The Decline of a Genre: Where Did the Rock Go?

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Since 2010, rock music been struggling to find its place. The genre has experienced flashes of brilliance that have come and gone too fast like the New York City rock resurgence era between 2001-2003 which yielded bands such as the The Strokes, Interpol and The Rapture. A couple of year later, the UK indie rock scene was revived with Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys and a plethora of other acts were making solid rock music.

In recent years, the indie scene has generally distanced itself from electric guitars and taken on a more acoustic, poppy and synth-driven flavour with artists such as Alt-J, Years & Years, and Glass Animals flying the flag. True rock, in the style of AC/DC or Led Zeppelin seems to have fallen out of favour. The genre is experiencing a major lull as bands struggle to find traction in an industry that doesn’t seem to have room for them. Green Day a band synonymous for their number 1 pop-rock anthems released a new album this month ‘Revolution Radio’ to little fanfare.

No boundary-pushing album or rock masterpiece has come out in recent years. Rock is virtually absent from the charts. When you wade through the Irish Number One singles of the 2010s, very few could be classified as ‘rock music’. Aside from being pushed out of the mainstream, there is no evident rock scene brewing underground. Sub-genres such as post-punk and psychedelic rock have either taken on a retro feel or done little to invigorate the genre.

The progression of music over the past twenty years has been largely dependent on the use of technology. Digitized effects (loops and samples etc.) have not been incorporated into rock music to any meaningful degree. The closest anyone has come to this is Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails who has effectively created the ‘industrial rock’ sub-genre. Arguably, this has attracted little more than a cult following. It appears that the simplicity of rock music may be its downfall – the common verse-chorus-chorus structure along with its predictable instrumentation; drums, guitar, bass and vocals, struggle to find a place in the heavily processed mainstream. The genres that have flourished recently have been ones that are either characterised by the trendy electronic sounds that comprise EDM, dance and electronica, or the genres that can blend these sounds seamlessly into the music like hip hop or RnB. The whole aura of rock music is not sufficiently marketable in the age where music has come to assume an aura of consumerism and standardization typified by slick production and a greater emphasis on image.

This is not to say that rock will never return from the dead. The genre needs redefining – in the same way that Kanye West revolutionised hip hop with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or how Bon Iver redefined folk with their eponymous second LP. But for the time being, the genre tag rock is inseparable from classic rock.

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Adam Bielenberg | Music Writer

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