The Guardian: Rock’n’Roll is Dead

The Guardian has an informative article on the state of rock as a popular music genre. Basically, they say that it’s dead, with the lowest number of songs in the top-100 in the last 50 years. And the artists that still sell well, are 50 year old classic rock musicians who are about to retire soon.

I do agree with the article, it seems that popular genres usually last about 60 years, it was the same for Jazz, and even Baroque, Classical, and Early and Late Romantic. Which probably means that Hip-Hop has another ~25 years to live on too…

I feel that the future of popular music will use even more electronic influences and instruments, and it will split into two categories: one that has a super-distinct beat, like the crap that The Black Eyed Peas do, and one that’s more fluid and ethereal, like Washed Out.

But enough with the futurology. I believe that the reason Rock is dead, is two fold:

One, as mentioned above, its time has come. It’s a genre that has been studied, and explored to its fullest. Musically-speaking, there is nothing more to see there. Even when we listen to “alternative” rock music these days, even that sounds “old”. I found it very telling myself when 2 years ago iTunes moved all “adult alternative rock” bands (e.g. The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers etc) from the Alternative genre to Rock (as in, classic rock). As for the best new rock bands, like Wavves, Tame Impala, Surfer Blood, Deerhunter, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, and Best Coast, their sound is just a rehash of old ’60s and ’70s styles.

The second reason is more important though: Rock is dead because no one has anything useful to say. When the musicians and the listeners don’t talk about socio-political problems anymore, that’s the real death of rock, a genre that goes hand in hand with rebellion, and fight for a better future. These past few years have been pretty tremulous, with wars, and civil liberties that have been slashed away, and yet, most rock bands prefer to sing about love, and the suburbs, instead. Technology has raised a lot of new issues too, but so far, no genre is tackling them. Hip-Hop does a poor job talking for anything apart race issues, and how to get rich.

So no wonder rock is dead. There is no market to sell true rock, as the Western countries are full of citizens who don’t care about fighting for their rights anymore, as long as they have a plate of food, and a TV in front of them. Much like the Romans, who lost their republic into an empire after their stomach was full of free, government-provided bread, and the Colosseum was open for business.

14 Comments »

memsom wrote on January 11th, 2011 at 8:19 AM PST:

Okay – British paper – be careful how you interpret terms. In British English, “rock” means a specific genre of music – things like “Bon Jovi” and “Aerosmith” and stuff like that. “Rock” does not include “Indie” (which is used differently to the US usage), “Britpop” (for bands like Oasis and Blur – both that would have been classed as “Rock” in the US), Metal (Metallica, Korn, SOAD, stuff like that.) Bands like Nirvana would also not be included. Rock is extremely specific.


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Eugenia wrote on January 11th, 2011 at 2:33 PM PST:

That is called “Classic Rock” in the US. However, I can see the charts myself, metal/adult-alternative, they’re pretty much dead too. The only rock genre that still sells, is the Pitchfork-endorsed rock, like Arcade Fire, and the bands I mentioned above.

You should have seen the “alternative” iTunes US charts before they moved all these bands to “rock”. We’re talking about a top-100 consisting of 5, 10, and 20 year old songs! Even right now, most song so on the US alternative chart are not exactly current. Some are very old, some from 2009 and early 2010. It seems that the “Pitchfork kind of alternative” only sells albums and not singles.


mystilleef wrote on January 11th, 2011 at 11:47 PM PST:

I don’t know any other genre that tackles social issues with the same rawness, reality, comedy, and poetry better than hip pop.

Let’s see!

1) Objectification of women. Check!
2) Drugs in society. Check!
3) Guns and violence. Check!
4) Politics and Government conspiracies. Check!
5) Poverty. Check!
6) Mundane family life. Check!
7) Frivolous life style of the super rich. Check!
8) Failures in our education system to identify talent. Check!
9) The shallowness of modern culture. Check!

I can go on.

It’s the reason “mainstream” hates hip pop. It’s too real. It’s too raw. Instead they fashioned a watered down, heavily filtered, version of hip pop, called “mainstream hip pop”. That’s probably the hip pop, you’ve been exposed to. And that’s probably what you think hip pop is, a street version of pop. The unfortunate product of this is clowns like Soulja Boy.

Real hip pop is all about social issues. The music is almost secondary. In fact, almost all the rap classics have the most boring and drab beats. But what makes then a classic is the combination of lyricism, wit, rhyme, delivery and message of the song.

Take a modern rapper, like J Cole. This guy is the epitome of all that is hip pop. Yet he gets almost no mainstream time. Why? Well he doesn’t have enough POP in his Hip Pop. Oh and he curses like a drunken sailor. Oh and he talks about real issues, we don’t want to depress our listeners. Oh, he’s too raw. We want to believe America is perfect!

