The tragic decline of rock n' roll music has been something I have tried to ignore for the last decade. After a final burst of creativity in the early 90s, rock gave up the ghost; sales figures argue that rock is no longer a driving cultural force, and most new rock music sounds like a poor retread of stuff that came before. In fact sales of rock albums are so bad that the BBC said 2010 was the worst year for rock since 1960, which was the period between Elvis and the Beatles when music seemed to have really just given up.
In light of this, the AV Club's Steve Hyden makes a convincing case to just simply retire the term 'rock' when we're talking about popular music. I sort of thought we did, but it turns out that magazines and the like have been using the term to try and foist hip hop artists on their middle aged readership.
And yet we still have things like GQ’s “Gods Of Rock” cover from November, where hip-hop’s two biggest contemporary stars, Eminem and Lil Wayne, appear next to the living embodiment of rock’s indefatigable spirit, Keith Richards. Once upon a time, purists would’ve flipped over Eminem and Lil Wayne being “legitimized” with the “gods of rock” tag (whatever “gods of rock” is supposed to mean). Today, the photo seems wrong for a different set of reasons. Imagine Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry standing next to Glenn Miller under the headline “Gods Of Swing,” and you get the idea.
The one argument that could be made is that rock itself is the most amorphous of terms. Does it have to be just guitar band music? I'm not sure what Buddy Holly would have thought about Nine Inch Nails, but they're both rock. It's a big tent, which Hyden acknowledges; does that big tent aspect mean that the harder, more youth-oriented, less fuck-music-ish hip hop should be considered rock? Is Odd Future rock? I think a song like Radicals is totally punk, and punk is a kind of rock.
What do you think? Do we need to let the term rock disappear into the past? And how does this paragraph make you feel:
Is it time to start talking about emerging rock bands plugging into “the heart of hip-hop”? Should rappers be claiming non-rap artists as their own, forming a new lake that all other musical tributaries lead to? It might only be a matter of time before music historians remember Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith for contributing drum parts to so many classic rap songs; The Beatles for inspiring parts of the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique; and King Crimson for supplying an awesome hook to “Power” from West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.