvis Presley or Jimi Hendrix to release new albums!
    rorychally
    Refreshingly true, at first disconcerting though. I now find this article an inspiration and a motive to do something new with my guitar, however futile my attempt may be.
    sonic_777111
    You say electronic music is killing rock. But you know what's really cool? Combining rock with electronic music.
    guitarsftw
    Rock will never die. It will just fade away and become a much more cultural thing than a fad. Look at Jazz, once the biggest genre in the world. How many mainstream awards do Jazz musicians get? How many top 40 hits and Billboard spots are taken up by the genre? Yet, would you say the genre is dead? Same goes for Blues, Folk, Classical, etc.
    guitaristren
    jesse1994 wrote: I am thinking of making my own Grammys which will only feature good metal bands. It will be called "Metal Music Awards".
    . Sounds good to me!!!
    jesse1994
    I am thinking of making my own Grammys which will only feature good metal bands. It will be called "Metal Music Awards".
    guitaristren
    rock isnt dead...its just lost its creative spark because of the all the mainstream acts and bands that make rock look bad .... but metal is good... lamb of god's wrath album was second on the billboard charts
    kunkushin
    rocks not dead, we just have more options. Them Crooked Vultures did not just make a hip-hop album, I think it was some great rock. The lines are a little blurred, but good stuff is out there for those who seek it. If you really think rock is dead and it's hopeless, put on your led zeppelin greatest hits and enjoy living in the past
    WibbleWobble
    I don't think it's dead, it's just gone out of fashion at the moment. Much as it was out of fashion for much of the 70's and much of the 80's. Rock music has never been fashionable year on year. It goes in 10 year cycles. 1970 = Sabbath, Purple at their commercial height, then in 1980 we had NWOBHM. Then in 1989/90 came Faith No More, Nirvana etc. And 2000 we had Nu-Metal. So it's probably due for a comeback (commercially anyway, even if for a short time) any time now.
    cjmabry
    I could care less about the Billboard Top 100 or whatever. People are eventually gonna get tired of hearing autotune on every song and wise up. Hopefully. Rock will never die in me though! lol
    MarZi619
    i know i commented earlier in this thing, but i forgot something. for all the people who see no creativity, or guitar solo's, or actual compositions making their way into modern rock music, two words: Matt ****ing Bellamy
    dmiwshicldply
    top 5 grossing live acts of 2009 1. U2 2. Bruce Sprigsteen 3. Elton John/billy joel 4. Britney Spears 5. Ac/DC rock is very much alive and well. The record industry is the one dying not rock
    MrReMo
    So, you want to go to the past huh? Somebody said that a revolution will take place (Music revolution), like in the 70's, 80's and 90's. Well, that no revolution at all. That's metamorphosis, involving a relatively abrupt change in the structure through differentation. No revolution at all. Atonality was a revolution, jazz was a revolution, rock was a revolution. Now, XXI century, and there is no sign of any metamorphosis neither a possible revolution at all. All is based on money and billboards, not just the barely minimum (gear), but it reached composition and music factories. Some guy composing shit, delivered to the companies (sony music, warner, EMI, blablabla), manufactured humans sing them through the mainstream channels (MTV, etc.) and the money is gained with album sales. Goodbye art, goodbye music. Goodbye, of course, 'rock'. And, tell me, you are blaming who? The people? Rock n roll is the music of the people, you have it, it's no revolution at all now, it's a mainstream factory. The people are having fun with it! The people are buying their albums, the people. So, how come? How on earth any human, who is bombarded from birth with useless, functional music, with empty 'rockstar' dreams and a very VERY twisted and broken view of this art can be a threat to the mainstream and CHANGE, with his heart and mind, the way we are used to enjoy music? (revolution) And, on top of this, there are people whining about Rock Is Dead or Rock Is Not Dead, both viewing the same side of the dogmatic and close-minded past side of the coin. Theorizing about the past is easy when you are sitting down there behind the PC, but what about doing something worthy to the human race? Or simply to you. I know you all love "the old rock n roll", and I'm sure you'll love to be there, back in the old days; it will never die because of that. Nothing dies, no. Now, the question is, do you want to live in the past or forge a solid fundation to breed a new kind of TRUE music? Be the revolution for christ sake, with or without rock elements.
    joshmckinnon
    I dissagree that rock is dead. Rock has fallen from the mainstream, yes but it isnt anywhere near dead. This past summer AC/DC came to Ottawa Canada (where i live). Tickets went on sale Thursday morning at 100 5 MONTHS BEFORE THE CONCERT DATE. they SOLD OUT IN LESS THAN 3 HOURS. They were playing at scotiaback place, an NHL hockey rink that can seat capacity 18500 people. IN CANADA! GNR was here in january and they almost sold out. Nickelback is coming in april ant they are almost sold out. So while rock may not be mainstream much anymore it is certainly far from dead. Ps. Rock will never die for 2 reasons. 1. Metal will survive an atomic war along with cockroaches and twinkies. Amd... 2. Kieth richards will never die.
