Rock Music Sucks Now and It’s Depressing

By Ernest Baker

What the hell happened to rock music? The most successful band out right now is either Fun. or Mumford & Sons, and that is fucking depressing. I’m not even close to being an anti-mainstream rockist. Like, in an ideal way, I want to hate Fun. and Mumford & Sons for pussifying the genre, but I know that “Some Nights” and “I Will Wait” are jamming, and I’m forced to respect them for racking up those Grammys. I’m not even mad at what those bands are doing. There’s just a fear and looming sadness when you acknowledge that Fun. is not Nirvana and Mumford & Sons is not Guns N’ Roses. Those days are gone.

Lamenting the passing of a period of music, insisting that it was better, and wishing it would return is one of the most cliché, typical, and honest behaviors of any music fan, especially when it comes to rock. Watch any YouTube video of Cobain or Bowie or Hendrix or Zeppelin and scan the comments—90% of them will be cynical and nostalgic. This happens on R&B videos, but people today still have Frank Ocean and Beyoncé. This happens on pop videos, but people today still have Rihanna and Katy Perry. This happens on rap videos, but people today still have Kendrick Lamar and Drake. But rock fans are hurting. They’re feeling the void, and it’s understandable. What’s interesting is exactly how the Rock Music Economy has collapsed over the years.

It’s all been a very visible decline. It’s culminated in a 2013 when rock is just not the popular music anymore. No rock band is opening or closing the VMAs. The award for Best Rock Video was even relegated to a throwaway pre-show presentation during this week’s broadcast of the VMAs. No rock band is at No. 1 on the Hot 100. The people who sell a million albums first week these days are Taylor Swift and Lil Wayne. But 10 or so years ago, Limp Bizkit was doing that, and Creed was pretty damn close to doing that. People hate those bands, but it just goes to show what kind of grasp rock once had on pop culture.

Maybe that’s how rock got itself into this mess: always moving on from one phase to the next, but not in the evolutionary way that the music moved from punk to post to hair to grunge. Even though those evolutions were based on the rejection of something, it always seemed like there was a respect for previous incarnations of the music. By the late 1990s, as grunge gave way to complete mainstreamification of rock and led to the birth of bands like Matchbox 20 and Vertical Horizon, rock started moving from one phase to the next with embarrassment, and if its own participants didn’t believe in the genre, who else would?

Cynics and contrarians got Blink 182 and pop punk the fuck out of here. They got rap-rock the fuck out of here. They got emo the fuck out of here. They got post-punk revival the fuck out of here. And they got that indie hipster shit that was happening in 2008/2009, when MGMT was the biggest band in the world and Jay Z was going to Grizzly Bear concerts, and Vampire Weekend was on the cover of SPIN before they even had an album out, the fuck out of here. Now we’ve arrived at an existence where the only rock stars left are people who don’t make rock music and Mac Demarco, who maybe 12 people know about.

Gone are the days of Sid Vicious cutting himself on stage. Gone are the days of Ian Curtis kicking that chair, David Byrne having spasms on stage, Morrissey making depression chic, Axl Rose assaulting fans, or even Kid Rock attacking Tommy Lee over Pamela Anderson.

You can point to Rihanna’s manufactured insanity, Frank Ocean’s beef with Chris Brown, and EDM’s rise as a sign of other genres having life injected into them. We just lived through a summer with records from Kanye West, Jay Z, J. Cole, and Drake in one 90-day radius. That’s life. It feels like rock hasn’t had much life since The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, and Modest Mouse all dropped in the same year. It feels like rock hasn’t had much life since The Vines, The Hives, and The White Stripes all had those green Buzzworthy tags on MTV at roughly the same time. James Murphy just quit LCD Soundsystem and the game has been fucked up since. Now all rock has is Maroon 5 and Imagine Dragons.

There was a time when rock had a complete, undisputed, suffocating stranglehold on the entire realm of popular culture, and that time is no more. Macklemore and a fucking teenage terrorist are more relevant subjects for the Rolling Stone cover than any rock band.

It’s not that I don’t know about or listen to the awesome, great, independent, underground rock music that’s still being made and released every day. But the fact that it’s underground and not mainstream therein lies the problem. There was a time when rock had a complete, undisputed, suffocating stranglehold on the entire realm of popular culture, and that time is no more. Macklemore and a fucking teenage terrorist are more relevant subjects for the Rolling Stone cover than any rock band. Why do you think they have like 12 Springsteen covers every year? There’s just nothing new in the genre that matters on the massive scale that it once did.

