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July 16, 2011 7:47 AM   Subscribe

In Defense of Pop Music -- New York Magazine takes a look at the rise of pop and dance music and the death of rock in the charts.
posted by empath (110 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Isn't "pop" music short for popular music? Definitionally speaking, I hardly think such a thing would require any such vigorous sort of apology.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:53 AM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I saw Ariel Pink a couple weeks ago and when he walked on stage this kid in front of me turned to his friend and said "Aw man, he totally had me fooled... he's like, thirty!"
posted by nathancaswell at 7:56 AM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I bet you they talk about it in the FA.
posted by swift at 7:56 AM on July 16, 2011


I think this has got to be more about what the charts are, and what it is they actually measure, than about changes in music.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:56 AM on July 16, 2011


I see the point in listening to ANYTHING other than indie music. Except I don't think current pop is much better. Arcade Fire and Lady Gaga are equally insipid for me.
posted by ReeMonster at 7:59 AM on July 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I stopped listening to the radio around 1997, when the completely manufactured "Latin Invasion" came through and rock started falling off the charts in a serious way in favor of insipid breathy shit and amusical hip-hop.

Remember Garbage's debut album? That stuff is way too rock-oriented to get play today. Instead we have the musical equivalent of pixifoods.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:01 AM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do the charts even mean anything anymore? I think the real question is why do people choose to pay money for these albums and not others. Who are the people who choose to actually buy mp3s or (God help us all!) CDs by Ke$ha or BEP or Lady Gaga, and how do they differ from the people who choose simply to...er...obtain digital copies of albums by [UNKNOWN]?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:04 AM on July 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, let me spell this out: The charts no longer indicate what's popular: They indicate what the Powers That Be have deemed should be popular. They stopped playing rock music on hit radio because they realized that anyone with two brain cells to rub together would download music through Napster, so they're concentrating on the people who won't- thirteen-year-olds and people too stupid to use a computer.

And The Arcade Fire isn't indie rock. It's what the System has decided should be offered as an "alternative", just like the Killers eight years ago. "Indie Rock and Roll"? Oh, please.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:07 AM on July 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think the real question is why do people choose to pay money for these albums and not others.

The billboard charts are based on radio play, also.
posted by empath at 8:08 AM on July 16, 2011


"Here, for instance, is a chilling fact about the nineties: In any given week of the decade, there was a 10 percent chance the No.1 song was by Boyz II Men."
...
"(a single from Color Me Badd was nearly twice as likely to chart as one from Nirvana)"

So, when people talk about nostalgia, and how the past wasn't really as good as we remember it being, this is what they mean, isn't it.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:09 AM on July 16, 2011 [14 favorites]


(I should note that "obtain" in my post above does not necessarily imply any illegality. Lots of independent artists offer their work for free. And some who do sell their work do so through channels that wouldn't be represented by, say, the Billboard charts.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:10 AM on July 16, 2011


empath: "The billboard charts are based on radio play, also."

And when the radio play is based on "hit radio" stations that play a very narrow spectrum of music that is handed down to them from above, it's basically payola.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:10 AM on July 16, 2011




And The Arcade Fire isn't indie rock. It's what the System has decided should be offered as an "alternative", just like the Killers eight years ago.

They release on Merge; how else would you define "indie"?

"Alternative" hasn't meant anything since 1992. But at least we can define independent music as that which is released and distributed by independent labels (i.e. not one of the four majors).
posted by mr_roboto at 8:25 AM on July 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hm. Nitsuh Abebe. He's good people, a veteran ILXor.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:26 AM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow. I was hoping for some reasoned and thoughtful conversation about music here. Guess not.
posted by incessant at 8:27 AM on July 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


There is something about being a music geek that turns people into rampaging indignant Linnaeuses
posted by The Whelk at 8:28 AM on July 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


They have to separate themselves from those other guys somehow.
posted by pracowity at 8:30 AM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rampaging Indignant Linnaeuses totally sold out years ago. Their early stuff is good though.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:42 AM on July 16, 2011 [22 favorites]


For the last few weeks my time has been dramatically split between NY, LA and Seattle and I can tell you definitively that the music pumping through NYC is much, much dancier and well, poppy, than in those other places. The point of view in this article makes sense considering how culturally provincial (and, er, narcissistic) NY'ers can get. Believe it or not, this is what passes for introspection.
posted by victors at 8:50 AM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who are the people who choose to actually buy mp3s or (God help us all!) CDs by Ke$ha ... ?

Oddly enough, I saw them a few weeks ago. Walking home about 5:00 PM one Wednesday night along Lansdowne Street in Boston (lots of clubs along it), there was a line of probably 250 girls waiting to get in to one of the clubs. While college students look younger and younger to me every year, these still looked a little young for freshmen. Most of them wore cut-off jeans rolled at the cuff, many had nylons on below the cut-offs, and quite a few had face glitter in the shape of some symbol. I could not for the life of me imagine what they were all doing there. Later, checking on the Internet said that Ke$ha was playing that night. So that's who.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:00 AM on July 16, 2011


On the pie charts, the big piece in the 80s labeled Rock was all Poison, Whitesnake, and GnR wasn't it? I'm not convinced that's too great of a loss.

And if you're already in the "Get Off My Lawn" demographic like me, you're probably thinking "Some of my friends sit alone every evening and worry 'bout the times ahead..."
posted by Edward L at 9:47 AM on July 16, 2011


I can tell you definitively that the music pumping through NYC is much, much dancier and well, poppy, than in those other places. The point of view in this article makes sense considering how culturally provincial (and, er, narcissistic) NY'ers can get. Believe it or not, this is what passes for introspection.

How you get from 'dancier' and 'poppy' to 'provincial'?
posted by yellowcandy at 9:55 AM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


here in michigan, anyone who wants to fill their life with dancier and poppy music has quite a few options to choose from

quality, current rock music - not so much
posted by pyramid termite at 10:01 AM on July 16, 2011


This is Indie rock.
posted by everichon at 10:39 AM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Abebe didn't get all the way through the study:
Another consideration involves the role of genre in influencing our findings. Indeed, one alternative explanation for our findings is that they reflect increased popularity of certain music genres (e.g., rhythm & blues, hip/hop) instead of relating to previously documented shifts in psychological traits and emotions. Our results contradict this possibility. Because our multiple regression analyses controlled for genre, any changes in genre over time did not significantly account for our effects.
This makes him look like a knee-jerk dogmatic anti-rockist, where any criticism of pop music is dismissed as rockist bias.

But let's suppose he's right - maybe if they expanded the study to include the top 100 instead of the top 10, we'll see that effect. I thought this justification was disturbing:
And the music running through the charts is filled with qualities that look a lot like the aspirations and survival strategies of people who’ve felt marginalized—people for whom ego and self-worth can be existential issues, not just matters of etiquette.
So pop music alleviates the pain of socially excluded and marginalized individuals by convincing them that they're the ones with the problem? This seems more like marginalization itself, not a coping strategy. It echoes something Magneto said in the last X-men movie, supposedly standing for the radical dignity of mutants: "You want society to accept you, but you can't even accept yourself." Or the commonsense wisdom: "You will find love once you learn to love yourself." It sounds like horrific brutality to me.
posted by AlsoMike at 10:58 AM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


How you get from 'dancier' and 'poppy' to 'provincial'?

