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Is Rock Dead? (part 2)

Here, we rock the sources regarding the genre and the many interpretations of its life.


The question “Is Rock dead?” has been present ever since the Doors song with the same name was introduced in 1968. Rock, especially in the 21st century, has taken a sharp downturn in popularity, and has been effortlessly surpassed by hip-hop and pop music. As long as popularity is connected to the life of a genre, then it would be seen that rock is potentially dying. Yet, people throw fists at each other or in the air when this question is asked and their emotions are sparked. The life of the genre has been a cause of controversy, partially because of the vast array of people attempting to answer it. A musician will think about the life of the genre differently than someone who only listens to hip-hop. The same idea applies to someone who has critically studied the sexist and racist themes present in rock music, along with those same problems in other genres of media. To truly analyze the status of the genre, the origins of its popularity must be taken into account, as well as information about its fanbase, technology, and the change that has occurred within humanity and society since the heyday of rock. Even though this question has been asked so often, minimal research has been done as to why exactly its popularity has faded. This has led to fans, musicians, and record companies to follow through with the decreasing popularity and not question why, or if. As a result, popular articles and fan-led discussion has become the evidence and the research itself—it is not usually scholarly or in-depth by any means. When looking to answer the question about rock music, researchers must turn to an array of opinionated, biased popular articles and sources, along with the occasional book or research paper—rock is largely an extension or symptom of larger cultural changes; the abundance of bias and lack of true research reflects such. The sources on researching rock music’s demise prove to be minimally useful at the very best on a general level.

When conducting research on the topic, it can be seen that the majority of sources, which tend to be popular articles and discussion forms, are filled with bias, presumptions, and shallow conclusions. Within “Is Rock Dead? A Discussion On The Genre’s Dwindling Commercial Sales and Thriving Underground,” Patrick Schober presents readers with the question of the topic itself to consider for themselves initially. He presents instances of both sides of the argument, much akin to the opinions and the arguments in the discussions listed—a good first step in maintaining the discussion aspect of the article. But, the author then provides numerous instances about the genre's death, more frequently than for its life. Instantly after each reason is listed with substantial evidence, quotes and sources, he provides a rebuttal that argues against the point. Schober largely brings up the presence of the underground rock scene as his primary argument against the death of rock music: Rock music is not dead, it is merely underground now-- in the modern world, today’s listeners are simply more into other genres. The article concludes with reasons why rock isn’t dead, such as the lineup for Hellfest 2022. Schober largely attributes the genre’s supposed death to dwindling commercial sales, and argues against the actual demise of rock music by paying close, in-depth attention to the underground scene. Because this article is largely argumentative, the article becomes increasingly over-the-top biased by the writer. The author is arguing for one side, the underground life, and fails to take an even look at both sides and provide an objective argument with an emphasis on neutrality. Also, within this article he states his rebuttals not only are of his own, but are rebuttals of the entire website itself, meaning that the website is largely biased right from the very beginning. A source that is biased will likely ignore the other side of the argument in a very explicit manner, resulting in the article by Schober being less than ideal for critical analysis on the true state of the genre.

One of the primary issues leading to the questioning of rock’s life is the widespread development of digital download. Within ,“KISS’ Gene Simmons Explains Why He Keeps Saying ‘Rock Is Dead,” Spencer Kaufman brings to light the argument of KISS singer Gene Simmons. Simmons argues that for the majority of popular genres, record companies still fully support their ideology and their music habits. In contrast, for rock, blues and primarily singer-songwriter-based artists, record companies no longer support those groups of musicians, resulting in the notion of rock being dead. The other primary point that Simmons brings up is the development of digital download within the music industry. Simmons explains that new rock bands “don’t have a chance” due to music streaming platforms allowing music to be downloaded for free. Kaufman’s argument, which is largely a copy of what the KISS member has said, results in the article being of less substance than is preferred. What his opinion has voiced resulted in the author's credibility being decreased. The author's credentials have Kaufman listed as merely the managing editor of the website, meaning that there is no factual evidence from his own point of view on the argument. It is largely the reason why Kaufman has information listed from Simmons, who has been a part of a legendary rock band for a very long time. The subject Kaufman has selected is a heavy indication of bias within the article's information and substance. KISS is a unique brand of rock music and it is a sound largely rooted in 1980s heavy metal; It is a sound that is not popular in today’s music whether it be the industry or fans of rock or music in general. Kaufman’s article proves to be a poor source regarding the topic.

