The Dormant Rock Music Industry of Today

Posted on March 29, 2012 in Media and Culture

By Vrinda Ravi Kumar:

Music has always been a major influence for the youth. It’s a powerful  vocalisation of emotion, a great platform besides being just music. And in the ever-growing music scene, I find it pretty sad that the recent music worldwide seems to have stagnated. The 90s and post-2000 period saw the spawning of many new artists and a wave of experimental genres that didn’t really get a unified name, but were instrumental in bringing about a revolution in music. The rock and blues scene developed an alternative to the folk and saxophone sounds of the 60s and the rebellion and anger that fuelled the 80s in terms of hard rock, metal and growing hip-hop. This large variety of artists and bands made the 90s indefinable in terms of a single emotion or genre.

Today’s music seems to have reverted to a pop culture like the 60s, but without, according to some, the promise of the further development of rock. Top artists this year include, Adele, Foster The People, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj (billboard.com) all of whom show a progressive preference to pop. The return of Maroon 5 with their album ‘Hands All Over’ is probably a small glitch in this otherwise-seamless movement towards pop, though they show a very strong element of pop in their music.

There is a small spattering of rock music that does exist today. There are many bands that aren’t very widely recognized, and some have mostly singles to their credit. A few top rock songs today are, according to toprocksongs.net and Wikipedia are —

1.’Rope‘ — Foo Fighters (headed by the drummer of grunge band Nirvana,
Dave Grohl)
2.‘Help Is On the Way’ — Rise Against
3.‘Shake Me Down’ — Cage the Elephant
4.‘The Cave’ — Mumford & Sons
5.‘My Body’ — Young the Giant

It is, indeed, very difficult to define rock as a genre, primarily because of the massive variations in the multiple sub-genres that spawn from it. However, the roots of rock can be traced back to the 1940s and 1950s, R&B and ‘Rock and Roll’. The ‘Roll’ part of it; also known as the pop half of the phrase was later done away with, when the two bifurcated into distinct genres. Rock then began to draw influences from country music, jazz, a lot of blues and some classical instrumental techniques were developed further, slowly evolving to become exclusively used in rock.

The wide popularity and the growing number of devout fans of rock has also helped along in facilitating rock music to endorse certain ideologies and emotions, making it easier to identify with, and to unify entire communities that lived thousands of miles apart. This was no ordinary power, and rock shot to the position of being more than a genre of music. It became a lifestyle and a philosophy.

The period of the progression of rock from the 60s to the 80s is nothing short of epic. Thoughts were played and voices were heard, and people realised what was wrong; tradition was questioned and deviations started appearing. Rock transcended to more than music, and people clung to the idea that rock and its players represented. With time, soft rock became hard rock. Hard rock became heavy metal. Punk rock rose to power (with the Sex Pistols and the Ramones), along with heavy metal (Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Diamond Head, Vardis, Virtuoso (Yngwie Malmsteem), ingraining itself into pop culture as well, to the extent that post punk turned out to be a major sub-genre (The Who, Frank Zappa, The Velvet Underground). While all this occupied mainstream attention, alternative rock started developing slowly, but steadily.

The 1990s were a good, solid grounding and expansion of rock, and the development of many more sub-genres like grunge (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains), Indie rock (The Cranberries, Superchunk), Pop punk (Weezer, Pennywise, Green Day), Alternative metal (Pantera, Sepultura, Nine Inch Nails) and Nu metal (Limp Bizkit, Korn, Linkin Park, Staind), along with many crossover acts between rap and rock (RHCP, Rage Against the Machine, Kid Rock) ensured that the alternative music of the 80s were alternatives no more and shot to mainstream popularity. Many English bands also emerged in a genre called ‘Britpop’ (source: wikipedia.com), the most popular of which, unquestionably, is Coldplay (debuted with their album ‘Parachutes’ in 2000).

While the post-millennium mark did come up with many new sounds (retrometal, contemporary heavy metal, metalcore), many argue that none of these genres can be identified as ‘rock’, seeing as the roots of rock cannot be heard in the music. Others argue that the decade is probably just a sleepy one, and we’re due for another revolutionary movement in the music industry to sweep the world and all rock needs is an “artist with something different, with more of the tradition of the foundations of rock – great melodies and song writing, hard guitars and a kick-ass kind of attitude.” Elliot Wilson (founder and CEO of Rap Radar).

As of now, rap is ruling the worldwide music scene, and rock is surviving only through its derivatives. What rock needs right now is a band “with a dynamic frontman, that has a sound that can capture the imagination of millions” (Gil Kaufman). While 2011 did have many acts from rockers lined up, like U2, Blink 182, RHCP (Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Radiohead, Coldplay and the Foo Fighters, what we’re looking for is for an act to dramatically change thought and bring together the stratified lovers of rock music all in one huge community. That is a lot to ask for, but to top something as powerful and revolutionary as the uprising of rock, the re-revival of rock will be no walk in the park.

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