The beat is boom-chick-boom-chick, the vocals are poppy the attitude in inward looking, limited in perspective.
posted by victors at 11:01 AM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think precisely the opposite. Gaga, ke$ha, etc, are telling people to let their freak flags fly proudly.
posted by empath at 11:01 AM on July 16, 2011


Gaga, ke$ha, etc, are telling people to let their freak flags fly proudly.

I can totally see that. But the attitude I was picking up from the crowds at clubs seemed more self-absorbed. Just a vibe thing.
posted by victors at 11:06 AM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


This makes him look like a knee-jerk dogmatic anti-rockist, where any criticism of pop music is dismissed as rockist bias.

And this is something I wish would fall out of music criticism altogether, for a few reasons:

1. "Rockist" used in this way annoys me because it just sounds like it should mean "anti-rock" when in fact it means "pro-rock."

2. Some critics have decided that the opposite number of the rockist is the "poptimist," a word that makes me -- as I feel it should make any right-thinking person, rockist and poptimist alike -- want to kick a baby right in its stupid baby face.

3. It's certainly a problem if a music critic is interested in only one genre of music, and has a bias so strong that s/he thinks music that falls outside of that genre is "bad" simply because it is not of that genre and doesn't even realize that's what s/he is doing. You see this in film criticism all the time -- a critic will see a perfectly good horror movie/science fiction movie/romantic comedy/action movie (something a fan of that form would recognize as being superior to other films of its ilk) and trashtalk it, largely producing criticisms so vague that they could be applied to almost any film of that style, and you realize that the problem is not the film but the type of film it is, and that nothing could have satisfied the critic other than it go back to the shop and return as a different film altogether. And: The critic thinks the problem is this particular movie, not knowing that s/he has a blind spot big enough to include all such movies, both good and bad. What both "rockist" and "poptimist" critics fail to see is that if you hold an entire genre of music above another -- if you can listen to 1001 dance tracks or rock songs and think that not only do all of them suck, but that they all suck equally -- then you lack the chops to be much of a critic. At least outside of your relatively narrow field of interest, your ear is bad. Even if your favorite band in the world is The Cult and you have an entire dresser drawer full of Rolling Stones tour t-shirts, if you're a critic who is any damn good at all, you should still be able to listen to Ke$ha and understand why she's inferior to Uffie...and the truth cuts both ways. If you're a critic, and you really think that rock is a genre of music of which no good has come or will come, you're a bad critic.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:53 AM on July 16, 2011


you should still be able to listen to Ke$ha and understand why she's inferior to Uffie

Seriously???

Okay let's play Ke$ha or Uffie?
Let me tell you what I do when my day is over
After picking the right clothes for about an hour
Oh i'm turning orange from all the carrots around my neck
Tonight i'm taking out the bling and i'm dressed to impress
I'm getting ready for my night out-out-out on the town
I'm lookin hot cuz you know we-we-we are holding it down
or
I’m just talkin’ truth
I’m telling you ’bout the shit we do
We’re sellin’ our clothes, sleepin’ in cars
Dressin’ it down, hittin’ on dudes

I’ve got that glitter on my eyes
Stockings ripped all up the side
Looking sick and sexy-fied
So let’s go-o-o (Let’s go!)
posted by empath at 12:09 PM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Music is way more than lyrics.
posted by lesli212 at 12:15 PM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


They both do bad sing-song-y 80s-style rap. Uffie just gets a pass from hipsters because she's french and raps on lo-fi 'indy' records.
posted by empath at 12:18 PM on July 16, 2011


Yeah, I don't think either example is a triumph of literature. Ke$ha is pure nails-on-chalkboard.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:26 PM on July 16, 2011


More to the point, though, empath, you're a fan of dance music and are able to draw a distinction between this style of dance music (that you don't like) and others that you do; what I'm saying is that critics who don't like dance music don't see any distinction between any examples of the form at all. And that that's as bad when it's someone ripping on dance as it is when it's someone ripping on rock. Like, it's okay for a person to do it here or at home or what have you, and less okay for a critic to do it, because critics (to my mind) should be more open to variety than that. If someone's gonna evangelize for their particular scene, that's cool, they might even be really entertaining, but they're not critics, exactly. I don't know what the word for that is.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:34 PM on July 16, 2011


Is poptimism still a thing? As a teenage girl who loved loved loved pop music, I hated so much about that movement. It just seemed like a bunch of 39-year-old music critics desperate for a new angle (once the internet made basically all music available to anyone who cared to listen and having access to NYC record stores didn't make a person automatically interesting anymore), indulging their understandable fatigue with rock music to the point of bigotry and falling all over themselves to see who could worship the most average pop music the most abjectly. I wanted to be thrilled about pop being appreciated and thought about and taken seriously (and I have come across some amazing songs scrolling through ILX's rolling pop threads occasionally - my favourite). But a lot of it, like so much public discussion about music, just seemed like the most obnoxious identity construction theatre. So I'm grateful for poptimism's impact on music discourse, but I'm also grateful that the whole thing seems to have mellowed out so much since it started.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:37 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I almost never comment in music threads, because of the usual inane "your favorite band" nonsense, but this time I cannot resist, because of the insistent talk about "rock". Who on earth still listens to rock these days? There is no mystery as to why rock is not front and center in popular culture - because it's not front and center anywhere, it's dead. Whole musical categories die, not merely because the culture changes, but because the form becomes exhausted and there isn't that much new and fresh to be had in it. It happened with every major genre of music. Take a more recent example - jazz. Once upon a time, if you were a musician, the most exciting things were happening in jazz, the form was being stretched, explored and innovated - most talent went that-away. It captured the mostest from the bestest. But they sucked it dry by the early 60's and since then, it's been marginalized, ossified, academicized, and the bulk of the new generation of talent moved onto rock where huge things were happening. And then the same thing happened to rock. By the mid/late 90's it was the death-throws. It's over. Not everyone has gotten the memo as they have with jazz, but in time, nobody will ask about where rock is - after all, nobody is asking where opera is.

I'm not saying there aren't people who will argue passionately for this rock band or that, and how it's so innovative - but hey, most genres live on in some way and have their passionate defenders, including opera. Yes, I know about that new jazz pianist, that fantastic new opera, and new rock band or old rock band doing new work, but the bulk of new innovative artists are not working in rock - perhaps we don't see it as clearly as we do with opera, because the death of rock is a more recent event, and music genres doesn't die abruptly like this, they peter out and eventually zombify into variably animated corpses.

We still have the old records, we can play them, but vital and interesting things are happening elsewhere and that's where the talent is moving. But let's not confuse any of this with pop. Pop's different - it's always been around us, and will continue to be around us, on parallel tracks, with occasional crossovers. Pop's not where the big genres arise, flower, and decline. Operas existed alongside the pop of its era, operettas, and there's always some cross-polination. There is talent and genius in pop too, but we're not looking for innovation from pop, pop changes as in "novelty" but for musical innovation we have to go elsewhere - Lady Gaga and Ke$ha are talented in their own way, but nobody expects musical innovation from them. But rock? The corpse is still warm, but the life is gone.
posted by VikingSword at 12:38 PM on July 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


2. January 24, 2004: Jay-Z releases the single “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.” April 17, 2008: Senator Obama addresses campaign attacks using the “brushing dirt off your shoulder” gesture.

I remember that. That was great. Especially when people dubbed the song over the video.
posted by cashman at 12:45 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


More to the point, though, empath, you're a fan of dance music and are able to draw a distinction between this style of dance music (that you don't like) and others that you do; what I'm saying is that critics who don't like dance music don't see any distinction between any examples of the form at all.

