What a year! Seems like with every turn Pop dominated the music world. Radio and the MTV airwaves were filled with it. Close your eyes for one second and suddenly the "next big thing" appeared. We had it all, a boy band break sales records, a white rapper climb to number one on the charts, teen female singer/dancers putting out one new dance song after another. Then we had plenty of female R&B singers, who liked turning two syllable words into five notes with their overblown vocal style. Of course, AC/DC returned and ignited the hard rock faithful to show that Rock will never die! But looking back, overall it looked like the music of this year was more about fashion and trends than musicianship and songs that will withstand the test of time. Has music finally reached the point of total commercial dominance, where what is popular today will be forgotten ten years from now? Where music is created with the bottom line of sales numbers in mind instead of artistic expression? The simple answer is yes, because it already has.
Now look back over the description above. You may think that I was talking about the year 2000? Surprise, surprise! That was a description of 1990 not 2000. Although, we could easily interchange the two, couldn't we? The boy band in question was New Kids on the Block and 2000 gave us the record-breaking sales of N Sync. The 1990 white rapper was none other than Vanilla Ice whose 2000 counterpart was Eminem. The 1990 teen singer/dancer was Debbie Gibson who paved the way for Britney Spears, Mandy Moore and Christina Aguilera. The female R&B singers were Whitney Houstin and Mariah Carey who have remained popular through the years but have taken a back seat to the likes of Faith Hill and Nelly in the year 2000. And the AC/DC album and tour mentioned was for Razor's Edge not Stiff Upper Lip.
So it appears the more things change, the more they stay the same. The Grunge and alternative rock revolution came and went and we are right back where we started. Even familiar names like Jon Bon Jovi are topping the charts again this year! What in the hell happened?
Music is cyclical. It all comes back again and some times again and again and again. We thought we would never hear another Disco song escape the 70's, but that style made a brief reappearance in the mid 90's. About every 10 years we hear the "people in the know" pronounce that rock is dead and the current trend at the time had killed it. But low and behold rock returns to the mainstream of popularity and never seemed stronger. While styles like the current brand of pop come and go, rock never really goes totally out of style. Lets face it, rock runs much deeper than most pop music. It has staying power. While it may not be selling in the multi-platinum ranges, it still sells enough to keep the record industry interested. This is due in a great part to the integrity of the music itself and the devotion of the fans. Take this week's No. 1 selling album for example, The Beatles "1". You will never guess who was at the top of the charts five years ago? Yup, it was the Beatles with "Anthology". Why is a band that broke up thirty years ago still selling tons of records? Because their music had integrity and staying power.
What about other artists on the Top 10 this week? Will we see them at the top of the charts even five years from now? Limp Bizkit, N Sync, Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and the Baha Men? Not very likely.
You are now saying, that's all well and good antiGUY, but what's the point? The point is, that no matter what the current trend is, rock will never go away. The fans and the bands won't let it.
The fans are the important aspect here. Rock fans tend to be more devoted and loyal to their music than fans of other forms of music. Whether we are talking about metal heads, punkers or classic rock fans, the music has staying power because the fans won't let it go. And in every generation some of the fans love the music so much they pick up instruments and carry on the tradition. This is not to say that fans of other forms of music are any less devoted to their favorite musicians, 80's pop groups like Duran Duran still command a large and loyal following but for the most part what tops the charts today will more times than not be forgotten in the years to come. That's because the kind of fans that the typical pop group attracts don't have the devotion to the music that the average rock fan does. Sure there is a small number of obsessed pop fans who will never forget, but for the most part these group sell records to the mass market of consumers who buy their music because it's what's popular at the moment. People I term as the casual fans. They like a song they hear on the radio or MTV so they buy the CD, a few months later a new group comes along and the previous song and group is all but forgotten. Rock fans don't have such a short attention span. AC/DC is a great example of this. They waited five years to release their latest CD, and guess what? When the CD hit the stores there were a lot of fans that bought it and went to see the supporting concert tour. If N Sync didn't release a new CD until 2005 how many people do you think will buy it?
The point is that rock will never die because the fans won't let it. You could use the 10/90 analogy. 90% of the record buying public are casual listeners who buy up whatever is popular at the moment. These are the people who bought Wilson Phillips in 1990, Hootie and the Blowfish in 1995 and Ricky Martin this year. The remaining 10% are the hard-core fans that think of music as more than just background noise. Year after year, they go to the concerts, but the CD's because the music has become an integral part of their lives. It is this 10% that never go away, regardless of whatever the other 90% may be into at the moment. And among this 10% are the fans that will become the rock musicians of the future, they will be the ones to carry the torch. They will never forget their rock heroes because the music touched them on a deeper level than the popular music touched the other 90%. While these percentages aren't scientific and are arbitrary, the reality is that throughout the history of rock it has been the die hard fans that have kept the fire burning while the others have moved on to the next big thing. The Beatles, Black Sabbath, the Rolling Stones, Nirvana, AC/DC are just a few of the bands whose music will persevere, while the likes of Britney, Eminem, Fred Durst and N Sync will most likely become a footnote in the history of popular music. So don't fret over the current state of music, because we have seen this before and we will see it again. And try how they may, pop groups just don't have it in them to kill rock n roll!