Congratulations, you made it through the first week of 2012! If you have any mystery bruises or discovered that you now possess several articles of clothing that aren't yours, you probably had a decent New Years Eve celebration. It was sure fun while it lasted. But now, sadly, the holidays have come to an end and we're getting back in the grind. Back to school, back to work, back to doing absolutely nothing... we'll fall back into the same routines and rhythms soon enough.
But let's cut right to the chase - we have a tragedy on our hands, one you may or may not have seen coming. Apparently, late last night, rock and roll was taken into an emergency room after suffering devastating injuries. Doctors tried everything they could, but due to an overload of terrible artists, mismanagement, clichd image and neglect, rock and roll couldn't make it through the night. Rock and roll is now dead. R.I.P. 1/5/12.
It's dead, I tell ya! Looks like Lenny Kravitz was right, although with his song, apparently rock has been dead since 1995. You've heard the phrase before; many have touted the demise of rock and roll, implying that what rock once stood for hasn't existed for quite some time, and what's left are the skeletal remains of what used to be one of the most immensely popular music genres of the 20th century.
I guess that'll be the debate for this week: is it true that rock and roll is dead, or is this claim a load of horse doo doo?
I'm on the fence about it. While I have firmly defended the merits of rock music to ignorant hip-hop lovers in the past (in 8th grade, I got into an argument with a girl who claimed that it took way more talent to write lyrics and rap than play a musical instrument; I don't think I won that argument), nowadays though, I'm completely uninspired and even a little irritated with rock music. I'm finding it boring. I'll give you an example: when I was home for the holidays, my mom was watching some Oprah program (because that's what moms do: watch Oprah) and on the show, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith was getting chummy with Oprah and yakkin' about his rock roots and rebirth of fame on "American Idol". Steven Tyler is now the ambassador of rock music to (relatively) ignorant mainstream audiences. I'd rather the world well, general public not think of Steven Tyler when they conjure up notions about rock music.
So why am I feeling so disenchanted with rock music these days? Besides The Beatles (I can't get tired of them), I haven't felt compelled to listen to anything rock in the past several weeks, my main go-to genres usually being old jazz and classical. That all just sounds more interesting bouncing off my eardrums. Rock, well, I've grown tired of its aesthetics and the music seems pretty stagnant. Power chords and pentatonic solos just aren't doing it for me currently.
But this week, I'm going to get to the bottom of my current beef with current rock music, and figure out if it is really dead. Maybe I agree; maybe rock in its pure sense is, in fact, dead. Or maybe it's just in a comatose state on a respirator. And I'll point the question to you guys: are you pleased with the current state of rock music, or do you think it's time for a massive cleansing? And if it isn't dead, who the hell is going to save it? Is rock quickly losing its appeal and could it potentially meet similar fates as the many now-dead genres of the 20th century?
And do I like to ask a bunch of rhetorical, ponderous, and open-ended questions? Damn right I do.
News Stories That Pertain To My Theme
To say that this story pleased UG readers is to say that Scott Stapp is enjoying a successful solo career. Apparently, pop singer Ke$ha revealed that she has a certain affinity for rock music and is planning on releasing some rock music herself. Quoting Ke$ha: "People say that rock and roll is dead, and it is my mission and my goal to resurrect it in the form of my pop music." Hm. So basically, she has appointed herself to be the figure that will breathe new life into the dead genre of rock and roll. It sure is nice of her to offer, but I don't think she's necessarily the woman for the job. Assuming that she figures she reaches a far wider audience than most rock bands, and for that reason she'll be able to convert more fans and save the genre, time will tell if she's able to pull off decent rock music, or merely release some painfully forced "rock", similar to Celine Dion butchering an AC/DC classic.
At this point, I think it's important to make an important distinction in the whole "rock is dead" observation. Basically, it's dead in the mainstream sense. That is, the kind of music that reaches very large audiences and is considerably consumed and reacted to. There will always be high quality music coming from bands that operate in smaller scenes or cater to relatively smaller-yet-devoted audiences. So before you go on to interject that, for instance, Guthrie Govan or Animals As Leaders are saving the modern electric guitar, know that their audiences are far smaller and are doubtful to get bigger unless the artists "commercialize" their sound, at which point you'll lose interest in them. Of course high quality rock music (pretty broad term) is coming out now, but what I'm trying to figure out is if there will be another Zeppelin, Beatles, Elvis, Queen or Pink Floyd - rock artists that produce incredible albums and also happen to sell millions of records and appeal to millions of people. In the current state of the music industry, and our nation's desire to consume borderline retarded entertainment (Jersey Shore) it seems unlikely that for lack of a better word cool artists will prevail and become insanely popular.
