Guest Blog: Modern Rock and the Dark Side

[Being an inclusive kind of guy, I welcome other opinions on this site. Here’s a guest blog by Chuck from Kansas City on what he observes as the Dark Side of modern rock. – AC]

You have probably heard about Tony Wilson’s theory about the double-helix that is Pop and Rock: While one genre is on the rise while the other is on the decline. Most people are not exclusively interested in just Modern Rock, or just Pop music – we all have a song, or a band that may be completely 180 degrees from what we listen to. It’s human taste, to want something different, even if it is a guilty pleasure.

For example, I have developed a taste for Disco. I was a toddler when people were doing the hustle, and Disco was on the radio station with other bands of that era. By the 80’s, disco sucked, and while I loved to dance, Disco was something to be mocked, not listened to. But, as the years have passed, artists like ABBA, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Average White Band have found their way into my music library. I used to like Pop music, but, when I got into High School, everyone seemed to listen to Hard Rock and Classic Rock. The weird kids listened to alternative music. I may not have dressed like them, but I gravitated towards the same bands.

In the past couple years, I have tuned into Modern Rock stations, and I have noticed that, along with Nirvana and Jack white, bands like Foster the People, Daft Punk, and the Naked and the Famous are being played, and I can’t help to think that they have a bit of a Pop/Dance edge to their music.

Perhaps it’s wrong to categorize music, as some songs clearly appeal to a broader audience. But I believe that, while there might be a death struggle between Pop and Rock, they also influence one another. As music continues to evolve, artists strive to evolve and create new and fresh tracks to appeal to their audiences. Inevitably, some borrow from other artists, and that goes across all genres.

Can you trace a direct line between Disco and Modern Rock? I dare not. But I wonder if Madchester and Electronica would have happened if Disco hadn’t happened. And without Madchester, what about Britpop. Would turntablism have led to Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash, and where would Linkin Park and the Beastie Boys be without them?

In the 1980’s, Prince were huge on the Pop charts. Did they contribute anything to Modern Rock? Well, Prince is considered by Rolling Stone to be one of the top 100 artists of all time. He wrote Nothing Compares 2U, which gave her mainstream exposure, whether she likes it or not. His sex-infused lyrics inspired Tipper Gore and mother’s across the United States to from the PMRC, which, in turn, inspired artists to rebel on this censorship.

And, more recently, Auto-Tune has begun to appear in Modern Rock songs. This used to be reserved for Cher, Brittany Spears, and every boy band since the late 90’s.

We do not live in a vacuum, and we are exposed to different kinds of music all the time whether we like it or not. I think of that everytime I hear a few bars of 4 Non Blondes and can’t get their damn song out of my head. But this exposure has a butterfly effect, and, whether you want to admit it or not, Modern Rock is influenced by all kinds of music across the sonic spectrum.

-Chuck from Kansas City

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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