I actually like them both. But I do get your point.
posted by empath at 12:52 PM on July 16, 2011


Operas existed alongside the pop of its era, operettas

What? That's bullshit. Opera has existed for centuries, and has always been the domain of the rich and monied classes. Operettas were also the domain of the upper class, and have little to do with popular music.

The music it was existing alongside, the "pop of its era", was for the longest time bar-room sing-a-longs and folk dances and such. The stuff the masses were playing in their pubs and barns and front porches and city public spaces while the gentry were all in their fancy halls watching the music none of the plebes could afford to approach.
posted by hippybear at 1:25 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


villanelles at dawn: "Rampaging Indignant Linnaeuses"

I knew them when they were underground and had the original bass player.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:29 PM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I didn't mean that operettas were always there along operas through the ages, I should have made that clear. I meant, that as an example of cross-polination of pop, hence: "Operas existed alongside the pop of its era, operettas, and there's always some cross-polination.", i.e. operettas were the pop of its (operettas) era (A.D. 1850ish onward), though not the only pop (pop has many subcategories too). Sorry for not making that clear. Because so it happened with many things - jazz, rock and so forth, all had cross-pollinated with pop. Operettas certainly functioned as pop (see wikipedia: "Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter."), though it wasn't the only pop of its era - again, I brought up operettas, as an example of cross-polination between formal and pop music. Incidentally, pop is not necessarily tightly bound with class, either in the past or now, though it is true that formal "music as art" particularly historically, was indeed class bound.
posted by VikingSword at 1:42 PM on July 16, 2011


Right, I know what you meant. And what I'm saying is, that as far as music in history goes, neither opera nor operetta were ever "pop". They have always been the domain of the elites, and the truly Popular Music (where "pop" comes from as a genre name) wasn't either of those.

Sure, there's plenty of cross pollination across genres. There always has been. Look at all the classical composers who took folk melodies (pop songs) and turned them into classical music pieces. Look at the Pat Metheny thread a few doors down where a jazz guitarist is doing solo guitar meditations on pop songs from 40 years ago. There's always been cross pollination. But opera, operetta, or other composed classical forms of music have never been historically "pop" in any real sense of the word.
posted by hippybear at 1:56 PM on July 16, 2011


operettas were the pop of its (operettas) era (A.D. 1850ish onward), though not the only pop (pop has many subcategories too).

This isn't true, because pop music depends on a particular commercial distribution framework that just didn't exist back then. They are categorically different social phenomena and comparing them is going to make for unsound analogies.

As for your pronouncements of the death of rock -- how do you account for all the rock bands that are formed every day, that play in clubs every night in every city in the US, and probably in a bunch of cities in other countries too? Your assessment of how innovative rock is or isn't doesn't really have much to do with the vitality of the genre, which by all accounts is still relatively high. Also, if you're calling rock "dead," you probably haven't been listening to too much of it recently, I guess? So how would you even know if something innovative happened in rock?
posted by invitapriore at 2:14 PM on July 16, 2011


kittens for breakfast, if I had to choose, I would probably lean towards poptimism (certain anti-rockism) because I listen to very little rock and bristle against the reflexive dismissal of electronic instruments and DJing. I think the charge of sexism, racism, homophobia is correct. That said, rock music once played a role in progressive, anti-capitalist, anti-war social movements - of course it was never pure, there was always an element of commercialization which eventually eclipsed it. But still, it was there.

It's a mistake to think that no other genre could do this - dubstep in the UK is a counterexample - but I think today's pop music does not. If anything, it falsely promises that social problems can be overcome by having high self-esteem or some individual character traits, in a parallel to the belief that poverty can be overcome if you work hard enough.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:34 PM on July 16, 2011


But opera, operetta, or other composed classical forms of music have never been historically "pop" in any real sense of the word.

Opera, no, but operetta... just to make sure we understand our terms, pop is as in "popular", general public, not as in "poor people's music". Nor is pop music associated with class or poverty today either. So even if "upper classes" listened to it, it can still be pop, as long as the general public is involved. The most crude distinction one could make is between "art" and "entertainment" of lowbrow, highbrow (insofar as such distinctions make sense at all).

The other thing about operettas is that there is a certain amount of blurring between that and musical theater, and also regional differences, particularly the English speaking world, vs continental.

If we agree that popularity is a measure of "pop", as is its lack of "highbrow" pretension, then operettas certainly qualify as pop, particularly in the Anglophone world. Again, wikipedia:

"English-language operettas were first composed in England in the 1860s — for example, Sullivan's Cox and Box (1866). They were soon known as comic operas, to distinguish this family-friendly fare from the risqué French operettas of the 1850s and 1860s.
The height of the form was reached by Gilbert and Sullivan, who had a long-running collaboration during the Victorian era. With W. S. Gilbert writing the libretti and Arthur Sullivan composing the music, the pair produced 14 comic operas, sometimes called Savoy Operas. Most were enormously popular in Britain, the U.S., and elsewhere."

if you're calling rock "dead," you probably haven't been listening to too much of it recently, I guess? So how would you even know if something innovative happened in rock?

True, I have not been listening to rock music daily, as I used to once upon a time precisely because I wasn't hearing anything new, but I am certainly familiar with the bands name-checked in this thread, or most of the ones on the blue in general. And, I do listen to a fair amount of genre-blurring music that has obviously strong links to rock, so it becomes a little hard to make a cut and dried categorizations "rock" "not rock". However, it is true, that I don't listen and therefore am not aware of every "rock" punk/garage/indie band which as you say are formed ceaselessly in garages/bedrooms across the nation; but on the occasions when I have heard them - I do sometimes go to clubs where such music is played - I don't find anything particularly innovative. Of course, I'm sure I'm missing some nuance and there are talented people working in "rock", but that's just as true of jazz... which is kinda the point - the corpse of rock is certainly warmer than of jazz, but both are on wake display, they just have not been put in the ground yet. Oh, I assure you, you don't have to tell me that there are passionate defenders of the vitality of the form - I hear it from my jazz aficionado friends as well. But you know, all these things are along an arc - it rises, reaches a peak, slowly declines; the exact GPS of where which form finds itself along that graph though, is certainly subject to differing opinion.
posted by VikingSword at 2:48 PM on July 16, 2011


Opera has existed for centuries, and has always been the domain of the rich and monied classes.

No, there was no high/low culture distinction in Europe and the US until the late 19th century, so audiences were a mix of different classes. That's when it was decided that great cultural works were reserved for upper and middle classes, with, as you say, "bar-room sing-a-longs and folk dances" being more suitable for the working class.

But who does "high" culture really belong to? The poor, who can barely afford it but go because they love it, or wealthy aristocrats who go out of convention and to increase their social standing?
posted by AlsoMike at 3:53 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


i don't think it's accurate to say that rock or jazz is dead - rather, that they're no longer genres where exceptional creativity and innovation are generally found - (insert your favorite band that proves me wrong here, but please realize that there's 100 just as popular bands who are dully repeating the cliches and methods over and over)

in other words, they've plateaued - or flatlined if you like

it's my impression that hip hop is close to this state as is r&b and dance music

and pop music? - it's shrunk from truly popular music to a genre - many times, the no 1 single or album of these days would have hardly charted 20 - 30 years ago with the small amount of sales they're getting

none of this is to say there isn't interesting stuff being done - but a lot of it's pretty hard to classify
posted by pyramid termite at 4:10 PM on July 16, 2011


Music is way more than lyrics.