It's a no brainer that technology has contributed to rock's shunning. Perhaps a reason why Zep and Floyd were so huge and their albums became so iconic was because the technology at the time record players essentially demanded that the listener take in the entire album. Now, technology encourages the consumer to only buy what they know they're going to like. A 14-year-old girl who heard a Barenaked Ladies song in an "American Pie" movie probably won't buy an entire album, but merely look up the song she knows she likes and fork up 99 cents. So that's one aspect (of many) - albums don't matter as much as they used to; although, that's not true for every artist, but regarding pop music, it's all about the single.
Taste is another big thing. A likely reason rock is dying is because of the images associated with it. The "rock" style looks tacky now. Tracing back, with the launch and popularization of MTV, the visual nature of artists became extremely important to their success. Take what happened with "hair metal" in the 80s: the only time in history where metal music was mainstream, yet it was metal disguised as pop with image and spectacle as the #1 priority. It sold for a short while, but soon fell out of fashion and became a huge joke. Currently, rock imagery seems hokey and unhip. The look is mostly tied to the genre's history and used for novelty. Check out the trailer for this damn movie starring Tom Cruise. Nothing about this screams cool and current. It screams, "HEY! REMEMBER WHEN ROCK WAS SO MUCH FUN! I CAN'T BELIEVE I TEASED MY HAIR LIKE THAT IN '86!" Just... so lame... can't... take it...
These superficial and technological reasons are just a few possible factors in why the mainstream basically ignores rock and roll music. But then good ol' Steven Tyler reminds them of rock's better days on "American Idol".
So in Ke$ha's case, no, she's not the talent that is going to make rock suddenly popular and cool again. She's nowhere as innovative as Lady Gaga and looks like the poor man's version of Christina Aguilera in her slutty phase, but without the talent. She isn't the rock savior. But f-ck it, she could try. Why not? Even if it pushes 10 middle school teenyboppers in the slightest direction toward good rock music, it's better than nothing.
According to the percussive half of The Black Keys, it's not necessarily the culture's fault for rock's demise; rather, the music we're offered may be the culprit. The drummer conveys that because Nickelback is "the biggest band in the world" the effect is a lowered bar of expectation; musicians assume that to become big, they need to sacrifice substance for success. Fair assessment? For those who find Nickelback to be 5% substance and 95% cheese, it seems so. But I'm not here to start a flame war and/or rhetorical discussion on the artistic merits of Nickelback (I kind of did that a few weeks ago), but if, for the sake of argument, we can classify Nickelback in the "radio friendly" rock category, then we can move on with The Black Key's claim.
Does anyone really like radio rock? I mean, is Staind actually good? Disturbed? Creed? Drowning Pool? Chevelle? Three Days Grace? Vertical Horizon? I'm kind of stretching here...
But as mainstream rock radio continues to spin those power ballads and formulaic rock jams, no wonder the average person would rather turn the radio dial to something a little fresher. Modern radio rock lacks balls it's well produced and has some heavy characteristics, but the songs are all predictable and not that memorable. It's justmeh. Maybe you like it though (this is just my opinion) but because I happen to agree with The Black Keys drummer, I believe that rock isn't flattering itself very much nowadays.
Now then, who is going emerge as rock's Messiah? For a while in the mid-2000s, it looked like bands like Jet and The Strokes were at the forefront of bringing stripped-down, no effects, guitar-bass-drums-vocals rock back to the mainstream. But that trend soon died. For now, I think we need to rely on the veterans to keep the good rock coming. Slash, Van Halen, Rush... They all seem to be doing just fine with their later releases and the upcoming releases seem hopeful. Established acts like the Foo Fighters are kicking a-s and even heavier outfits like Mastodon are seeping into mainstream consciousness. This is all great, yet the magnitude of popularity is nowhere near the Beibs and Gagas, Kanyes and Ke$has of the overall commercial music world.
Rock needs the next Led Pink Beatles an immensely popular band that captures the attention of the world, influences the shape of music to come. Is it even possible for another Beatles to exist, or will this century's most important artists dwell in hip-hop, pop and electronic music? Honestly, I don't know. Quality obviously doesn't equal popularity (that's why we get so frustrated when "shallow" music tops the charts) but when quality and popularity meet, then you get the truly special music that is nearly unanimously enjoyed by all. Let's hope we get some of that soon.
Wow, now I actually feel like listening to some rock music! Pessimism nixed and Queen it will be. Now go forth into the weekend and practice an insane amount of guitar so you can be the next Jimmy Page.
On The Next It's The End Of The Week As We Know It:
Ke$ha finally finds her vehicle to deliver rock to the masses: replacing Howard Jones in Killswitch Engage.
Lamb Of God vocalist, Randy Blythe, ends up joining the Republican presidential race, eventually squaring off with Barack Obama in a series of contentious debates and scream offs.
By Zach Pino