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Male rage in rock music: Things have changed

Because music is always downstream from society, it’s always evolving to reflect what’s going on in our lives. This article from The Atlantic looks at how male rage in rock music is going through a change. It’s worth the read.

At the end of 2017, U2’s Bono made one of his periodic pronouncements about the state of rock and roll. “I think music has gotten very girly,” he told Rolling Stone. “There are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment—and that’s not good … In the end, what is rock & roll? Rage is at the heart of it.” He was airing the sort of conventional wisdom you most commonly hear ranted from a barstool: Rock and roll is rooted in virility, and the genre’s decline in popularity represents a worrisome triumph of the feminine. Though such gender anxieties uncannily mirror the ones driving national politics, rock is of course bigger than one gender or one emotion—ask Joan Jett or Courtney Barnett. If angry men loom large in the genre’s history, it’s not because they have tapped into some elemental well of gender-specific sentiment. Instead, they have often made their mark by expanding the boundaries of what anger or sadness, or anger and sadness together, can sound like for guys.

Bono’s comment got me thinking not just about that lineage of sound and sentiment, but about Chester Bennington, the Linkin Park singer whose suicide a year ago this summer I’ve had very much in mind. By some measures the last top dog that rock ever bred, the California group is often spoken of as an embarrassing artifact of George W. Bush–era cultural crudeness. But in hindsight, Linkin Park’s trajectory, and Bennington’s, sheds light on an evolving quest for new ways to express vulnerability. The pop landscape that has emerged may bewilder Bono, but space has opened up for male fury in more malleable forms than ever—and such fury seems to be, for better and for worse, in plentiful supply.

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 38134 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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