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.