I love Rock Music. Literally, the louder and less listenable the better. But even I can’t deny that the myriad genres that comprise it no longer hold the same cultural clout they once did. Whereas guitar music once dominated both the charts and the cultural zeitgeist, such acts have now fallen by the wayside in favour of other musical styles like hip-hop or EDM.
It's not the cultural force it once was
So what happened? I think by and large rock has simply fallen afoul of changing cultural trends. Despite constituting a vast array of genres, rock music has been traditionally partisan, with various subcultures forming around certain genres. However in recent years these subcultures have been on the decline. Sure you still get goths, punks and metalheads but musical taste and identification therewith is far more fluid than it was twenty years ago. Nevertheless, I don’t think rock has necessarily been helping itself by simultaneously adhering to conventional wisdom as opposed to pushing the envelope. Contrast this with hip-hop, which has only gone from strength to strength with a vast array of diverse, vibrant and highly politicised artists who don’t feel the need to rely on their genre’s history to warrant respect.
So rock music is no longer the cultural powerhouse it once was but is that necessarily a bad thing? Chart success doesn’t necessarily amount to good music (see Mr Blobby) and I don’t think rock music was well served by the popular yet painfully generic legion of cookie cutter nu metal acts that plagued the early ‘00s. Indeed I think rock might benefit from some time out of the limelight. By way of comparison, jazz has never reached the heights it attained in the ‘20s and ‘30s yet it still remains a vibrant genre full of experimentation. And there are still plenty of decent rock and metal acts out there like Power Trip, Full of Hell and Turnstile if one is only willing to dig a little. Rock’s not dead, but it’s not the cultural force it once was. And as a rock fan, I’m ok with that.
Music has long been dominated by hip-hop and many believe that so-called “guitar music” has had its day.
With Guns ‘n’ Roses recording their first album since 2008, it begs the question of whether rock is still relevant in 2019. Though GnR may have been one of the biggest names in music in the 80’s and 90’s, rock bands such as themselves may not have the same power they once did.
The return of vinyl has breathed new life into the rock genre
Nonetheless, while rappers appear to have a monopoly over streaming platforms, good old rock and roll is more alive than ever and is arguably experiencing a resurgence. Rock is one of the most - if not the most- varied genre there is with numerous subgenres such as punk, which is experiencing its best period in a number of years with bands such as Shame and IDLES leading the way. Hip-hop in comparison is currently swamped with auto-tune ridden tracks which show very little in the way of originality. One of the most exciting developments in rock over recent years is the psychedelic movement in Australia, which has produced forward-thinking acts such as Tame Impala and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard who are redefining what “guitar music” can be in the 21st century.
Additionally, the return of vinyl has breathed new life into the rock genre with more young people diving into their parent’s old record collections and emerging inspired. So bands such as Guns ‘n’ Roses and others in the classic rock genre are most likely being kept alive by LP sales. This is even having an impact on summer festivals with Fleetwood Mac being tipped to headline Glastonbury alongside Stormzy. So really rock isn’t dead, it perhaps had a small dry spell but with so many exciting things going on in the genre it may be creeping back into listeners downloads again some time soon.