For much of the 21st century, it seems that rock music is on the decline, slowly being displaced in the mainstream by pop-infused rap, and electronic dance music. There’s still some really good rock songs from this century, but you’ve got to look hard to find it. For me, there is a point when rock and roll started to go downhill, and in my opinion, this started with the post-grunge movement of the late 90’s.
During the 90’s, the kings of grunge were beginning to falter, beginning with the apparent suicide of Kurt Cobain in 1994, leading to the breakup of Nirvana. When the record labels began to see that the kings of grunge were no longer profitable, they began signing bands who emulated the sound of grunge. Bands like Nickelback, Days of the New, and Creed began making a more commercial form of grunge, working through major record labels and introducing the world to a new, horrible vocal style: yarling.
Yarling is a technique where a vocalist adds an extra “r” to the pronunciation of almost every word in order to sound soulful. Some say that it’s meant to emulate the vocal style of Bruce Springsteen, but I find that the vocals of Chad Kroeger have nothing in common with Bruce Springsteen.
Whatever it is, yarling became the standard for all post-grunge bands, with virtually every post-grunge singer copying each other’s vocals. Of course, back at the start of the 2000’s, there was a time where, as far as rock is concerned, you basically had to choose between the rap-infused nu metal bands, and the lame post-grunge bands.
Post-grunge has a very commercial, radio-friendly tone, which explains how Nickelback got so popular. Also, post-grunge bands, especially Nickelback, became all about two things:
- Their image
- Selling arena tickets
In that spirit, post-grunge did to grunge what many believe glam metal did to heavy metal: dress it up and process the hell out of it until you get a mainstream sound devoid of any artistic merit or authenticity. The difference here is that glam metal had a comparatively optimistic tone, while post-grunge singers tend to whine all the time just to act sensitive.
Sadly, it appears that post-grunge isn’t completely dead, not while new yarling bands like Shinedown and Alter Bridge still grace the Earth with their presence. Meanwhile, rap in America has become the new rock, while in Britain, dubstep and other forms of EDM top the charts, all much of the highest charting rock songs in the UK today were all mainstream hits years ago.
In conclusion, I could say that rock is dead and Nickelback killed it, but I’d be getting it wrong. After all, rock is still alive and well, and Nickelback hasn’t been cool since 2007. It will take a long time for rock to regain the god-like status it enjoyed when our parents were young kids, but I have a feeling that this rap fad can’t last forever.