So the new year has ushered in. It’s officially 2020, the start of a new decade. The 2010’s has been a wild era for music already during a time in which rock music already started to decline. Yet back in the day, rock music was pivotal in expressing the music we all loved. Rock used to be synonymous in pop songs, with distortion guitar effects widely featured. Perhaps we just need to face the sign of today’s new times – rock is just getting old – it’s no longer a go to pick for younger listeners.
Each successive era of rock defining music was described slightly differently from the past. The 70’s progressed rock by increasing musical technicality and tempo. The 80’s was when its new identity was revitalised, and rock music still persevered even with all the disco music (think Earth, Wind and Fire or Michael Jackson). And what of the 90’s? It was characterised with garage style revivalism and grungy sounds associated with bands like Nirvana or Rage Against the Machine. In contrast, some of the biggest music stars today like Kendrick Lamar or Post Malone are from the hip-hop rap scene.
Perhaps another reason for rocks decline can be attributed to a fractured market. The only rock style band getting notable attention today came in the early 2010’s with Fall Out Boy transitioning to an electro-pop rock genre and even Imagine Dragons achieving a breakout success, or with Panic! At the Disco like when their song High Hopes chartered in 2018. But is that really the traditional rock that we once knew?
Others are quick to brandish the younger generation saying style and branding create hype more so than the songs themselves. Although image has always been important to classical rock musicians too. Think about Elvis Presley with his slick back hair and groovy outfits, or the Beatles with their long shaggy mop-top hair. And what about KISS with their black and white makeup with Gene Simmons infamous long wagging tongue.
Another theory goes to suggest that rock music was always preferred by young white males. A shift to other genres naturally reflects the changing demographics. Think about the rise in K-pop (Korean pop music), anime theme songs and hardstyle EDM (electronic dance music). Concerts with raves like Defqon are growing in popularity every year, they are heard every day at the chillout radio online.
When we start to look at niche examples, the sign suggests growth of something that is not particularly new. Countries throughout Europe for instance always harboured niche hot beds for trendy music. Germany had a growing electronic trance music scene for decades.
Perhaps all this talk is a sign of the way progression naturally occurs. It’s hard to connect the dots moving forward, but looking back with the benefit of hindsight, deconstructing how events came to be, we can pinpoint specific events in the transition away from rock.
Regardless of where the music market flows, rock will always have its own audience. New revivalist rock bands like Greta Van Fleet, which sounds chillingly similar to Led Zeppelin, will continue to harbour fans. And just to add, how many know the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel?
Another point to raise is albums becoming novel of the past with a greater focus on catchy singles. Streaming services like Spotify are pushing the music industry in a new direction. Many artists today have a string of great singles, but no stand out album. Bands of the past generations with amazing 12-piece musical fillers than blend together get overlooked for the fresh single and its catchy chorus. To illustrate my point, Ed Sheeran’s song Shape of You is the most played song on the Spotify streaming platform.
More women and people of mixed races are also present in the music industry. Think about Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez and most recently Cardi B. The sad reality and unfortunate truth is that we must move on. Many of the classical artists from that era are either dead or retired from stage performances. Rock may never return to its former glory, but its legacy lives on.