Music History

Let’s Ask the Question Again: Where’s All the Rage in Today’s Music?

I’ve been wondering and writing about the lack of anger in today’s music for months now. Now it appears I’m not the only one raging against the pap. This is from the LA Times:

When Beyoncé released her album “Lemonade” earlier this year, it took America by surprise, and not because she dropped it unexpectedly on a Saturday evening, or that it fueled speculation that her marriage was in trouble.

The singer’s newest work stood out because it was unapologetically angry.

Though popular music has historically served as a barometer of youth culture’s discontent, and almost every meaningful evolution in pop, rock and hip-hop has come from a place of disillusionment or outrage, pop music is now one of the few areas in American culture where anger is in short supply.

EDM, celebratory club music that’s often lyric-free, has hands-down been the biggest draw at music festivals over the last few years. The top rapper in the country, Drake, is a docile Canadian. And if you’re R&B’s the Weeknd (also Canadian), introspection means recounting all the ways in which you feel worthless for partying too hard the night before.

While pop has managed to celebrate as the rest of the world burns, television and film have increasingly channeled the ire of a shrinking middle class (“Breaking Bad,” any given Trump or Sanders rally), institutional racism (“Selma,” “Fruitvale Station”) and the numbness caused by bad news overload (“Mr. Robot,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”).

“Every single era has had escapist music: In the 1950s, there was the pop that came after Little Richard,” says Billie Joe Armstrong, singer and songwriter of Green Day, arguably the last major rock band to turn fury and indignation into a top 10 album with 2004’s “American Idiot.”

“Music goes through these cycles, but this happens to be the longest cycle I remember without someone breaking through on a meaningful level.”

“After the turbulent ’60s, you got ’70s schlock — quiet and boring [music], lots of earth tones — then punk came around. Music goes through these cycles, but this happens to be the longest cycle I remember without someone breaking through on a meaningful level; someone who really has something to say.

There are some small signs that music is waking from its stupor.

Christ. About time. Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

Alan Cross has 37884 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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