I don’t have an answer as to why rock is so boring right now, but there’s no question that it most certainly is. Kids would rather be Twitter Famous than be in a rock band these days. The genre has lost but all its influence with the masses, and at best you have a Lollapalooza as the last bastion of the genre’s former glory. Rock music will always be around and there are ebbs and flows to music—who knows, by the end of the year maybe something amazing will happen in rock and hopefully it does because rock music needs it.

“Moves Like Jagger” goes down in history whether we like it or not, but I’d rather have a new Jagger. “Ho Hey” is fucking fire but I still need something that makes people feel the way “When I Come Around” made people feel in 1994. I don’t doubt it’ll happen again, but until it does, these are the dark days. When the most successful rock album of the year is called Save Rock and Roll, you know that the epidemic is no myth.

Rock music: Get it the fuck together.

  • Sap

    Noticed the Killers get a lot of flack when they really don’t deserve it. Granted, there’s some purity to ‘em, they can ape their idols’ sounds pretty damn well. And there might be a bit of a pop twang too, but they’re still pretty good. And if any of you fools want some more good rock, check out Brand New. Like others have said it’s there, you just have to do a little research.

  • MusicandGamesandstuf

    If rock music is lifeless, I will breathe air into it. Give it a few years, I will do it or die trying. I guarantee that.

  • James Durand

    Certainly you don’t equate Frank Ocean and Beyonce to say a Stevie Wonder and Arethea Franklin.

  • Rational

    Amen

  • Steve Cokonis

    Kurt Vile, ASG, Clutch, Ty Segall and many more put out great rock albums this year. If you want a band that rocks out hard, check out all of the Bronx’s albums. Mainstream rock has always sucked. Rolling Stone and MTV haven’t been culturally defining in years.

    Garage, Psychedelia, and Surf has made a huge come back in Rock and Roll. You’re missing out! Just check Thee Oh Sees. This Ty Segall video is most rock and roll thing to come out and years! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQwLneB9qkk

    Rock and Roll is alive and well!

  • 90skid

    Black Sabbath 13

  • rlheim

    St Louis used to have one of the United States leading progressive rock stations every musician as far from England and Germany wanted their music on K she radio here. k she was bought out by emiss broadcasting look what they’ve done to it they play nothing except music from the 60′s 70′s and 80′s very little from the 90s nothing from now. the other station ms broadcasting owns is keep EMT 1057 the point they a couple of years ago were playing great music and now it seems to have faded into very commercial money making music and they play Mumford and Sons on this pop station they have now created. go to the local big clubs around town and you were here nothing but 70′s 80′s and 90′s music being played this is what the crowd has been fed this is what the crowds want to hear in St Louis. indie bands are independent bands in this town do not do very good I’m in one of them and I know several others who have been trying to keep the underground scene alive its very hard and people in this town will not support it but I guarantee if I started playing Bon Jovi Alice in Chains3 doors downwe would be working in the clubs that actually pay real money. so radio in your area does play a big part of what people want to hear they tell the people this is what you’re going to hear
    we have do good bands from St Louis Cabo and Copperhead that seem to do very very well if they’re out of Missouri hey do great on the East Coast do get up in Chicago and do good on the west coast they come to St Louis they won’t even play herewe hear their songs on the radio maybe once or twice a month in their own city we have another band called Greek fire from St Louis and its its the same story with them too. so the radio does play a big big part of what your town are you region will hear and expect to be called rock n roll according to the radio stations. I think right now record labels are looking for fast save money and not picking up the younger bands like they did in the 60′s and 70′s and groom them for success they want you to be ready already on the road already making money and then they will pick you up it’s a shame there are great musicians here in St Louis great bands here in St Louis and nobody in town will support any of it
    I know opinions are like assholes everybody has one and they all stink and this is my opinion

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  • Zak Dwyer

    He’s probably just taking what he can get when it comes to Rock on the radio. They’re definitely not hard rock or pop punk or grunge, or any other of the best subgenres of rock music, more of a light indie on the same rung of the ladder as pop rock is (i.e. Matchbox 20).

  • Rick

    Try tyler Bryant and the shakedown

  • Geoff Quan

    rock music is about aggression, anger and negative emotion being expressed through raw distorted guitars, heavy bass riffs, and extremely powerful drum beats. And the lyric content should be about negative feelings and how fucked up things in life can be. it is targeted at an audience where the individuals all have there own painful/emotive storys to tell. although it would be hard for these die hard fans to express themselves, i believe that the real rock bands such as: Nirvana, Metallica, Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Green Day, Avenged Sevenfold etc. have truly captured what an actual rock song should be about: lyric wise and feel wise; and also the fact that these fans go to there shows because of that connection, because they have gone through the same fucked up shit that the bands have gone through. It’s a real shame that today’s rock music isn’t even fucking rock music. I believe that either people these days are all happy with there lives and couldn’t less about the negative shit that comes with it; OR the fact that mainstream music only sings about promiscous sex, getting drunk all the time, and relationships, and that people would rather indulge themselves into addictive things because it helps them forget those negative emotions. In the end its all about marketing, and what sells. Giant corparations couldn’t care less about the impact of what there product is doing to audiences and people a like, even to the point of drug abuse and death.