*listens to kesha and uffie*

uh, no, not with these two
posted by pyramid termite at 4:16 PM on July 16, 2011


The height of the form was reached by Gilbert and Sullivan, who had a long-running collaboration during the Victorian era. With W. S. Gilbert writing the libretti and Arthur Sullivan composing the music, the pair produced 14 comic operas, sometimes called Savoy Operas. Most were enormously popular in Britain, the U.S., and elsewhere.

Yes, but define "enormously popular". What does that mean when applied to Gilbert & Sullivan? Does it mean that they were performed a lot in theaters? Does it mean that people knew the songs and sung them at weddings and holiday celebrations? What is the exact measure of popular with art forms such as this, and how does it compare to, say, bawdy pub songs or folk songs or other such forms?

No, there was no high/low culture distinction in Europe and the US until the late 19th century, so audiences were a mix of different classes.

Well, that's simply not true. Opera seria, which was pretty universal across Europe during much of the 18th century, is described by Wikipedia,
"With a few exceptions, opera seria was the opera of the court, of the monarchy and the nobility. This is not a universal picture: Handel in London composed not for the court but for a much more socially diverse audience, and in the Venetian republic composers modified their operas to suit the public taste and not that of the court. But for the most part, opera seria was synonymous with court opera."
That contrasts with opera buffa, which was specifically written for the masses.

Anyway I'm not talking about high/low cultural distinctions in this thread, anyway. Anyone who thinks I am is mistaking my point. What I'm saying is that popular music across history has probably not been the composed classical bits which everyone looks at as the cultural artifacts from the past, and instead is all the songs which the actual people were singing themselves, dancing to, and playing on their porches and town squares for their own amusement and celebration. Perhaps the pub musicians were playing excerpts from The Magic Flute while everyone drank and danced, but I think it more likely they were playing other things entirely.
posted by hippybear at 4:24 PM on July 16, 2011


it's my impression that hip hop is close to this state as is r&b and dance music

I think perhaps for some genres of dance music (trance has been stagnant for about 5 years or so, now). But dance creates new genres of music every few years. There was nothing like the dubstep of today 5 years ago. And 5 years from now, there will be some new subgenre that explodes everything again.
posted by empath at 5:07 PM on July 16, 2011


Of course, most 'rock' these days is indie rock, which is neither indie nor rock.
posted by jonmc at 5:48 PM on July 16, 2011


hippybear, I'm trying to read you carefully here, you were talking about "opera, operetta, or other composed classical forms of music." Maybe opera seria is one exception to the general trend of a mixed-class audience, but even then, who composed that music, who performed it? Handel's family were servants, Haydn's father was a wheelwright. Why do they not count as "the actual people"? Their works are the great cultural creations of the working class, I don't think we should surrender them to the elite.
posted by AlsoMike at 6:05 PM on July 16, 2011


There was nothing like the dubstep of today 5 years ago.

i kind of think of the whole jungle/d&b/dubstep continuum as something a bit different than "dance music" - still fresh and evolving and fascinating

one of the things i'm working on in my own music, at times, are ways to incorporate that kind of beat and feel into more rockish contexts
posted by pyramid termite at 6:40 PM on July 16, 2011


I see dubstep is fresh and interesting, but dance music is not fresh or interesting, so therefore dubstep is not dance music.

You learn something new every day!
posted by dydecker at 6:53 PM on July 16, 2011


AlsoMike: you're reading the letter of what I've written without accounting even once for what I'm actually saying. Please back up, look at what this thread is about, and read all my comments and see what I'm actually talking about. If you still want to discuss Handel and opera after that, we can pick it up then.
posted by hippybear at 6:54 PM on July 16, 2011


i kind of think of the whole jungle/d&b/dubstep continuum as something a bit different than "dance music" - still fresh and evolving and fascinating

Curious as to what you think dance music is, then? All the stuff from the underground filters down to pop music eventually.. Even britney and katy perry have dubstep influenced stuff now..
posted by empath at 7:36 PM on July 16, 2011


Well, that's why I'm trying to clarify. As far as I can tell, you're still making an ahistorical claim that there's a clear distinction between classical music on one hand, and popular music for the "actual people" that has existed "throughout history" on the other.
posted by AlsoMike at 8:14 PM on July 16, 2011


Well of course, we can define and re-define terms until their meaning flips, but I don't think semantic tussles are that interesting. This is not to say in any way that willful argumentativeness is what's driving this, because there are genuine boundary issues. Music is fluid. Not many things can be categorized in airtight compartments. So necessarily there will be some fuzziness and overlap and generalization. I'm content to let critics and academics worry about nuances in labels.

However you want to term it, dead, stagnant, comatose, or merely resting, I don't see rock driving innovation in music. This is not to say that absolutely nothing is being created in rock, but frankly, it's slicing the salami super thin.

The explosion of electronic music into a myriad categories and subgeneras is an incredibly exciting, vital and still rapidly evolving musical expression. The development is so rich, that you can hear things that have almost nothing in common with each other, breaking, and changing almost every musical element. The creativity and variety is so enormous, it's like drinking from a fire hose. You listen to this, and your musical horizons expand into whole new universes.

And then I visit my buddy, with whom I've been getting drunk on music for 30 years now. Except he stayed with rock, and I've moved on. When I come over, he excitedly shows me the latest rock band he discovered, and to me it sounds so pitifully antiquated - it's like polishing and polishing and polishing something that has long since ossified, and finding some tiny ripples here and there, all noodling on the margins. It's frozen. There is no movement. What a contrast!

Now, that's not to say I don't love and appreciate rock. But I love - enormously - modern classical music, and a lot of new jazz too. That still doesn't mean those are the same kind of huge tectonic shifts in music as once upon a time.

I guess, I'd liken it to waves. A wave gathers and grows and grows and eventually peaks and then crashes onto the beach, till it finally retreats back into the sea, absorbed by the new wave, within it smaller waves colliding, topping, shifting and growing. To me, rock has crashed onto the beach and is in retreat. It's done its work, it's enriched other waves that are coming on, but it will never again rise to dominate the sea like it once did. And the puzzle here to me, are rock critics trying to somehow juxtapose rock to pop and divining the relative merits, completely oblivious to the evolutionary stage each form finds itself in.
posted by VikingSword at 8:19 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just because you like your blippy electronic music better than music with instruments doesn't mean rock is dead, it just means you don't like it.
posted by octothorpe at 9:30 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Music scene's crazy, bands start up each and every day.

And people have been giving pious pronouncements of jazz's posthumous state since the '30s.

Jazz, and rock, is dead like the novel is dead — the idea of singular rock stars or caring what William Saroyan thinks of Bennett Cerf's cravat is dead.

I suppose you could make an argument that both jazz and rock are dead in that the idea of them as overarching genres that have distinct characters has been supplanted by the myriad of microgenres, but by that metric, electronic music has always been dead.
posted by klangklangston at 10:00 PM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because our multiple regression analyses controlled for genre, any changes in genre over time did not significantly account for our effects.

I'm not really sure how effectively you would be able to control for genre here. One major problem is that genres are permeable, or, in statistical language, non-independent: trends within one genre can become more broadly popular and start to leak out to others. Also, genres like "hip-hop" or "rock" are likely to be too broad to explain much of the variation (e.g. are you lumping together the Sugarhill Gang and the Wu-Tang Clan, or Buddy Holly and Nirvana?).

(I can't access the actual paper at home so I don't actually know how coarsely they're grouping songs together, but if you're using genre as a regressor I'd imagine you'd need to have a relatively small number of groups or you'd end up with way too many parameters in your model.)