As different sounds come and go in relevance and popularity, it could be discussed that rock is not necessarily dead, but rather it just sounds different than what someone considered to be actual rock music. Within the article “Rock Music isn’t Dead--It Just Sounds Different,” Elisabeth Dewitt explains that rock has evolved to a point where it is no longer the same kind of sound, the same kind of sonic engineering that it once was back in the 1970s. The music that is popular today formed from a “natural progression from what rock used to be,” Dewitt states. Her article is presented with a good amount of information, and also keeps her own biases in check to a degree. She attempts to display a considerable amount of research and thought provoking substance. But, ultimately as the article is off of a website, it will not hold a candle to any sort of research or scholarly article based around the question at hand. The author is attending the University of Pittsburgh, and is currently majoring in English, and merely has an interest in music as of the time the article was published. Her background highlights the potential presence of bias or lack of information within the article, a disservice to her argument, where the legitimacy about the underground life of rock could be questioned. Many article writers, such as Chuck Arnold, believe that the majority of the youth is still relatively unaware of the many bands that aim to create a new sound and revive the genre. Majority of what in nomenclature, at the very least, is “popular rock,” comes across as tired and overdone. Arnold runs with this approach in his New York Post article “How Rock Ruled in 1991--And Why It’s Dead Thirty Years Later.” Arnold argues the opposite of Dewitt, where rock has surely died and cannot be revived. The author argues that popular rock music of the 21st century doesn't really sound different, and is

rather a modern iteration of something already done; an example is a band named Gretta Van Fleet. With the band having a steady influx of popularity, its sound soon flooded the banks of the mainstream. It won the hearts of the older generations, especially the baby boomers, as Gretta Van Fleet was noted for its heavy, Led Zeppelin-like sound. But, with this sound came words like “copycat” and “pretender” at the tip of every music critic’s tongue. Arnold makes light of why exactly rock has connotations with the old and tired, as the majority of what people hear that is new in the rock universe sounds quite similar to the old. Arnold’s paper is well sourced and cited; it consists of opinions from those who know how the music industry works, such as Ronen Givony, an author, as well as Lyndsey Parker, a host of Sirius XM radio. But, these sources are unfortunately biased, in which they both advocate for the opinion Arnold attempts to convey. This creates a less neutral approach on the topic and will likely shun advice that plays into the life of the genre, much like Dewitt’s point of view. Arnold’s article is in hindsight a decent source with good intentions, but falls flat in its bias and its strong argumentation for one specific side.

Arguments for rock music's supposed death in popularity can be broad and can be very pinpoint specific. Thus far more broad arguments have been emphasized within the other sources, especially in the sources from online. Those sources tend to exhibit the most bias and are looking to simply draw in clicks. More scholarly-based sources take a closer, more objective, research oriented look at the genre's demise. Mary Ann Clawson and her article “When Women Play the Bass'' takes a look at why women are more inclined to play the bass over other instruments, at least in the genre of rock music. A concrete, distinctive argument within this topic is the sexism present within the genre, whether that sexism has been intentional or not. Not only

are women less popular in the genre than men, women are less frequent in the genre and are less likely to enter this aspect of the industry than the male counterpart. With the growth of inclusivity and diversity in the modern world, especially in the 21st century, it can be seen that the decline in popularity of rock can be associated with its prevalent themes of sexism, whether those themes are present within the makeup of the band, or the instruments they play, or even their own representation. Clawson discusses the tendency for women to play bass over other instruments; her evidence for this argument is largely rooted in the stereotypes and sexism found within the genre. Clawson refers to the approachability of the bass as a metaphor for how male dominated the guitar-based rock genre has become. Her article is full of in-depth quotes, details, statistics, and scholarly research pointing to the illusion of “feminine affinities” in association with the bass guitar. In a modern world where women are to be of equal of merit in the music industry, it can be seen why rock might have crumbled— to women on a general level, a rock band seems less attractive and less approachable than being a sole vocal artist, resulting in that sub genres growth and rocks counterbalancing demise. By nature only, Clawson will exhibit some level of underlying, unintentional bias in her presentation of her article. There are negative connotations with the genre present in her diction at points within the article. Her article does a very good job on attempting to answer the question, and zooms in very closely on sexual and racist themes in the genre, expanding the scope of the issue, and making connections to more broad topics. Thus, Mary Ann Clawson’s research proves to be of substantial merit when answering the question.