    SFosterS
    Natrone wrote: SFosterS wrote: Them Crooked Vultures is what I have to say to the notion that "Rock is Dead." Rock cannot die while Jack White is still alive! What exactly does Jack White have to do with TCV? Rock has increasingly moved to the shadows of pop music. It has been this way even since the 70's. It enjoyed one decade at the top of the charts at all times, and then, as all genres do, moved behind a new genre that took over. These things happen in cycles. Look at this website in general. Rock is most certainly not dead. It has staying power that few other former pop genres can attest to.
    Jack White has nothing to do with TCV. A period seperates the two independant clauses to let readers know that these two clauses are not related. I know it's not Ultimate Grammer.com, but i had to correct that.
    RadioMuse
    hmmm... interesting discussion.... Rock, by definition, is not about an even balance between members. I would argue that if we're talking the Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, or Pink Floyd - style of blues based rock it idolizes the guitarist before the singer, then the drummer... The bassist is largely undermined, at least in the conscience of the average listener. Not to say that it isn't much more balanced than the singer-centric dynamic, but still. I wouldn't argue that rock songs need guitar solos. The current "Modern Rock" format is certainly lacking in them and could really use them; but a lot of alternative and indie rock that lacks them functions just fine without and in many songs a guitar solo would be bluntly out of place. Then again bands like Wilco are incorporating incredible guitar work into their contemporary songwriting (Nels Cline is absolutely one of my all time favorite guitarists). Though I suppose calling Wilco "rock" at least in a hard-rock sense, would be a little loony. I think we just need a band that really breaks the mold. I don't know what their style needs to be. They need to sound fresh, with powerful songwriting chops, excellent pop hooks, and brilliant guitar and drum work. It doesn't have to have solos or a particular vocal style (though it still needs to be fairly close to conventional singing with recognizable words) but they need to be the kind of thing that has at least the balls of AC/DC, along with any two of: the soul of Buddy Guy, the spirit of U2, and the intellect of Radiohead. If someone can find this band please tell me and I'll drop out of school now and push them to every record company, and then every person on Earth until they're massive. Rock is a strange beast anyway. Would a lot of you who are saying rock is dead call Modest Mouse rock? or the Arcade Fire? the Yeah Yeah Yeahs? Like it or not these are rock bands, and in my book, damn good ones at that. They're not the magic band we're looking for, but if you dig a little deeper than the pop music world's commercials want you to go it's not hard to find great music just below the surface. Sure they replaced grass with turf: it's still dirt underneath.
    Skodward714
    I've noticed rock is taking a cras course to into pop music. I haven't heard a rock song with a guitar solo written in years. All the popular bands nowadays are just singing. That's not rock, rock is and even balance of all the band members. I've asked people who the band members were for some of the more modern bands, they could only name the singer, because that's all the band is, is singing. Everyone tells me bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Van Halen, and Pink Floyd are "washed up" and old. I agree with the old part, but that's OK. It doesn't matter how old something is, if it's good, like it. 99% of the people I know don't know any bands older than 8 years (besides Metallica, AC/DC, Slayer etc.). And personally, it plain ticks me off how good music is shoved into a corner, while modern stuff is practically worshipped. I do admit, i like some newer stuff (Chickenfoot, Dragonforce, like 2 others), but those are totally ignored too. They are more based on 80's stuff. Dragonforce is based on speed metal, that was born in the 80's. Chickenfoot is a lot like Van Halen, who were prodominantly in the 80's. So no ,"they're not good, they sound 'old', so we can't like them". Man it ticks me off.....
    GisleAune
    suzallica wrote: whell it faded not dead just like jazz classical music you knou arts was always the result of cultures it changes with time it tells us a way of thinking or relegion or even rebelious thoghts...ets. its naturally changing ..on the other hand look how many kids like BlackSabbath AC/DC MetallicA isn,t that interesting my 8 year old son likes Ledzeppelin and Jimmi Hendrix but I made him listen by sneaking few tracks into his Ipod and all the sudden he wants the rest of the albums I think the indutry of music nowadays is mostly in the hands of gready ppl who knows nothing about art they just have money and they want more of it so they use sex to promote their shit it the media job to fight it back one more thing Rock won't die even if rockers died vivaldi is dead but his music speaks for him \,,/
    I can't cucking agree more, your son probably got "recommandation" from one dominant friend, but when you gave him a taste of real (made by people) music, he realised that it was in a way better.
    wraith313
    I often wonder if the billboard and popular sales charts are based on the amount of radio play or sales. Because, where I live anyway, the radio is heavily biased toward rap and R&B. Our only good rock station basically just blasts metallica and green day (yes, those two) all day. Im not saying thats bad, but you never hear even a wide variety of modern rock from them, which is sad. Because theres a huge niche here for that.