More broadly I don't think that analysis is really "wrong," per se, but I think it's unlikely to mean what they think it means. Multiple regression of a few dozen features of song lyrics is a pretty blunt instrument for producing a sweeping critique of society.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:53 AM on July 17, 2011


Ugh. I know it's inevitable. I know i'm a dinosaur. But dance and pop give me panic attacks. They don't have emotional content. They're sociopathic mediums. They can't save you or damn you like rock and roll can. They're just insistent and mindless, and their domination of the charts is horrible. But rock still survives, in pubs and bars and people's hearts, and it will never die.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 2:09 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Supersuckers have a song about this.

And I'll admit that rock and roll has gotten pretty nostalgic and insular. Indie is too bloodless, so for the real shit we go to tiny genre experiments. And I'll admit that my favorite Sydney bands are based on 30s blues. At this year's Foxy Shazam/Gaslight Anthem gig I wrote that they were both signposts to the future of rock, but one's retro-glam and the other sounds like Springsteen. They're not innovative, but they take the past and keep it alive.
I was going to finish off with something optimistic but a Glee ad with them singing 'We're Not Gonna Take It' came on and I don't have the heart. I guess it doesn't matter what people think. The fans will still love rock, and metal and emo and pop punk will still help disaffected kids.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 2:39 AM on July 17, 2011


As for your pronouncements of the death of rock --how do you account for all the rock bands that are formed every day, that play in clubs every night in every city in the US, and probably in a bunch of cities in other countries too?

There's lots of kids every day joining SCA and Renfair. They are learning to make authentic costumes and medieval crafts, they learn the right terms of address and songs, and they meet in large groups all over the place.


But rock still survives, in pubs and bars and people's hearts, and it will never die.

"Disco is NOT dead! It's ALIVE!" (quick, name the movie!)

I'm just so amused that rock fans are making the same noises that classical music and jazz fans have been for decades. But don't worry pops- you can listen to your favorite rock band on the easy listening stations.
posted by happyroach at 10:38 AM on July 17, 2011


"I'm not really sure how effectively you would be able to control for genre here."

Well, especially once you realize that their sample size was incredibly small — ten lyrics per year — which means that the whole study is pretty much bunk in terms of predictive value.
posted by klangklangston at 11:46 AM on July 17, 2011


"But dance and pop give me panic attacks. They don't have emotional content. They're sociopathic mediums. They can't save you or damn you like rock and roll can. They're just insistent and mindless, and their domination of the charts is horrible. But rock still survives, in pubs and bars and people's hearts, and it will never die."

Dude, you are wearing the crazy pants!

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life!

Dance and pop are full of emotional content — often more overt, gushing and goopy than rock music, which (especially in those bands of VU lineage) is often reserved, wry and ironic.

I Will Survive, My Heart Will Go On, Don't Forget About Us, I Got A Feeling, Where Is The Love?

I mean, frankly, it's just kind of an idiotic claim that Born This Way is sociopathic or without redemptive message.

And it's not like there isn't a long history of dance producers wearing their hearts on their sleeves: Arthur Russell is sad and exuberant.

Rave culture was full of life-affirming, hippy messages like PLUR (and also lots of feel good drugs). Anthemic House is pretty much nothing but huge emotional anthems.

So, look, knock off the old Bob Seger bullshit and recognize that dance and pop is full of all sorts of emotions.

I don't necessarily like all of the songs that I've linked to, and it's a bit off the cuff, but I'm just amazed at your sweeping pronouncements and how goddamned wrong they are — how goddamned rockist they are.

Not only that, but as a fan of rock music, your kind of pronouncements MAKE ROCK WORSE. They're artificial overestimations that lock "rock" into a retro amber and ignore a powerful part of rock's history — as dance music.

That's actually the most compelling argument for rock being dead is that it's no longer a popular dance genre per se, similar to the shift in jazz (which became jump blues and R&B and then rock), but even then there's plenty of dance rock (LCD Soundsystem, etc.).

This is particularly troubling — and I want to make something really clear here, and that's that I'm not calling you a racist or homophobe or anything — when the sphere of deprecated music so overlaps with the music valued by black audiences and gay audiences. The assumed position of rock's dominance is one that relies on coherent definitions of rock, and the unfortunate outcome of writing off dance music as "mindless" and devoid of emotional content is underestimating those dance and pop influences on the history of rock, and writing off core cultural touchstones for a lot of people who aren't white men.

Thankfully, big pop artists are fairly agnostic and will swipe guitar licks or funk basslines or house synths or techno drum programming or earnest melodramatic emotional appeals and keep trying to make music that everyone likes. (Black Eyed Peas are an interesting example of this, having basically made it their raison d'etre to put out music that's not just popular in the US, but globally, and so that means using lots of really broad language that doesn't take a lot of English skill to parse).
posted by klangklangston at 12:55 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


But dance and pop give me panic attacks. They don't have emotional content. They're sociopathic mediums. They can't save you or damn you like rock and roll can. They're just insistent and mindless, and their domination of the charts is horrible. But rock still survives, in pubs and bars and people's hearts, and it will never die.

This is nuts. I have been so overwhelmed from emotion by dance records that I was literally floored and had to sit down and compose myself.

And sociopathic? I've never felt more connected to other human beings than I have been on a dance floor with thousands of people losing their minds to a house beat. At a good club, you don't look at the performer and passively absorb the music, you look at 'each other' and dance your asses off. The crowd is as much the point of the party as the music is.

Forget the crap you hear on the radio. Do yourself a favor and try and find a decent underground house or techno night in your home town. I don't mean some big superstar dj at a megaclub, just something homegrown and small where people are there for the music and not anything else. One of those nights that opens their doors at 2 am and doesn't close until after dawn. And get on the dance floor and stay there until you feel it. You'll see that quality dance music is far, far better than you think it can be.
posted by empath at 1:43 PM on July 17, 2011


Michael Mayer - Hush Hush Baby

Justus Köhncke - Timecode (This track actually makes me see flashing colors)

Gui Boratto - Beautiful Life
posted by dunkadunc at 1:51 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


But dance and pop give me panic attacks. They don't have emotional content. They're sociopathic mediums. They can't save you or damn you like rock and roll can. They're just insistent and mindless, and their domination of the charts is horrible. But rock still survives, in pubs and bars and people's hearts, and it will never die.

I can refute this with one album, although it's a bit old, but it's certainly aged quite well.

Madonna -- Ray Of Light. Dance and Pop on the same record which is full of emotion and will save or damn you if you give it half a chance.

But we can move beyond that a bit, too. Pick up Junior Vasquez - 2. Listen to both CDs in one fell swoop. That's a 5-hour DJ set which was reduced to fit into 160min of CD space. It's brilliant, one of the best rollercoaster rides ever. There are moments in CD 2 which make my hair stand on end, and I've had that album basically memorized for years now.

Equally good: Paul Oakenfold -- Perfecto Presents Another World. Another masterful DJ album taking the listener on a ride into parts unexpected.

Okay, maybe those names are a bit too large. I'd suggest Journeys By DJ's Triptonite collection. Three CD-long DJ mixes which work great as one long night of music that gets progressively stranger and more wonderful.

Now, I would say that empath's "get on the dance floor and stay there until you feel it" strategy really is a bit of a misnomer, because dance trance can happen regardless of music quality or genre. It can happen to nothing but drumming. Dance trance doesn't really speak to the quality of the music... but I would say that it's impossible to get to dance trance unless you're motivated to be out there dancing. That can be for religious reasons, or it can be because the Dead has been playing for 45 minutes straight and you can't believe they just made THAT transition to Stagger Lee, or it can be because the DJ is just so fucking good you can't quit moving your feet.

