Rock not dead, just hibernating
Every generation has a culture and mentality of its own. What emerged from the late ‘60s and ‘70s was the hard-core, unsolicited rock music that could be heard from the basement of most youth. Music that developed from the political and counter-cultural movements taking place at the time, like the Vietnam War and Flower Power/Hippie culture. These societal events contributed to the music that was made during those times and to the way people went about their daily lives. What connection does today's music have to society, politics, and even current events?
Christan Stewart, an SMC student who produces original beats for a wide range of music, has seen a drastic change in the way music is portrayed.
"We live in a quick generation and what we want is music that is catchy. It doesn't even matter if the lyrics repeat over and over again, people just want something that's hot," says Stewart. "Our music is played out and watered down. Compare for instance Soulja Boy to say, Big L. Big L used to rap about going to college and wanting a better life, Soulja Boy raps about booty. The message in our music has drastically changed."
Since when is a 15-year-old, whose voice hasn't even begun to crack, even remotely considered for the top ten list? Sure, Justin Bieber has a decent voice, but so do hundreds and thousands of other teenagers.
The reason is because he sells. Teens want to dress like him, have the same hair cut, and smell like him. Somewhere hidden behind his baby teeth and karaoke sounding voice is the reason that great rock music has faded. People want to look like the Bieber, but they don't want to feel like the Bieber.
Today's music is all about looks and quick singles. What you have is people wearing sunglasses with chains dangling from them because that's what they saw in a Ke$ha or Beyonce video. You have teens going around shouting lyrics that don't make any sense, and when you ask them about the meaning of the song, they can't tell you. But what they can say is that the song has "swag". The only reason these songs are so popular is because they are so ridiculous that when we look back at our youth we will be able to laugh and say, "No, you're a jerk".
Economics and Government Professor, Steven Clotzman, has been playing guitar for 42 years and has been in several bands. "There's no more radio like there used to be. Everything is niche oriented. In the 1960s pop charts you would find soul, rhythm and blues, rock, pop, but now you won't find stations that play that sort of variety anymore and so people don't get access to it.
There is historical context behind songs like Buffalo Springfield's, "For What It's Worth," which depicts the calamity of the Vietnam War. Not only did the lyrics have meaning locked inside, but they made people aware of what was happening around them.
"It was a cultural scene. There was a youth culture rising. Rock isn't dead in that people still listen and play it, but it's not a movement. We don't have a counter-cultural movement so rock can't be what it was. Some say rock died when it became self-conscious. When they started singing about how hard it is to be a rock star is when they lost it. If you analyze the music of this generation the talent is there and so is the rock influence. Take Mumford and Sons. They're tip of the hat folk. Their beats are there but it's general rock," says Clotzman.
Led Zeppelin, one of the most influential British rock bands of all time, refused to make any one of their tracks into singles because it was about the bigger picture; it was about the soul of the sound. People used to worship the smooth bass, roaring drums, and distorted electric riffs because it was simply a constitution of the time.
It is almost unfeasible to produce music as good as what The Who, Pink Floyd, and the Rolling Stones have, but it's safe to say that our generation isn't completely hopeless. Bands including The Foo Fighters, Paramore, Nirvana, and Incubus have made their own imprint on the generation that was left behind by musical geniuses.
It's difficult to place any one band into a definite category because rock is so dynamic that it‘s too broad to describe a band simply as "rock." What we have today is Paramore's pop rock, Mumford and Son's folk rock, and the Red Hot Chili Pepper's funk rock.
"The definition of what something is is what the population makes it. It was about money back then, but it's all about money now," says Jones.
Although radio stations clearly favor what's "hot" and "now," our generation is blessed with extreme accessibility to sites such as YouTube, making it that much easier to enjoy any subcategory of rock. The only set back is that you have to go digging, but if you're looking for something that's worth anything, then go ahead and navigate.
The rock scene has long faded from the forefront of society and is now enjoyed underground, waiting for the next revolution.