Loosing my balance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6WThN_5GQs

Show me something: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz4fdHo6inI

I Get Up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dldBac0AAiE

Lights Please: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dyPeGDeS3o

Unabomber: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cj4-0rfL1qk

Good Game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvwHvWdyRP4

The songs I listed above by J Cole are a template of classic hip pop. A blend of story telling, lyricism, wit, poetry, good music and reality. What radio station will play “I Get Up”, for example. None! It’s just not fantasy enough. It’s too real. Too raw. They’ll gladly feed you with Soulja Boy though.

I’m sorry, I don’t know any other genre of music that touches social issues, especially urban ones, better and deeper than real classical hip pop. And I’m an eclectic music listener.

The reality is that I’m not even sure mainstream America can handle real hip pop. Please what other genre handles social issues? Pop? Rock? Jazz? Country? Metal? Alternative?

Your categorization of hip pop is pretty shallow.


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Eugenia wrote on January 12th, 2011 at 12:04 AM PST:

My categorization was not shallow. If the kind of raw hip-hop you’re speaking about can’t become mainstream, then it’s a dead cause. It’s like preaching to the choir. When Rolling Stones, Hendrix and Led Zeppelin were singing about these same issues, they were having success doing so, people were listening, in the mainstream.

The other problem of raw hip-hop, as you identified, is that the music behind it is non-existent. It’s speaking poetry, but it’s not exactly music entertainment. It’s not something that comes back to your mind to sing along. Rock never stopped being music for entertainment, in addition to preaching.

And personally speaking, I don’t like rapping. I don’t mind some of it on a part of a song, as a “special effect” of sorts, but I can’t stand a hip-hop album from start to finish. While this might not be a problem for most Americans, it is a problem for a lot of Europeans and others, who have to work hard to understand the slang and pronunciation. Problems that rock didn’t have, that’s why it became popular everywhere, even in countries that was banned.

So the end result is the same: few care and listen.


mystilleef wrote on January 12th, 2011 at 1:52 AM PST:

Music crosses language barriers. Why are Jay Z, Eminem and 50 cents selling out concerts and stadiums in Japan? They certainly aren’t going to rap in Japanese. Hip pop is more than just music. It’s art, music, dance, fashion and culture. Some people might even call it a movement. And it’s catching like wildfire, __globally__. That’s the same reason Rock is dying. It’s stopped being a culture. It stopped being a movement and went back to just being music. No one is touched by it any more.

The other reason is that rock just stopped evolving. Like you correctly alluded, it’s stuck in the 70s. Hip Pop has found a way to evolve and branch out from it’s original “street” cadence. You find rap in rock, classical, country, african, pop, gospel, trance and all kinds of music. With all kinds of clever and unique beats and inter-genre remixes. There are increasingly more styles of rap. Which is why I think it’s getting even more popular.

There’s only so many issues you can sing about in any genre of music. My argument is that it’s not the issues. Hip pop, real street hip hop, talks a lot about real issues in the most clever manner. Yet the branch of hip hop, the watered down pop version, that got popular talks about absolutely silly irrelevant issues.

It’s a simple universal equation. You stop evolving and adapting. You die. Rock died.

P.S I can’t stand ANY album from start to finish in any genre. There are very few albums that I like most songs. That’s why I don’t buy albums. If a track doesn’t do something to me emotionally, I’m not putting it on my devices.


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Eugenia wrote on January 12th, 2011 at 2:30 AM PST:

I don’t know about Japan, but in many European countries, and in mine too, hip-hop is not as popular as rock used to be.


Michael C. wrote on January 12th, 2011 at 10:00 AM PST:

A song without good melody does not exist to me. A singer without good voice does not exist to me. And “uh-uh”, “um”, “yeah” immediately put me off.

Hip-hop (should I rather say raw hip-hop?) sounds like African tribal music, it is unremarkable and not memorable. I wonder whether fans of hip-hop can distinguish different “songs” if they are “played” without singing the lyrics. Just like tribal music played on tamtams, hip-hip is a sort of a world music to me. I might listen to it for a while just for general amusement like I watch tribal dances in a travel video, but this is it.

As for dying rock, enough songs were written that are still relevant today. These songs did not make a change then, they will not make a change now. What is the point in writing new songs?

White man White man
Our country was green and all our rivers wide
White man White man
You came with a gun and soon our children died

What is left of your dream?
Just the words on your stone
A man who learned how to teach
Then forgot how to learn


mystilleef wrote on January 12th, 2011 at 7:18 PM PST:

@ Michael C.

Professional African court jesters, in medieval times, used to “rap” in courts and palaces for entertainment and education. Except it wasn’t called rap back then. It was poetic story telling or historical incantation. The jesters through their rap were also responsible for inspiring and hyping up warriors before going to war. In my culture, oracles and witch doctors use some form of incantation, “rap”, to communicate with the “gods” of the land. You might find that interesting.

