Once upon a time, rock ruled the world, recording some of the most socially and artistically relevant works of the 20th century. Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, The Who, Queen, Led Zeppelin – through the 60s, 70s, and 80, they redefined the world of music and popular culture. These artists were among the socially-conscious and relevant commentators in the popular zeitgeist, and rock music was one of the most ubiquitous forms of social identity and protest. Even into the 90s, bands like Nirvana and Green Day captured the offbeat sensibilities and irony of Gen X-ers.
And then something happened.
Kanye West, Lady Gaga, One Direction, BTS, Taylor Swift – biggest hitmakers of the past decade all have at least one thing in common in that there isn’t a traditional rock star among them. So, what’s going on with rock, and is the era of Rock and Roll dead?
Today, more pop and rap combined are consumed than rock. Whether you’re Team Taylor, reveled in Twitter’s #TaylorGotExposed party as she got “outed” in her feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, or couldn’t care less about any of that agonizing nonsense, the point is you most likely heard about it. When was the last time that happened with a new rock star?
Rock’s most prominent stars today are still those old legends. While new rock stars are born all the time, there isn’t one singer or band who looks ready to join that old pantheon, let alone outshine today’s pop stars.
When “Dead” Genres Aren’t Dead
Every so often, some pearl-clutching warrior churns out a thinkpiece on “The Death of the Novel.” This has been going on for decades now. Chances are, you’ve read some Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Zadie Smith, or J.K. Rowling in that time.
The moral of the story? For as much as critics may moan that a genre or art form isn’t as prominent as it once was, as long as it’s popular with the true believers who truly keep it alive, it’s never really dead – and, as the Harry Potter series shows, always ripe for a resurrection back into the zeitgeist.