    GisleAune
    The todays popular music makes me wanna kill somebody. (a lot of) Pop artists have a great problem, they quickly get popular, and after 2-3 years, they quickly die and someone else is going to take their place Rock and metal artists have few fans, but msot of them are actaully loving them, most of the pop-liking people just likes to listen to "what everyone else like (them to listen to)" I can relate to that, i was once 12, i had no self-confidence and therefore didn't listen to anything that are not "popular". Guitar Hero opened a new world of awesome music to me, and since then, i have never looked back. sorry for messy post
    suzallica
    whell it faded not dead just like jazz classical music you knou arts was always the result of cultures it changes with time it tells us a way of thinking or relegion or even rebelious thoghts...ets. its naturally changing ..on the other hand look how many kids like BlackSabbath AC/DC MetallicA isn,t that interesting my 8 year old son likes Ledzeppelin and Jimmi Hendrix but I made him listen by sneaking few tracks into his Ipod and all the sudden he wants the rest of the albums I think the indutry of music nowadays is mostly in the hands of gready ppl who knows nothing about art they just have money and they want more of it so they use sex to promote their shit it the media job to fight it back one more thing Rock won't die even if rockers died vivaldi is dead but his music speaks for him \,,/
    ILoveTheEagles
    Anyway, music is about entertianment. A rock concert is a lot more fun and traditional form of entertianment than downloading artists like Owl City from Itunes...
    I agree completely. Although not as many people are listening to these songs regularly, it definitely has no effect on big concerts. For example, for the AC/DC tour now on in Australia, based on ticket sales, 1 in 35 Australians have tickets. Rock will only die when the rockers die.
    MetalBreakdown
    Actually, the only thing really needed to keep guitar-based music alive is people who listen to and support rock artists. Anyway, music is about entertianment. A rock concert is a lot more fun and traditional form of entertianment than downloading artists like Owl City from Itunes...
    Johnthevault
    What we need is a rock reboot if bands start going back to the roots of rock, we will see music come full circle again. The problem in music today is the lack of authenticity that we have had for the last 70 years, when I the band chimes in you just don't get that feeling anymore. We either need to create a new style of rock or just put the energy back in its roots.
    Schmeg Junior
    Hm, from my watching of this thread, and of course the hellacious High School I attend, it seems to me that the biggest issue is not just the lack of creativity, but the lack of balls in the rock world. And, I must agree. I actually had this discussion with my father the other day. He was trying to tell me that rock was dead because it simply had reached it's peak and nothing more could be done to revitalize it. Well, I said that it had lost its's middle finger, and it's ability to make people move n' groove. And think the latter comes from the former. It's all about brutal and carnal things that really make people tick. And those are the things that seem to really be oppressed by most of the societal collective. So, I guess that upon reevaluation, the first step to getting rock back on it's ass-kicking feet, is to give it the old snarl and bite it used to have.
    fogger808
    to solve this article, all you have to do is listen to WOLFMOTHER, CHICKENFOOT, and DREAM THEATER. The best bands of today. IRON MAIDEN is still rocking too.
    camc1214
    Its all about promotion, rock is not dead, its just not on the radio.
    Rokeman
    Rock was inspired by blues, and that still isn't dead. No genre of music can ever truly die. Look at classical music even, like someone pointed out above. And what's wrong with country? It's still music. And while electronic seems to be the typical "enemy" of rock and such, it too, is also music, and people like it. If there were more new and orignal rock bands around (read: Them Crooked Vultures) I'm sure the genre would experience a big comeback. You also say that people can "sing along and dance to rock". Yes they can. It doesn't mean they can't to anything else. It also doesn't mean that there won't be guitar based music around.
    Bizzare/mu/tant
    Rock isn't dead, it's just getting ignored by radio listeners who eat up whatever shit falls on their plate.
    Kakatara
    So rock isn't as mainstream as you would like. So what? As long as we're listening to it it shouldn't matter right? And all the Lady Gaga and electronic music hate is making me sad.
    gunwar_andypat
    10pound wrote: When I was growing up in NY, I thought that SoCal was where the hard rock scene was (in the US I should clarify). Now a days....its in the midwest.
    It is? Yay! (I'm in Cincy, where we love our rock and roll. Except all the local bands are some lame indie)
    gunwar_andypat
    Metal is not a sub-genre of rock.