Now, I really can't speak to Pop, especially the current stuff. It doesn't cross my path much, and I don't seek it out often. But Dance music, as a genre, has a lot more depth than you give it credit for. And that's coming from an old-school hippie rock-n-roller who still goes to concerts all the time.
posted by hippybear at 2:04 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was going to link a bunch of emotional dance songs and dj mixes, but then I remembered that I have DJ mixes in my profile full of (IMO) emotional dance music, if anybody cares :)b
posted by empath at 2:12 PM on July 17, 2011


Dance trance doesn't really speak to the quality of the music... but I would say that it's impossible to get to dance trance unless you're motivated to be out there dancing.

Yeah, but dance music kind of assumes trance dance and uses that as the foundation for bringing out emotion. Once you're in that kind of suggestible state, it's possible for just one perfectly placed note to completely destroy you -- like the guitar in the breakdown of Seven Cities.

If you're not dancing, though, it's just kind of silly and overwrought. You just have to be in the state of the mind where you don't care.
posted by empath at 2:15 PM on July 17, 2011


Ugh. I know it's inevitable. I know i'm a dinosaur. But dance and pop give me panic attacks. They don't have emotional content. They're sociopathic mediums. They can't save you or damn you like rock and roll can. They're just insistent and mindless, and their domination of the charts is horrible. But rock still survives, in pubs and bars and people's hearts, and it will never die.

Not to continue the dogpile, but this couldn't be more wrong if there was some sort of cash prize involved.

As stated elsewhere on the blue, I make a part of my living from dance music, not as a DJ but as a keyboardist, producer, and remixer for a bunch of tiny labels. I just made a track with one of my house music idols, someone I've been listening to for 20 years. The stuff I work on is chock-a-block with emotional content, and the idea that this music "can't save you or damn you like rock and roll can" is, well, some extra-bullshitty bullshit.

Now here's the kicker. I'm also a drummer who's played in his fair share of indie rock bands over the years. In fact, my band - a straight-ahead drums, bass, & geetar combo with nary a sampler or synth in sight - is practicing a little later.

I LOVE rock and roll. But I also love house, techno, trance, and jungle, and I think it's a 100% false dichotomy to say that I can't do both.

You don't like dance music, that's fine. I'm the last person in the world to tell you what you should listen to. But have some respect for those of us who work in the genre. I am the furthest thing from a sociopath, and I can't help but bristle at such ridiculous brickbatting.

(Seriously, why do the rock guys always throw the first punch?)
posted by tantrumthecat at 2:27 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


dance music kind of assumes trance dance and uses that as the foundation for bringing out emotion

I actually disagree with you here.. Disk 2 of that Junior Vasquez collection I mention above is incredibly listenable and great without requiring dance trance to make its emotional case.

It is true that being willing to dance makes dance music more effective, but it isn't required if you have the right KIND of dance music.

(And please, don't ask me to quantify different dance genres. I know what I like and what works for me, but whether what I like is jungle or dubstep or whatever, I have no idea. I listen to a lot of it and never care WHAT is is as long as it makes my soul move.)
posted by hippybear at 2:31 PM on July 17, 2011


To be fair, the rock guy didn't throw the first punch. The first punch was thrown AT rock as being a dead genre.
posted by hippybear at 2:32 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like rock and pop. They both have a really good beat and I can dance to them.

And get on the dance floor and stay there until you feel it.

My snarky first line aside, honestly, I think this is pretty key to most genres. If you get out there and give yourself up to the music, give up your critical ear and just dance, more times that not, you're going to enjoy yourself.
posted by maryr at 3:43 PM on July 17, 2011


If you get out there and give yourself up to the music, give up your critical ear and just dance, more times that not, you're going to enjoy yourself.

It's a metaphor to use for approaching life.
posted by hippybear at 3:50 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It also works at weddings and bar mitzvahs.
posted by maryr at 4:43 PM on July 17, 2011



If you get out there and give yourself up to the music, give up your critical ear and just dance, more times that not, you're going to enjoy yourself.


This is how I approach rock.
I know I'm wearing the crazypants. I've tried to get into dance music -even went to a few big festivals. But it never seems to take, with the exception of LCD Soundsystem and a few hybrid acts like Franz Ferdinand and Gang of Four.

I'm not sure if being driven underground is going to help rock and roll.

I should try and quantify the 'sociopathic' thing, which I know is a crazy generalization. I think it comes down to lyrics and having a figure you can identify with. Why do I like LCD Soundsystem and not other dance acts? Because I can listen to the lyrics, and when I saw them live I could look at James Murphy and use him as a focal/identification point. Singers take whatever the audience is feeling, channel it, and magnify it outward. I'm not sure that happens in 'pure' dance (it obviously happens in mainstream pop).
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:49 PM on July 17, 2011


I can think of emotional dance music that has no lyrics.

Ocre by Guillaume and the Coutu Dumonts

Halcyon and On by Orbital

Strings of Life by Derrick May

And some with lyrics that I think most people could identify with:

Higher than the Sun by Primal Scream

Teardrop by Massive Attack

And if this doesn't rock just as hard as anything else you could play on a guitar, then I just don't know: No Ufo's by Model 500.

This thread has made me nostalgic for White Zombie's last tour, which was (in my mind) the very definition of rock.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:34 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because I can listen to the lyrics, and when I saw them live I could look at James Murphy and use him as a focal/identification point. Singers take whatever the audience is feeling, channel it, and magnify it outward. I'm not sure that happens in 'pure' dance (it obviously happens in mainstream pop).

The DJ does that in dance music. It's about reading the mood of the crowd and controlling it. There are songs called God Is A DJ and Last Night a DJ Saved My Life for a reason.

But if you think a bunch of people focusing on one guy to the exclusion of the 2000 other people in the room is less sociopathic than ignoring the performer and paying attention to all the beautiful people around you, I don't know what to tell you. My favorite clubs keep DJs off the stage so you don't focus on him, because what he's doing looks boring.

Here's what goes into DJing at a big club, aside from beatmatching. You go clubbing a lot. Several nights a week. You pay attention to what all the DJs are playing, you keep track of what goes over big, and what does't. You dance and figure out what blows your mind, and collect track ids from people. This is not easy when the songs are pure music and aren't about anything. Every club has it's anthems, the ones that trigger a nostalgia rush in people. Every club sound system is unique, and there are certain sounds that just absolutely kill in certain rooms, and you have to learn to recognize them while listening to previews of tracks online (or used to be with crappy headphones in a record store). You talk to other djs and find out what they're playing, and after all that, you try to build a set. You think about what time of night you're playing, which DJ goes on before you and after you -- whether people will be drinking or or club drugs of various kinds. You try to find records that don't have a ton of breakdowns so you don't stop the music, not to many vocals so you don't distract from the melody, records that are in the same key, that sound good together. And you try to find something that is uniquely you. Every DJ has their anthems, and their own sound, and you can tell which DJ is spinning without them ever playing any records that they made themselves.

And then you have that record that you know is absolutely going to kill, that's going to get people screaming and jumping up and down -- you figure out how to build up to it, find the perfect 4 or 5 records that lead up to it -- not too anthem-y, not too boring, and you tease it and mix it out a few times, you play some really dark, nasty twisted techno to build up tension and put people on edge, and then finally the anthem.