A decline in rock music's popularity can be attributed to the realization of racial bias and discriminatory undertones prevalent within the genre. Art Jipson in the article "Introduction to the Special Issue: Influence of Hate Rock," suggests that rock musicians, especially of the 1960's, use their music to "communicate their extremist belief system." Jipson provides numerous instances of evidence and examples that demonstrate the notion of growing popularity of hate rock within America. While Jipson acknowledges that rock, at least in the past, has attempted to blend genres so that ultimately races can come together on a common interest. Along with the introduction of the specific topic in his article, hate rock has used this blending of culture and race to its advantage, to the point where the genre can suppress one or the other culture or race. Jipson utilizes the white racial extremist movement as a primary example of the application of hate rock music. The article Jipson writes presents itself with little bias, in depth sourcing, and a quality amount of quantity in sources and research-based information, proving to be a good, if not great source when looking into the underlying causes of the death of the genre.

The question “Is Rock Dead?” attracts an audience not exactly consisting solely of scientists and statisticians, but rather a much more diverse group of individuals--similar to the genre’s fanbase, or whatever is supposedly left of it. The majority of discussion that happens around this topic occurs between fans, music critics, and blog writers, who are sources that can be potentially biased, exhibit fallacies and personal opinions, and lack credibility as writers. Despite the lack of scholarly research this topic is presented with, despite the persistent bias in the majority of the sources, there has been some research-based studies on rock shunning of rock and its racist and sexist themes within the modern era. When minimal research has been conducted on a topic, new research must be utilized and formulated. Mere opinions and fabricated bias from rock musicians who struggle to make a paycheck or struggle to understand and adapt to modern sounds should not be used as a base for research. Instead, scholarly articles that advance one's thinking and allow the reader to dive into themes that are connected to the life of rock music should be. Whether rock has officially died or not depends on interpretation, but research can conclude that popular music has evolved and changed.


Works Cited

Arnold, Chuck. How Rock Ruled in 1991-- and Why it’s dead 30 Years Later. New York, Post, 12

Aug. 2021.

Bennet, Anthony. “Punk’s Not Dead: The Continuing Significance of Punk Rock for an Older

Generation of Fans.” Sage Journals, 1 Apr. 2006.Google Scholar,

Clawson, Mary Ann. “When Women Play the Bass: Instrument Specialization and Gender

Interpretation in Alternative Rock Music.” Gender and Society, Vol. 13, No. 2, Apr. 1999,

pp 193-210. Jstor,

Dewit, Elizabeth. “Rock Music Isn’t Dead-- It Just Sounds Different Now.” Study Breaks, 12

July 2021.

Hudson, Kevin Holm. Progressive Rock Reconsidered. Routledge, 19 Oct. 2001.

Jipson, Art. "Introduction the Special Issue: Influence of Hate Rock." Popular Music and

Society, vol. 30, no. 4, May 2008, pp. 449-451, Google Scholar,

Kaufman, Spencer. “KISS’ Gene Simmons Explains Why He Keeps Saying ‘Rock Is Dead’.”

Consequence, 9 Mar. 2021.

Sanneh, Kelefa. Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres, Penguin Press, 5 Oct. 2021.

Schober, Patrick. “Is Rock Dead? A discussion on the Genre’s Dwindling Commercial Sales and

Thriving Underground.” Monster Riff, 10 July 2021.

Stoia, Nicholas. "Blues Lyric Formulas in Early Country Music, Rhythm and Blues, and Rock

and Roll." Music Theory Online, Vol. 26, No. 4, Dec 2020, pp 167-188. Academic Search


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