Last week, a post called “A Serious Question: Where Are All the Angry Rock Songs?” created quite a passionate discussion on this site as well as where it appeared on Facebook and LinkedIn. With the world getting incrementally weirder (cf. yesterday’s bombings in Brussels), history says we should see an uptick in loud, angry loud music. Yet the prevailing mainstream vibe for rock and alt-rock is very poppy, mid-to-low tempo and filled with introspective and often woe-is-me lyrics. Think Lorde, Twenty One Pilots and Alessia Cara’s “Here.”
Want another example? This hit from Lukas Graham.
Maybe “Where’s all the rock music?” is the wrong question. Perhaps we should be asking “Why are kids so miserable today?” This is the topic of an article at Quartz.
“Something in modern life is undermining mental health,” Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, wrote in a recent paper.
Specifically, something is undermining young people’s mental health, especially girls.
In her paper, Twenge looks at four studies covering 7 million people, ranging from teens to adults in the US. Among her findings: high school students in the 2010s were twice as likely to see a professional for mental health issues than those in the 1980s; more teens struggled to remember things in 2010-2012 compared to the earlier period; and 73% more reported trouble sleeping compared to their peers in the 1980s.
These so-called “somatic” or “of-the-body” symptoms strongly predict depression.
“It indicates a lot of suffering,” Twenge told Quartz.
It’s not just high school students. College students also feel more overwhelmed; student health centers are in higher demand for bad breakups or mediocre grades, issues that previously did not drive college kids to seek professional help. While the number of kids who reported feeling depressed spiked in the 1980s and 1990s, it started to fall after 2008. It has started rising again.
Read the rest of the article here.
Meanwhile, I’m still very interested in your theories about the current subdued state of rock muisc. Rather than add to the original post which is plenty long already, I’m starting anew with a fresh set of comments. After you read the original post, you’re more than welcome to offer your thoughts. Email me at [email protected] or leave something in the comments section below.
Ever since you came to visit my class and even more so after you wrote the post on Wednesday, I have done a lot of thinking about your question: Where are all the angry rock songs?
I think it’s still there, but buried deep in the underground. One big reason I think there’s a noticeable lack of angry rock songs, especially in the mainstream, is because we’re in a cycle where pop-based music has taken over the mainstream. I’m certain it was on an old episode of OHNM where I heard that mainstream music goes in cycles every few years and switches between rock-based and pop-based music. Most of the mainstream music being pumped out right now is definitely pop-based.
You asked if the rise of social media and how it gives everyone a personal platform to share their anger has anything to do with the lack of angry rock. I think maybe a little bit, but I also think that some bands use Facebook and Twitter in addition to their music to spread their anger at all the weird and terrible things going on in the world right now.
Furthermore, perhaps the general population is weary of hearing, seeing, and reading about all the weird and terrible things going on in the world right now and want a break from it. We’re constantly bombarded with what’s going on in the world on the radio, on TV, in newspapers, and online. Maybe the music industry is trying to give people a break from the anger that people already express on social media.
Will angry rock and alternative ever make a comeback? I think it will. It might take a few years, but I really do believe it will come back. And what’s up with all those banjos? Ok, so the first time I heard a banjo played in a rock song, I did think it was kind of cool. Now, however, it’s overdone and I’m so over it. It’s not something neat and interesting anymore when everyone is using it.
I don’t really think we’re apathetic or cynical from hearing and reading about all the weird and terrible news, but just trying to get a mental break from it all. Our apparent obsession with celebrity culture is quite possibly one way that we’re trying to use to escape from reality.
When it comes to the fact that it’s impossible to make a living as a musician, I don’t really think that’s stopping the angry music. Kids are still joining bands, but it is harder and harder to get noticed. Many musicians are also working “regular” jobs to pay the bills and make ends meet as well. Plus, with angry rock and alternative not being “in” right now, any band who makes that type of music will have an even more difficult time getting noticed by labels and the media. There are, however, plenty of places for bands to play. They might not be the most ideal places, but venues do exist. The Smiling Buddha on College Street will let just about any band play. There’s also church basements and Lions Club halls that will rent out their spaces for local shows across the GTA.
What’s with all the introspective and “woe-is-me” songs lately? I have no idea. Obviously, there’s always been emotional, introspective songs since people began writing songs. In recent history we had emo and emo-pop that emerged in the late 80s and became really popular in the early-to-mid-2000s (yes, I unashamedly admit that it is some of my favourite music!) but there really has been an overabundance of slow, introspective songs across all genres lately. At least emo-pop drew from a punk and pop-punk influence and was relatively upbeat, catchy, and fun-sounding! All these slow, introspective, “woe-is-me” songs are really starting to get on my nerves.
While rock currently is not a driving cultural force anymore, I really do think it will be again. It might take a few years and I can’t even begin to guess at what might have to happen to push it back into the mainstream, but I am hopeful that it will happen.
Finally, I don’t know if I really buy into Tony Visconti and the others who are predicting doom and gloom and that “rock is dead”. One thing I learned from my undergrad in music is that every time there’s a major stylistic shift and evolution of musical styles, people complain. People complained about Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms…name a major composer and they’ve definitely had critics up in arms about the major stylistic changes they were making. Since the advent of rock and roll, we really haven’t really had another major musical stylistic evolution. If we look at music history and see where the major changes happened and factor in technology’s rapid evolution helping to speed up everything, I’m not overly surprised that we’re in a time of musical uncertainty and it being even more difficult than ever before to predict how music is going to evolve. Or maybe I’m really optimistic and hoping for the best.
Hope you had a good weekend,