And what you're going for, more than anything else is that feeling -- that feeling you get when you've been dancing non stop for hours -- maybe by yourself, maybe with someone else, maybe just dancing in a big crowd of people, and sweat is pouring down your face and you don't even know what time it is and you never want it to stop, and the breakdown comes and there's that perfect melody or vocal, and you look at the complete stranger standing next to you and neither one of you can fucking believe how amazing everything is, and they hug you, and they walk off and you'll never talk to them again, but that's okay, because everyone around you is ONE right now, just listening to that groove. And then the big drum roll comes and you all start jumping down and screaming because omg it's just too much.

That feeling is what dance music at it's best expresses. It's something that doesn't come from lyrics. Lyrics are just a distraction.

And you want rock stars?:

Here's Paul Van Dyk in 2007 at a club in Toronto. Skip about 14 minutes in, you can actually see the transition between the opening DJ, who is a local, and Paul Van Dyk at about 15 minutes and see how the energy changes. It's explosive. Dance music HAS rock stars. You just need to go to the right clubs and see the right DJs. I've actually been at that club, and I've opened for a DJ that big for a crowd that big and it's the most intense experience you can imagine, musically.
posted by empath at 6:51 PM on July 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


(i'm not saying it's better than rock, but it's not sociopathic or inward looking or whatever else you are saying it is, it's all about being there listening to it with other people.)
posted by empath at 6:53 PM on July 17, 2011



(i'm not saying it's better than rock, but it's not sociopathic or inward looking or whatever else you are saying it is, it's all about being there listening to it with other people.)


It's not that it's inward looking. I guess what I was trying to get at is the same thing you're getting at. Rock gets at individual experience. You can have great communal moments at a gig or a festival, but part of that is everybody is reacting to how the song has made them feel. So you've got a million people wrapped in their individual moments, and if the band is popular enough or has a devoted enough cult those individual moments synch up. But you're really connected with the singer, who's sort of a shaman figure.

Dance and pop seems more like its about facilitating connections than creating them, which makes sense. Thanks for explaining it, empath.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:33 PM on July 17, 2011


Dance and pop seems more like its about facilitating connections than creating them

No... You, LIB, are more about rock music than you are dance or pop. You need to stop taking your internal state and projecting it as an absolute on the world around you. There's a lot more going on than simply what you've experienced, and you're coming across like you're very shallow and self-absorbed the more comments like this you make.
posted by hippybear at 7:42 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hrm. Upon actually reading the article it seems like people like pop for the same reason I like Meat Loaf and My Chemical Romance. I am chastised.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:49 PM on July 17, 2011


Yeah, I'm saying that there can be an intense connection between a good DJ and a crowd. People literally call their favorite DJs "God". They call the clubs their church. It's an ecstatic, near-religious experience at a good club on a good night. And I don't mean just at big clubs with superstar DJs. You can get it a small club with 300 people. I've been there from both sides. It's a real connection that has nothing to do with lyrics and singing.

Though personally, I prefer when the DJ is backgrounded. The superstar DJ thing can actually get a little bit lame with repeated exposure to it (as is the Rock Star thing, for that matter).
posted by empath at 7:51 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Though personally, I prefer when the DJ is backgrounded. The superstar DJ thing can actually get a little bit lame with repeated exposure to it (as is the Rock Star thing, for that matter)."

Yeah, I don't go out to a lot of straight club nights, but my favorite is when it's sort of a perfect integration of space, if that makes sense. The crowd becomes this orchestrated environment and every emotion becomes overwhelming… It's ego annihilating.

Uh, also drugs are nice.
posted by klangklangston at 11:34 PM on July 17, 2011


This isn't news. The White Stripes were the last Rock and Roll band. There have been some spasms of rigor mortis here and there, but rock is really, no-fooling dead. If you have satellite radio, tune into "Octane" every now and again - it's fucking awful. It's like the world ended in 2001 and we were hurled into the Hell of Everything Sounding Like Nickleback for our sins - chunka-chunka guitar and guys growling about how tough and angry and sadly tragic they are. (Yet they'd crap the stupid right out of themselves if they ever ran into Henry Rollins in a dark alley. He could say "Excuse me, do you have the time?" and they'd cry.)

So, yeah, the last real rock band to make it big was the White Stripes. They couldn't save Rock and Roll, but they at least made sure it didn't go down without a fight. Think on that the next time someone slags on Meg White for her primal, primitive drumming - she wasn't keeping the beat, she was fighting the devil in the darkness.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:06 AM on July 18, 2011


" The White Stripes were the last Rock and Roll band."

Dude, the Dirtbombs still exist.

No Age is certainly a rock band live. Girls are maybe too much a straight-ahead rock band. Black Mountain and Pink Mountaintops and Lightning Dust are all the same rock band (well, same members pretty much), in descending order of rockingness. Outrageous Cherry puts out a good album about every other year. Ty Segall plays rock solo, and with The Ohsees and they pretty great. The Strange Boys maybe sound too much like Gun Club, but they're fun live too. I like Crystal Antlers and I'll probably see them for free tonight. There's the Black Keys and Black Lips and the Gayngs and OFF! and Icarus Line and a million other bands. There's more good rock music than I have time to listen to, all around all the time.
posted by klangklangston at 9:58 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, they're niche bands in a not very popular or influential niche. About as relevant to modern music as licensed D&D novels are to modern fiction. They might sell out a few venues, but mostly, no-one but the die-hards care.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:31 AM on July 18, 2011


"No, they're niche bands in a not very popular or influential niche. About as relevant to modern music as licensed D&D novels are to modern fiction. They might sell out a few venues, but mostly, no-one but the die-hards care."

Nah, it's not like they're noise bands. I didn't cite Lightning Bolt up there.

But it seems like you have a really weird definition both of influential and of what constitutes a viable genre. There are literally shit tons of rock bands out there, and only more as you get further away from the idea of a pure rock band — and rock's a magpie genre anyway. But basically, most of the bands I just mentioned are ones that'd be known by people who are music fans, who go out and see shows. If you want to argue that the White Stripes were the last real rock band that people who don't listen to music still knew about, fine, but it's kind of a weird metric. And even then, declaring rock dead because the White Stripes are gone is empty old-mannism. I don't happen to like Kings of Leon, but they sell out arenas. So do the Strokes. And I just saw Prince not too long ago, and he pulled off a very rock-heavy set with total aplomb.

You can either listen to the lowest-common denominator radio rock, or you can listen to the alt/indie stuff and find that there's a whole wide world, and new exciting bands every day. Like I said, literally more than I can listen to. I know that in a similar time in the '80s, everyone was talking about rock being dead because New Wave had taken over. Didn't last.

But hey, rock may be dead for you. Just realize that it's not dead for a lot of other people, and that kids will still find it and it'll all be new. We still have another five years or so of the twee indie shit being used in car commercials, but eventually that'll wane too and people will get all het up for the "garage" shit like they did in the late '90s, early 2000s when the White Stripes were coming up.
posted by klangklangston at 11:00 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


heh The Dirtbombs make techno these days.

As for Paul Van Dyk and this superstar DJ nonsense, i get really sick of how this total garbage is held up as something triumphant on Metafilter. Shit is wack
posted by dydecker at 11:01 AM on July 18, 2011


I only brought up PVD because LiB was saying that Rock Stars are an important part of Rock and I offered the Superstar DJ as a counterpoint.
posted by empath at 11:26 AM on July 18, 2011


I truly love all kinds of music, I listen to rock, jazz, hip-hop, dubstep, trance, opera, classical, country, whatever as long as it's good. I love music festivals, intimate clubs, huge DJ clubs, stadium rock shows, whatever.

