…Now What? Thoughts on the State (and Future) of Rock Music

Children have a notoriously short attention span, especially when it comes to music. You gotta try and hook ‘me while they’re young… not on cigarettes, but on rock-n-roll. I had my very pregnant wife on a steady diet of Stone Temple Pilots, Alice In Chains, and Pantera (Pro Tip- play “Domination” while she is in labor and baby will headbang their way right out… it’s science). After all, if the genre is to survive another generation, we have to keep breeding new future die-hard fans! But what will the rockscape look like in 20 years? Or in 50? Will people even remember this music, our music?

The lasting success and evolution of rock music is a cultural phenomena. Jazz and blues, genres that have influenced rock music tremendously, are two forms of American music that have enjoyed lasting success and continue to interest people from around the world. Generations of musicians have grown up studying them, using them as a foundation from which to branch-out, innovate and excite. Yet even these hollowed forms of homegrown music don’t have the universal appeal and emotional accessibility that rock music has. Everyone has at least one or two songs they rock out to, even if they don’t really care for rock.

We live in an age where we classify everything to death. Post-grunge, industrial metal, industrial alternative post-grunge power metal… you get what I’m saying. But what about “classic rock” bands? How would one describe the sound of AC/DC? Or Aerosmith? Even more modern bands like Guns N’ Roses share those blues-based roots. Aren’t they all just rock bands? That’s what I choose to believe- rock is rock, and those guys rock! By forcing everything into neat little categories, are we forcing that general rock genre into extinction? How can a sound ever evolve if we keep moving into a different class all by itself? For instance, I would consider the Foo Fighters a rock band, but I’m sure someone will disagree and say they’re alternative rock or something, which is fine, but what if that’s not what Dave Grohl and crew want to be called? We don’t have a large group of young, fiery rock bands left, and we keep shitting all over the few that try and find their way into the genre. People continue to give Greta Van Fleet flack about sounding like the bastard sons of Led Zeppelin (which is total BS, but that’s a different discussion), and seem hellbent on destroying them. At the end of the day, those dudes are a solid young rock band, and rock fans should be excited about them carrying the torch. Black Coffee, Taddy Porter, and Slow Season are some young rock bands I can think of off the top of my head, but they aren’t garnering nearly as much attention as GVF is. Why is that?

Perhaps we don’t appreciate or understand the general themes of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll anymore. Not like we used to, anyway. Did we all lose our party bone? In an age where everything is offensive to someone, is the rock-n-roll spirit just not as captivating, or did we all just grow up into boring adults? Granted, not all rock music is about sex and partying, but you have to admit that the music made by groups that were huge in the 70’s, like KISS, Ted Nugent, and Aerosmith just doesn’t seem to attract the attention of young people like it used to. Rock music like that is often found in the bargain bin anywhere CD’s are still being sold! If we aren’t appreciating the classics like we used to, how will we ever keep young people interested in making modern rock music?

Fortunately, there is still hope. Guns N’ Roses broke records with their colossal Not In This Lifetime World Tour, the Foo Fighters sell out pretty much anywhere they play, and, even though they can’t seem to catch a break from older fans, Greta Van Fleet is becoming increasingly popular with younger rock fans, and seem poised to make their mark on the genre. That could open the door to many other young musicians who want to create their own young, hip rock band. If the genre is to survive, it will depend on free-spirited young people being inspired to pick up a guitar, crank an amp to 11, and stick their bloody tongues out as far as they can while strumming the chords for “Smoke On the Water”, just like most of us did. With any luck, in 10 years we will see garages filled with inspired teenage musicians playing horrible covers of “Dream On” or “Back in Black”, and we will smile, knowing the future of our beloved rock music is in good hands.

(Courtesy of Jay Roeder)

2 Comments

    • There are more bands being influenced by classic rock, and I think their popularity will continue to grow. The screamo-style is more prevalent in metal, but a lot of newer rock bands do use it, as well. They do tend to carry the interest of young people, so that’s probably why you hear them more often, but if you dig around, you’ll find more old school rock out there. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

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