  • Bone of Contention

    I agree but I’m going to keep on rocking anyway! Fuck what everyone else is doing now!!

  • periclesdestro

    Rock could be dead because – speaking as a white guy – the creative force in Rock – African Americans/Blacks – abandoned the art form for hip-hop – something few whites can imitate well. Whites followed blacks to hip-hop listening but can’t fully master the genre except maybe Kid Rock or Eminem. Black Sabbath and AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, etc all were influenced by black music and musicians and the blues. Whites latched onto the blues and produced music on par with Black musicians and innovated the genre almost from the start – probably because the blues is instruments based. But hip-hop is more culture based – how you talk and present yourself and play with words and suburban whites can not fully duplicate this. So blacks moving away from instrument based pop music means that whites lost both interest in instrument based music (guitars, bass, etc) and no longer have the black original instrument based music to imitate and then build on.

  • Albert Giesbrecht

    RUSH is still rocking out, even though Geddy Lee can’t hit the high notes anymore.

  • danker521

    I refer you to jack black “rock is dead”

  • Alex Flores

    Don’t forget One Republic. Christ, they’re awful.

  • Tyler

    Well to tell everyone the truth everyone who doesnt listen to rock they think it is just some stupid bad shit well idc wat u think bc there are nations and armies tht follow todays rock bands like:bvb army,undead army,vampire nation this is only a few of thousands of and the millions who follow them but yes rock’n'roll is dying but it is never fully going to die bc there will always be those who want to stand out and walk this path

  • Tyler

    Then wats the real shit

  • Victor Jarvis

    Kids in the 90s become big fans of Punk Rock so they decided they did not have to learn how to play their instruments well, how to make good music. Any idiot out there decided he could become a good rock musician on attitude alone, or rather becoming a poser and pretending to have that attitude.

  • Victor Jarvis

    AC/Dc and KISS still put out new albums.

  • Euan

    Radiohead is still making excellent music to this date.

  • william jason o’neal

    Maroon 5 is not even rock and I do not hear them on rock stations

  • william jason o’neal

    The black keys are actually good. They aren’t mainstream for one. I personally would like some rock music to be tame and not about what rap and pop is about. Sex is all over pop, rap, and starting to with the “alt” stuff(which I like some). And rock already has a bad name by religous people thinking its more “satanic” than pop and rap because of some of the heavy metal bands.

  • william jason o’neal

    Bad news………its already happening.

  • william jason o’neal

    But Linkin Park actually aren’t sellouts anymore and has a real “rock” sound than they did before. Its good that they aren’t getting attention. In the end and Numb is what hurt them to many real rock fans.

  • william jason o’neal

    They are no longer rock and got their popularity from goth girls. They were more emo than true rock. They are no Avenged Sevenfold.

  • Guest

    In an article criticizing the pussification of a genre, is it really appropriate to say that hip hop still has Drake? He’s the poster boy of the pussification of hip hop.

  • Jeff Meuse

    Today’s music is as bad as Wrangler Jane was singing ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ on F-Troop. You just don’t become a rock star because Agarn and O’Rourke sing backup vocals for you. Listen, I’m not sure what the key to rock and roll success is but today’s generation is scratching the paint off the side of the car with a coat hanger trying to get in. Back in the day, musical talent came along as easily as drinking water. Today, everybodys gotta ‘Vote’ about it? Vote??? Yeah hey everybody let’s vote for the Rolling Stones.

  • Reggie

    Author is spot on. Main problem is current bands learn a couple of chords and think they have the instrument mastered.

  • BobbyBrown

    Me and my stepbrother buy all are music we actually have a few old record stores buy are house that have been there forever and we go down there to get stuff. I get frustrated and mad when people say rock is dead it can’t die it just becomes quiet until the next generation pick up a guitar and make some music. People my age (mid teens) say that they wish they were born earlier that’s the problem we need a band or group of them that will help wake rock up.

  • http://pakizsoftz.blogspot.com Ashar Ali

    Rock Sucks But Your rock has a good touch of Rap dat is Simply Amazing and dats the only reason Linkin Park is still “Rocking”. The Band is nothing without M.Shinoda. Please Release a new song with Rap more than rock….