Dance music is where it's at right now, no question. Sure there are some great rock acts out there, but creatively it's a handful who are moving things forward, and the young kids aren't fueling the energy they way they used to. One of the biggest changes I've seen in my short life (I'm 34) is that the spectrum of people who like to listen to dance music and attend dance music events has grown quite a bit. When I was in high school in the 90's, dancing was mainly at "dances" (where cheesy pop and recent hip hop were played) and "shows" were rock only. My friends and I danced mostly because girls were there. In college, I was in a decidedly subcultural group of people who liked to check out the rave scene or growing dance scene on the East Coast.

Now when I go to a club or festival or whatever, I see young jocky-looking teens and college students getting down to Skrillex or Deadmau5 or Tiesto. That is a change that is real and seems to cut across boundaries. You can see how dance music has now started to eat its way into the conventional pop scene, where what used to be considered the club mix is now showing up on the radio.
posted by chaz at 11:45 AM on July 18, 2011



No Age is certainly a rock band live. Girls are maybe too much a straight-ahead rock band. Black Mountain and Pink Mountaintops and Lightning Dust are all the same rock band (well, same members pretty much), in descending order of rockingness. Outrageous Cherry puts out a good album about every other year. Ty Segall plays rock solo, and with The Ohsees and they pretty great. The Strange Boys maybe sound too much like Gun Club, but they're fun live too. I like Crystal Antlers and I'll probably see them for free tonight. There's the Black Keys and Black Lips and the Gayngs and OFF! and Icarus Line and a million other bands. There's more good rock music than I have time to listen to, all around all the time.


Off With Their Heads, Gaslight Anthem, Former Cell Mates, Will Wagner, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, the National (okay, not that rock, but still), Jim Jones Revue... there's gotta be others. plus lots of good local rock like Snowdroppers, Gay Paris, The Beards, Nation Blue...

but I dunno. whenever I like a local 'pure' rock band like Ripping Dylans or Capital City it seems like they play a few shows and disappear.


Now when I go to a club or festival or whatever, I see young jocky-looking teens and college students getting down to Skrillex or Deadmau5 or Tiesto.


Over in Australia dance music seems pretty mainstream... i mean people love Foo Fighters but dance festivals are HUGE, and the few times I've been there were heaps of scary jocks.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:24 PM on July 18, 2011


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: "heaps of scary jocks"

The coolness of a given venue is inversely proportional to the number of people with baseball caps inside it.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:31 PM on July 18, 2011


Sure there are some great rock acts out there, but creatively it's a handful who are moving things forward, and the young kids aren't fueling the energy they way they used to.

Oh, I dunno. The cult of Coheed & Cambria is pretty strong with the kiddos based on the last time I saw them in concert. And the brand new Fair To Midland album is shockingly good.

There's a lot of interesting things happening in rock right now, but it's all happening under the radar in strange ways, largely because there aren't that many stations which are playing the really interesting bits of new rock that isn't Coldplay or whatnot.
posted by hippybear at 4:34 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of interesting things happening in rock right now, but it's all happening under the radar in strange ways, largely because there aren't that many stations which are playing the really interesting bits of new rock that isn't Coldplay or whatnot.

I can kinda see a parallel to power pop, where the stuff I listen to is making what would be huge rock hits in the 90s but is now listened to only by strange people in flannel shirts and flatcaps.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:21 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I think a lot of it is that a great deal of new rock which would be considered somehow groundbreaking (at least what I'm aware of, living here in the US) isn't really that radio friendly overall.

I mean, the "big new band" in my world for the past few years has been Carbon Leaf. They're not going to forge any new paths in music with anything they do. But I do know this: most people I've introduced them to find them great, and anyone I've taken to see them live becomes an instant fan. But they're certainly not hip enough for any of the cutting-edge cool music froods.

I don't know that rock, or pop, or any music actually has to break new ground, however. Sometimes working within a familiar idiom is the best way to make one's statement. I mean, poets are still writing sonnets, aren't they?
posted by hippybear at 5:40 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is m83 rock? Because if so, they're doing pretty amazing stuff.
posted by empath at 6:00 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know that rock, or pop, or any music actually has to break new ground, however. Sometimes working within a familiar idiom is the best way to make one's statement. I mean, poets are still writing sonnets, aren't they?

I listen to pretty boring, standard stuff, with hooks and choruses and all that. It seems like what's tearing up the pop charts is more weirder and more alien than what I listen to on my iPod. But it seems like something like American Slang should be a big hit (and it does get traction on local youth radio).

But yeah I err on the familiar side of things.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:03 PM on July 18, 2011


I mean it feels like its easier to find cutting edge minimal techno mashup house dance pop on any given night than what I want, which is a band that sounds like the Ramones, a rockabilly band, and a band that sounds like Big Star or Wilco.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:07 PM on July 18, 2011


I'm still waiting for the big psychedelic revival. We definitely need an It's A Beautiful Day for this new millennium.

(One of the reasons I love the Amorphous Androgynous "A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind" series of mixtape albums so much.)
posted by hippybear at 6:32 PM on July 18, 2011


I'm still waiting for the big psychedelic revival. We definitely need an It's A Beautiful Day for this new millennium.

Haven't really heard them, but do Tame Impala count? Plus MGMT
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:52 PM on July 18, 2011


Not quite the vibe I'd be looking for, but not unappealing.

Also, MGMT, um... no.

Anyway, we're WAY off from what this thread should be about, so if you want to continue, let's take it to MeMail.
posted by hippybear at 7:06 PM on July 18, 2011


"Is m83 rock? Because if so, they're doing pretty amazing stuff."

Not really. They're indie synth pop, especially their earlier stuff that was much more ambient than their current MBV-meets-Talk Talk thing. I like them a lot, but "rock" isn't in the first twenty words I'd use to describe them.

"I'm still waiting for the big psychedelic revival. We definitely need an It's A Beautiful Day for this new millennium."

Dude, you live in SF, right? Go see Wooden Shjips or any of the bands they play with all the time. Big psych in the 13th Floor Elevators meets Spiritualized vein.
posted by klangklangston at 7:18 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dude, you live in SF, right?

Where I live is about 800 physical miles from SF, and about a million light years from there in temperament. But I'll keep Wooden Ships on my radar and see if I can get to one of their shows sometime.
posted by hippybear at 7:26 PM on July 18, 2011


Wooden Shjips.
posted by klangklangston at 7:28 PM on July 18, 2011


But it seems like something like American Slang should be a big hit (and it does get traction on local youth radio).

Hey man, just so you know, I think the Gaslight Anthem are one of the best new rock and roll bands of the last decade. I kicked myself for missing their Toronto show last year, and I think it's only a matter of time before the mainstream catches up to them.

And thank you for clarifying upthread. I'm opinionated and mouthy as all hell but it is never personal!
posted by tantrumthecat at 7:54 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey man, just so you know, I think the Gaslight Anthem are one of the best new rock and roll bands of the last decade. I kicked myself for missing their Toronto show last year, and I think it's only a matter of time before the mainstream catches up to them.

The only problem is that Brian Fallon might be putting them on hold while he's promoting his other project, The Horrible Crows...

hippybear, also check out The Besnard Lakes and Sydney bands The Laurels and Belles Will Ring
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:47 PM on July 18, 2011


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