Is Rock Dead in 2021?

I thought I’d do something a little different today in between my various reviews and focus on a statement that has been floating around for a good long while now, arguably between ten and twenty years, that: Rock is Dead. Given that I am in my early-to-mid-twenties, I feel like I have pretty good authority on the situation given that I first got into rock music properly and addictedly around 15 years ago. Therefore, I definitely fall under the bracket of time wherein rock is considered by some to be dead. And yet here I am, listening to rock music both new and old, in a rock band myself trying to make it in this crazy business.

So, I guess this piece is going to be me trying to analyse this statement and draw some sort of conclusion from the evidence for myself. And bear with me on this, okay, I haven’t really done any writing like this before, so if I end up rambling too much please let me know in the comments so I can improve on it for next time!

An Introduction to Rock

So, I guess to really be able to establish if the genre is ‘dead’ in the 21st century we must first quickly address its origins and the size of it in the 20th century. Originating in the US in the mid-1950s it first began as rock’n’roll music, a way of expression and rebellion by the younger people of that generation, centring around artists such as Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley.

However, by the 60s, and especially when the UK got a hold of it, rock music became an internationally recognised umbrella term for music that was heavily reliant on instrumentation, had a generally faster tempo or had more energetically delivered vocals. This ranged from anything from The Beatles to the Rolling Stones to even metal bands such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest in the 60s. Since then, it has gone on to encompass a wider and wider category of subgenres, from everything in metal to indie music and everything in between.

Elvis Presley – The King of Rock-n-Roll - Vallarta Tribune
The King of Rock’n’Roll, Elvis Presley

Many would argue when the peak of rock music was, though generally those people would usually say whatever decade they grew up listening to. Was it the psychedelics driven 60s with the likes of The Who, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones? Was it the American rock and British metal breakout of the 70s with bands such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Queen, Led Zeppelin and ACDC? The 80s heavy metal and hair dominance of the 80s, throwing out stadium filling bands left right and center like Metallica, Guns’n’Roses and Bon Jovi? Or the grunge dominated 90s which still had some room for some blossoming heavy stuff Pantera and the rise of Nu-Metal?

There is no doubting that there has been a plethora of fantastic, ground-breaking rock bands that formed before the turn of the century and changed the landscape of music forever in the process. And that is probably why the majority of people would say that those 40 years or so were the pinnacle of the genre. However, there have also been plenty of great bands and artists come out since the year 2000, or bands formed before then have continued to put out great music still, so why is the genre getting so much hate since then?

Is it its lack of mainstream attention this millennium (easily debunkable, stay tuned)? The fact that the Grammys have crapped on it continuously for decades now? Because, generally speaking of course, a lot of us hit an age where we are happy with the music we are a fan of and stop seeking out new music in the fear that it won’t live up to our lofty expectations? No matter what reason it is, I am here now to tell you that it is all lies, that rock being dead is simply not the case.

Album Sales

The first point people use to argue with is that the album sales are ‘not what they used to be’. Sure, there haven’t been many rock albums this millennium to sell 30+ million copies any more like albums such as Appetite for Destruction, Back in Black or Metallica. However, those albums also came out decades before the invention of YouTube, Spotify and the music streaming revolution.

Nowadays some of the biggest modern rock bands in the world have racked up much higher streaming numbers than some of the older, huge bands. Muse have hundreds of millions of streams of their biggest songs on Spotify, a lot higher than the likes of Def Leppard and around the same as The Who. Album sales, while still important (though if you listen to Chevelle not as much), aren’t really all to handy to use as a measuring stick in this day and age.

Mainstream Appeal

Another reason people claim that rock as a genre is dead is due to its ‘lack of representation in the mainstream’. Again, I would argue this point is wildly untrue. Yes, there are more mainstream radio stations out there that play exclusively pop music these days, but that hasn’t stopped many newer rock bands from getting regular airplay on other stations. Heck, BBC Radio 1 over here still hosts a weekly rock show on Sunday nights that play everything heavy and STILL bands like Foo Fighters, Biffy Clyro, Bring Me The Horizon and Muse will get airplay on the station outside of that, too.

Heck, just like in the mid-90s pop artists are starting to blur the lines between rock and pop, with the likes of Machine Gun Kelly and Miley Cyrus just last year putting out more rock/punk centric albums to mass acclaim and high streams. The truth is, is that the lines between pop and rock have been blurred so much since the early 2000s due to the rise of indie that people sometimes aren’t sure where rock ends and pop begins. I would say that’s a good thing though. Coming from someone who doesn’t limit themself to listening to exclusively one genre, when rock or metal or even country ventures into pop or vice versa, the results are usually pretty damn enjoyable.

I mean we are just days removed from Rob Zombie’s new album topping the charts, something that a fair few metal albums seem to be doing these days. The genre is clearly on a trend upwards again in terms of popularity.

Not Enough Bands

The final reason I have seen people claiming that rock is dead is because ‘there aren’t enough big rock bands any more’. This is, again, completely false. Even excluding the bigger bands that are at the very top of the rock world now who were established before the year 2000 such as Foo Fighters, Muse, Biffy Clyro, Slipknot and Avenged Sevenfold there are plenty of huge rock and metal bands regularly seen playing live in the UK.

In the last few years alone here in the UK the following modern rock and metal bands have done headline arena tours or shows to great reception: Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry, Bring Me The Horizon, Halestorm, Ghost, Babymetal, Parkway Drive, Architects, A Day To Remember, All Time Low. And there are probably a few more I have missed out too, let me know down below if there are! Ten bands there, all of which brought one or two support bands with them too, playing to jam packed arenas up and down the country. Yet apparently rock is dead? How?

Heck, the UK has such as stacked underground rock scene that some of it is finally starting to break out into the mainstream, too. The likes of Inglorious, Those Damn Crows, The Struts (yes, they count), Stone Broken, The New Roses are just a handful of some of the incredible rock bands hiding just below the surface, ready to breakout as soon as they get the chance to. And most of these play gigs up and down the country as often as they can, be it at local venues, grassroot festivals or in support of the bigger bands. It isn’t too hard to catch them and get your fill of some great live music once the world goes back to normal.

And, let’s be honest here, there are easily another 50+ phenomenal bands I could name formed after 2000 in these last couple of paragraphs or so that all deserve to be checked out as opposed to discredited just because of the time in which they released their music.

In Conclusion

So, in conclusion, I think it is safe to say after all of this that rock is DEFINITELY not dead. The sheer number of fantastic bands who are around today, whether it is bringing back the older style of music like Greta Van Fleet or pushing the boat out and being creative like Skindred, there really is plenty going on in rock music, and plenty to be excited for in the future.

I challenge anyone who disagrees with me to first go away and check out any of the bands I have listed in the latter stages of this article and see if you come back to me with the same opinion. If you don’t agree with me or have some other point to add one way or another to this discussion please drop a comment below, I’d love this to be an ongoing discussion.

Until next time!

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