Before you read this, I want you to tune into the local radio station. No, seriously- tune in. What do you hear? Pop? Rap? R&B? No matter what you hear, it most likely won’t be rock. Over time, our generation has phased out rock, metal, punk and other guitar-driven genres of music in the mainstream.
Of course, you’ll find a spattering of Cage the Elephant here and some Greta van Fleet there, but head-bangy sick licks have become increasingly hard to find. This has happened for a variety of reasons and I believe the answer is much more complicated than just “people’s tastes change.”
The two main reasons that rock has fallen out of the limelight are that it’s easier to sing or rap along with a song that is more lyrically dense and that other genres can simply be more catchy.
Music at its core is a kind of expression. It crosses cultural, racial, political and even physical boundaries between people, as does any type of art. However, unlike physical types of media, music has rhythm and human voice on its side. Occasionally, I’ll listen to music in Portuguese or Spanish just because I think a particular singer’s voice is appealing or is nothing like I’ve ever heard before.
I might not have a clue what they’re talking about, but delivery is key and the human voice is an excellent vehicle for emotion. A beautiful voice is a beautiful voice, and anyone can recognize that.
Rap and R&B, often but not always, have more lyrics compared to rock, punk or metal. In a rock song, there is often an instrumental to accompany the singer at every step of the song. The instrumental and vocals are meant to complement and play off of each other, but it is undeniable that the instrumental often takes some of the spotlight off of the vocalist.
Pop, R&B and especially rap give this spotlight back to the singer. There are often more opportunities to sing along with it, which is more engaging for the listener. The more people can engage with the music, the more people will gravitate towards it.
This is not to say that people don’t sing along with rock, punk, or even metal. It feels good to know the lyrics and sing along to a song, regardless of the genre. R&B, pop, and especially rap just provide more of a platform to do so.
One of the only things that might be more universal than the human voice is rhythm. Rhythm is incredible because every single person can tap their foot to the beat of a song. Lyrics, instruments, and temperament vary depending on where you go in the world, but the same 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 and 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 time signatures exist everywhere.
Nearly every single popular rap, R&B, and pop song utilizes the 3/4 or 4/4 time signatures and often makes it obvious with a strong thumping beat. The consistency of the flow of songs in the current state of rap, R&B and pop allows for more people to find the beat which is key for getting as many people as possible to listen.
This consistent and arguably predictable beat helps to make these songs catchy. The catchier the song, the more people will find it, the more people will sing it, and the more it will grow.
Rap, R&B, and pop have stormed the scene to replace rock and with good reason. They bring new talent with incredible lyricism that begs you to sing along. The sticky hooks and bars stay glued to your brain and beg for your concentration and dare you to listen to more. With this in mind, it’s easy to say that rock has fallen. It isn’t dead; rock can never die. It's just been pushed to the side.