With regards to your question, most hip pop fans will forgive poor production values (i.e melody/beats) if the song is lyrically outstanding. Classical hip hop rap emphasizes wit, story telling and lyricism. Mainstream hip hop focuses on production values, “melody.” Many people, myself included, argue at the expense of creative and witty story telling that makes hip pop a distinct and entertaining genre for its listeners. If you remove the wittiness, story telling and poetry from Hip Pop then what you have is Pop. It’s a problem rappers face today. They’ve figured to gain mainstream appeal they increasingly have to sound Pop. Case in point, Eminem and Kanye West.

Take 50 cents __globally__ acclaimed song, “In Da Club.” It has great production values. It’s very melodic. You’d probably like it. But it’s garbage, lyrically. So hip pop fans like myself are left wondering why such a bull shitty song like that got more radio attention over his other well made song like “21 Questions.” Turns out mainstream, like yourself, value melody/beats over lyrics. So we’re producing a generation of talentless clowns rapping about rubbish, slapping a nice melodic beat on top of their rubbish and calling it hip pop. That’s frustrating for hip pop fans like myself who appreciate wits, lyricism and story telling over melody.

In Da Club: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ELUIoLowaM

21 Questions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqNB_Cta5bw


Michael C. wrote on January 12th, 2011 at 7:42 PM PST:

@mystilleef: if melody is not important then why not simply recite it and call it a verse or a poem? If in your culture you need to rap instead of reciting then fine, just don’t call them songs and I will not look for melody in them.


mystilleef wrote on January 12th, 2011 at 10:27 PM PST:

@ Michael C: I appreciate the lyrics of a song, you appreciate the melody. That’s great. Lets move on.


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Eugenia wrote on January 12th, 2011 at 11:47 PM PST:

I’m also mostly about the music too. I like good lyrics, but not at the expense of the music. There’s poetry for that. Hip-hop is poetry, but it needs to try harder in the music department for me to replace my current music with it.


Gilbert wrote on January 13th, 2011 at 3:18 AM PST:

I think that I agree that rock is dead, because even the last major rock revival was the early 2000’s and even those artists were aged. All the members of Korn, Queens of stone…, etc. etc. are well into their 40’s and the only thing to come about recently is a one-hit-wonder by Pearl Jam, who is in his 50’s! I think all the older grunge people have stuck around out of sypathy.

The big difference with hip-hop, though is it’s not really a real band. Mixers will work with dozens of hip-hop artists every year, it’s not a close-nit group where each artist playing drums or guitar can mold themselves into a cohesive unit.


Michael C. wrote on January 14th, 2011 at 11:00 AM PST:

“In January 2011, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) ruled that the unedited version of the song was unacceptable for air play on Canadian radio stations, as it breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and their Equitable Portrayal Code. The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council’s proceedings came in response to a radio listener’s Ruling Request, which in turn followed the radio listener’s dissatisfaction with the radio station’s reply to their complaint about a gay slur in the lyrics.” – them little faggots!


Frankie wrote on January 19th, 2011 at 10:43 PM PST:

I agree and disagree with some of this…I disagree that rock n roll has been around too long, and studied to it’s fullest. That I disagree with…, BUT,…I couldn’t agree more with the fact that bands today sing about absolutely nothing of importance…It’s almost like everyone is in denial about what is happening in our country today, and also seems like people are being sidetracked by stupid stuff like i-phones, video games, and internet social websites where people can hide behind their computers, and be something that they really aren’t…It also seems like alot of bands are trying so hard to be cool, that they aren’t getting exposure because they aren’t genuine..Classic rock bands of the 60’s and 70’s had alot to say with a purpose…That is why classic rock still sells today…I agree that rock is pretty much dead…I also think that due to recording technology, bands aren’t as talented as they used to be on their instruments, and if they are,…they are holding back for whatever reasons…It makes me sick that people are so “lifeless” in the world today…Like a bunch of followers who do what ever they are told is “new” and “in” by the media…People don’t realise that most of the media is based on opinions of someone saying what they think is “cool” or “in”…When people get their heads out of their asses, then maybe things will change. But I’m not confident that will ever happen now…I feel we are to far gone of thinking about what is really important to us. Soon enough, we will all be controlled by the greedy people who run our government outside of the spotlight..These are very wealthy, church going people who would love nothing more than rock n roll to be dead because they remember, and dislike amazing artists such as John Lennon…Music used to be the universal power that people related, and bonded with…Not anymore….I am saying what I believe through my music, and who knows….I may get crusified for not being a follower. I could care less though, because whether people like it or not,…One thing that can’t be denied is that at least I am being who I truly am, and my music is genuine…..


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