A writer at noisey.vice.com has decided in a new essay that rock is dead. That declaration is the title of the piece. “Rock Is Dead” essentially maintains that the genre has died and anyone who argues otherwise is probably a member of one of the following groups: “the guitar-worshipping hangers-on of rock’s bygone heyday,” “more in-touch writers” who “will point out that rock isn’t dead, it’s just finally evolving to become more inclusive of women and people of color.” Those people apparently, don’t even get the argument, allegedly.
The writer, Dan Ozzi, does seem to accept that this is an unpopular opinion. Ozzi admits, “The phrase “rock is dead” makes people angry. Whisper it in seclusion at the top of the Himalayas and 30 people in CBGB shirts will materialize to drop some well, actuallys… on you.”
The characterization is funny. Because that is exactly what should happen. Rock isn’t dead, and there is plenty of proof for that. No “well, actuallys” needed.
“Disco Is Dead” 1979 equals “Rock Is Dead 2018” (not really)
Probably if a person is old enough to remember July 12, 1979 when Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois was the site for Disco Demolition Night. People were admitted to a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers for less than a dollar if they brought a disco record with them. The entire incident is often described as “ill-fated,” as it appeared more people were interested in destroying disco rather than seeing a game. The disco records were literally blown up, and happy rock fans rushed the field. There was damage to the field afterward.
But – -disco and rock do not have the same cultural import. There are far too many rock subgenres to be able to declare that “Rock Is Dead.” Part of the problem with the argument is that there is no argument against individual taste, which will always rule when in it comes to what music an individual likes.
Disco had a window of time from roughly the very late 1960s until the tip of the 1980s. But did it die? No. Was it less ubiquitous? Yes. Do people still listen to it? Yes.
Music genres cannot be “killed.” They can fall out of favor, grow less popular, but they rarely if ever, die. Flashier and more urban modes of r&b were once thought to have “killed” the blues. The blues aren’t dead, either.
Ozzi uses as support for the main argument the idea that kids at recent festivals don’t seem to like rock, and the Grammys snubbed the rock category by not airing the presentation of the award. All of this equals nothing. For adults who have grown up in various decades, and who have become rock fans along the way, thousands of kids rejecting rock music elicits a head shake, not a shake up of musical tastes or cultural ideologies.
As for the Grammys, this is the same organization whose representatives thought Jethro Tull was heavy metal. Not exactly rock ‘n’ roll tastemakers.
Ozzi also points out how popular hip-hop is. Hip-hop has been popular since 1979, among urban residents of all races. All of a sudden, 40 years later, kids in the 2010s choose hip-hop and EDM over other types of music, and it is indicative of what exactly? Not the death of rock.
Why “Rock Is Dead” is wrong
First, the argument is unnecessarily divisive. It is more accurate to state, “Rock music is less popular with teens and young adults than hip-hop and EDM.” With the truth added in, it becomes far less inflammatory.
Second, rock music has proven its staying power for 60 years. It has faced Senate hearings and boycotts and erroneous documentaries, and still remains.
Third, rock combines easily with other forms of music from jazz to country, to trap, and plain old hip-hop. The examples of these hybrids are usually exciting for the way the elements of both genres come together.
Fourth, the sensibilities portrayed in different forms of rock music appeal to people of certain ages and mindsets, regardless of color. To see this, go to YouTube and select a classic rock ‘n’ roll or heavy metal video that is at least 20 years old. Read the comments: Almost every song has comments from a young person lamenting the fact that they weren’t old enough to have lived when this “great” music was made.
For people who dislike rock ‘n’ roll, the idea of rock’s death might be a cheery one. However, proof to the contrary can be heard loud and clear almost everywhere.