    Wow. I don't really buy the "rock is dead" stuff. I must be honest, I might hate grunge/nu metal/emo more than rap and "R&B." The "rock" bands of today REALLY get on my nerves. I can't blame you if you like rap now (if you only listen to new music). However I despise it. Autotune, other songwriters (and I don't mean Robert Hunter) and computer technology are so fake sounding, and it's cheating too. Watch any of these "musical artists" on TV and you can't decide if you're crying or laughing. It's not about "innovation," the rappers and pop stars of today are NOTHING new. If rock and roll becomes rock and roll again, it'll be back. btw coldn't ahve said this any better myslef
    Wanna know why Creed, Nickelback, and THree Doors down have dissappointed sales? Because they ****ing
    SmoABSOLUTE
    Rock doesn't even exist. Isn't that just the music you tell your grandparents you like? The music I say I like is pop and indie. And you know what? Pop and rock are often practically the same thing. Over history, rock has been pop. 60s, 70s, bit of the 80s, 90s, etc. And that rock, at the time was NEW MUSIC. It was mainstream, it was different and it was cool. Why then are you lamenting the decline of something that is old? That music has already been done, and trying to revive it as it was would be pointless. Those 'rockers' of old were pushing music forward, not crying about the past. So if it's mainstream popularity that you treasure, maybe it's time to pick up a guitar and move with the changing face of music. Use older influences, as has ALWAYS been done. But go out and make new music. Otherwise, the whole music industry may as well die. 2000-2010 has seen soem great acts who DO use guitars in their music and have a huge rock influence, but are new and exciting. From the USA: Interpol, Strokes, MGMT, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Drums, Killers, Kings Of Leon, Vampire Weekend, We Are Scientists and loads more (you may notice that a lot of these are from NY) From the UK (and all of these have achieved mainstream success too): Arctic Monkeys, Libertines, Fratellis, Babyshambles, Kasabian, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand and more. 'Rock' is dead, just like 'rock n roll' had died by the 70s, hard rock mostly gone by 90s, Britpop and Grunge by 00s etc. The guitar, and what is 'current' rock music just MOVES ON. And if any US people are interested in learning about some British bands, pm me or something.
    Schmeg Junior
    joshmckinnon wrote: I dissagree that rock is dead. Rock has fallen from the mainstream, yes but it isnt anywhere near dead. This past summer AC/DC came to Ottawa Canada (where i live). Tickets went on sale Thursday morning at 100 5 MONTHS BEFORE THE CONCERT DATE. they SOLD OUT IN LESS THAN 3 HOURS. They were playing at scotiaback place, an NHL hockey rink that can seat capacity 18500 people. IN CANADA! GNR was here in january and they almost sold out. Nickelback is coming in april ant they are almost sold out. So while rock may not be mainstream much anymore it is certainly far from dead. Ps. Rock will never die for 2 reasons. 1. Metal will survive an atomic war along with cockroaches and twinkies. Amd... 2. Kieth richards will never die.
    Lol'd hard. The last days of the Earth will be comprised of Keith Richards talking to cockroaches about which of their relatives he smoked at some point or another.
    gunwar_andypat
    I don't think so, but if it was thsi way, can you think of any reasons why? Hmm... Maybe that's because THEY"RE AWFUL! What they play on MTV is new music. The bands from 70s/80s are as popular or more popular than today's groups. If people want rock to come back, well it has to be GOOD again. The olfer bands are more popular than the new ones, and if this happens, something's wrong. By the way a new band is forming soon called Gnwar. They are gonna be a hard rock/heavy metal band. The singer has a mind-blowing rnage, and is also a guitar virtuoso. He plays both bluesy and classical shreds, and the drummer is amazing. They also have giant, GIANT power ballads. Frontman Andypat's singing and guitar playing has become a sensation among 12 and 13 year old girls. But of course they have a magnteic appeal to rockers and metalheads, not to mention the general public. Look for the band in a couple years.
    gunwar_andypat
    I don't think so, but if it was thsi way, can you think of any reasons why? Hmm... Maybe that's because THEY"RE AWFUL! What they play on MTV is new music. The bands from 70s/80s are as popular or more popular than today's groups. If people want rock to coem back, well it has to be GOOD again. The olfer bands are more popular than the new ones, and if this happens, something's wrong.
    beatlesfan1225
    good thoughts, but I don't its dying at all. Think of it this way, its generation is getting older. Don't worry, 60 years and itll be the 70s again
    stilt37
    SFosterS wrote: Them Crooked Vultures is what I have to say to the notion that "Rock is Dead." Rock cannot die while Jack White is still alive!
    i dont understand this post..lol
    Swannie
    Rock may be dead mainstream, but hey... As long as someone is yelling "freebird!!" I can continue
    di4gram
    Luckily even if rock is dead I can still listen to old rock just fine. I'm tired of electronic dance music too. It's just not my thing. I could care less about the mainstream status of it. And personality of metal music in the mainstream is great because literally every metal fan complains about it constantly. Born 30 years late, I guess.