Or at least on life support.
As Consequence of Sound reported and now the Washington Post has published an article on, Neilsen stats reveal, for the first time ever, hip-hop is being listened to more than rock. What could the causes be? Well, perhaps younger people just aren’t fascinated with guitars anymore. Machines that make bloops and bleeps are simply more fascinating to those making music and those listening. Maybe there are too many decades of rock and it’s too fragmented – there’s too much. There’s classic rock, swing, ska, punk, metal, indie, new wave, neo-new wave, and the list goes on. Sure, hip-hop has its genres as well, but it hasn’t been a mainstream art as long as rock n’ roll has and hasn’t been as fragmented by time. If you need further proof, just look at Coachella’s headliners this year.
Rock n’ roll might be all out of rebellion. While rock n’ roll slowly sold out over time, hip-hop was making its ascent. Corporate America killed counter-culture, which is the compost heap that rock grew out of. While it was rebelling against anachronistic t-shits, Napster, and “the man”, hip-hop embraced those things. Rap wanted to be “the man.” It flourished in the party and never apologized for how the good time was and is paid for. Rock went from Rage Against the Machine screaming “f*@k you, I won’t do what you tell me” to Passion Pits’ “talk a walk” in under two decades. Hip-Hop went from Jay-Z’s “It’s a Hard Knock Life” to Drake “starting from the bottom.” Well, now he’s all the way up there. You can’t even see him. He’s like a high-altitude drone.
Rock refused to embrace keyboards and electronic elements. In the 2000’s artists like Calvin Harris and LCD Soundsystem were alternative to what was going on and alternative and rock refused them entry and airplay to an extent. Calvin Harris went on to be one of the biggest producers of dance music and LCD hit the road and found its audience at late night dance parties – not unlike hip-hop at its dawn. How ironic.
Maybe rock n’ roll just isn’t good enough to have sex to.
Sure, there are those like David Grohl who carry the Torch of Rock like that Hobbit carried the ring. The top rock artists of 2017, Imagine Dragons and Twenty One Pilots, are arguably pop acts that managed the hat trick of crossing over massive audiences (note Imagine Dragons and Pilots rely on the rhyme quite a bit). The big rockers are staple genre artists: The Beatles and Metallica. But these stats don’t even really matter when hip-hop has 9 of the top 10 streamed artists in 2017. 8 out of 10 of the most consumed artists were rap. Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran were the other two. Rock didn’t matter in 2017 if you just look at what people were feeding their ears.
Is rock even sexy anymore? Maybe modern rock n’ roll just isn’t the soundtrack to lovemaking. Through the 90’s and 00’s, rock lost its embrace of sex and challenging sexual ideals. Bowie and Alice Cooper went androgynous. The 90’s hair bands took it a step further. Rap stepped up and went explicit. As rock went emo, whining about “until the day I die” and “the black parade” hip-hop had Old Dirty Bastard liking it raw. LL Cool J was doing it. Lil Kim was telling dudes to, well, use your imagination! Which party would you rather go to? (Okay, maybe not Lil Kim’s) EDM and hip-hop talk about partying and sex. Rock is still slogging along with dull non-sequiturs and ambiguous lyrics that hold zero meaning. Billie Joel Armstrong can tell Donald Trump lovers to go f*@k themselves all he wants. Sure, it’s probably rebellious (even though Trump lost the popular vote). It’s just not they imagery they want to think about when it comes to sex.
Guess what? Rock turned its back on drugs as well. Not to say that you should do drugs (I’m 100% not saying you should do drugs), but when it comes to art and fantasy, they have gone hand in hand. Bill Hick pointed out and Tool included the bit on Aenima if you need to hear it. While the rock world has been getting sober, rap has been taking up the reins. “Pop a molly!” In the day and age when corporations have learned to co-opt counter-culture to make money in record conversion times, drugs are still an actual rebellion. At least, according to a moral majority. Although, with marijuana legalization taking hold across the country…well, they are about to take that away from you as a way to rebel, too. Sure, not going to jail for your party is a novel and lovely idea, but while you are buying your favors in shiny, slick dispensaries, those taxes are going to fund a bigger machine that won’t hear your rage against it.
Where does this leave rock? Guitars? People don’t seem to care. Rebellion? Doesn’t seem to matter? Sex appeal? Nowhere to be found. Drugs? It was all a fantasy. They actually do ruin lives.
The front of the now perished Hard Rock Café – a place that was supposedly a monument to rock’s ideals – in Trolley Square had a sign that read “No drugs or nuclear weapons.” Well, with maniacs having their fingers over the nuclear buttons can you really blame people for choosing the party and the drugs? What a big shocker people saw through the pastiche as people downed overcooked burgers.
Things shift and music is cyclical. These numbers make me want to look harder to find that diamond in the rough. That band is out there somewhere. I love rock, but I’ll listen to anything I like. That’s how music should be. Sometimes I want to hear Migos and other times I’m listening to Local H’s 12 Angry Months. If I am out with friends it might be The Strokes or Kanye we are burning credits to hear on the “jukebox.” Hey, as long as it’s not country, I’m in. Okay, maybe some Willy.
That being said, I am sure the new Tool album will be great.