Gene Simmons, that bastion of juvenile 70s Rock aimed at horny 14 year olds has declared that Rock is dead. Wow, so Gene just figured out what the rest of us have known for about a decade now. It’s interesting that his declaration stirred up the discussion and got people talking about the state of music. Well, that is the glory of Rock and Roll, that a low brow, low intellect like Simmons ends up as the oracle of Rock. But the irritating part of Gene’s declaration is that he believes the Internet and downloading is what killed Rock.
Really? Funny, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and a host of others are still selling millions of albums and singles, mostly over the internet. Figure it out Gene, music still sells if you can find your consumers. Sales may not be what they were, but that’s more attributable to cultural and economic shifts than to downloading. If you’re offering what the kids want, or have been programmed to want, than they’re still willing to buy it.
Rise Of The Divas
So what do the aforementioned artists all have in common? Think real hard… Female. Divas are in, Rock bands are out. Sex sells. The raunchier the video, the better; take your clothes off, jump around, get a team of Swedish songwriter producers, make the lyrics explicit, set it to a drum machine Disco beat, AutoTune the voice and you’ve got yourself a hit.
The record companies must especially love the Divas because they’re a whole lot easier to control than a Rock band. Virtually every Diva is the creation of the Music Industry. They’re as plastic and predictable as Frankie Avalon was in his day. I guarantee that when Miley or Gaga does something spontaneously outrageous on an awards show, every word and move was previously vetted by an army of target marketing engineers using sales algorithms and focus groups with the aim of maximum market penetration.
I imagine these Divas are also instructed to toe the line and not screw up because the next one is waiting in the wings to take their place like interchangeable parts on an assembly line. Oh, there are a few true innovative talents out there, Adele comes to mind, but she’s definitely in the vast minority.
At the same time, Rap, the angry proletarian music of the ghetto, rose up and enraptured the next generation as well. In a hard edged world of limited resources and illusory upper mobility, the words of Tupac and his contemporaries became more relevant to young Americans than the music of white middle upper class Rockers like Van Halen and Bryan Adams.
The bottom line is, Rock and Roll died because the Music Industry got sick of Rock bands and their untidy way of making records. Why, the temerity of those guys, they actually wrote their own songs without the aid of three or four industry insider co-writers who make sure it sounds exactly like the last one, which is what it usually takes Gaga and the rest to turn out their timeless Disco retread classics. Rappers can be as unstable as Keith Richards and Jim Morrison, but their music is at least predictable, one beat, one theme. It’s easy to market.
Rock & Roll As Democracy
And four or five band members really does resemble a democracy, it’s damned messy. They get drunk, get addicted, breakup, make concept albums and do other stuff that really isn’t good for sales or the public image.
The rise of the Divas may be a prelude to what’s in store for America in general. They’ve proven that dictatorships do work. Get a figure head and a team of experts to run the show behind the scenes and you can keep the drunken, drugged, sexed up masses happy indefinitely, or at least until they max out their credit cards and the economy collapses. Gee, does that sound like a recent presidential administration…
We may as well face it, Rock and Roll truly is dead and it ain’t comin’ back. There are talented young Rock musicians out there, but record companies are not willing to invest in them and that has nothing to do with downloading, it’s purely a bottom line decision on their part. So you’d better hang onto those old Rolling Stones records because that’s all there is and there ain’t no more.