“The sadness for me is that rock has reached a dead end […] the only people saying things that matter are the rappers and most pop is meaningless and forgettable.”
Guess who. Kanye West? Drake?
Nope, it was Roger Daltrey, frontman of The Who, that said rock is dead in a recent interview with The Times magazine.
Now, I am not going to say that Daltrey doesn’t know what he is talking about, he has been around. But saying rock and roll is dead AND that rappers are “the only people saying things that matter” is absurd—ironically, the type of behavior that you would expect from a rockstar.
I have had the discussion of “is rock dead?” with too many friends over the years, at this point. And I stand by, and will continue to stand by, the notion that it is not. “Name a current day rockstar?” is the most common follow up question. Well for starters, what constitutes a rockstar? Are rock heroes such as Keith Richards, Joe Perry, Tom Petty, Nikki Sixx, Axl Rose, Morrissey, Liam and Noel Gallagher, Eddie Vedder (and so on and so forth) irrelevant because they are old now? What do you expect from a rockstar? On top of that, the discussion is about rock and roll, the genre, not the entities that fulfill badassness.
There is a plethora of bands that are rock and roll—What is Jack White doing? What are the Strokes doing? What is Radiohead doing? What is Tame Impala doing? What are the Alabama Shakes doing?
Sure these bands don’t all sound exactly the same nor fill a heavy-first template of sound, but they are modern day rock. I would hate if every band in the last 40 or 50 years sounded exactly the same as what came before them. Even back, 40 or 50 years, not every “rock” band sounded the same; they sounded similar. Led Zeppelin was not the Who the same way Pearl Jam wasn’t Guns n’ Roses the same way the Strokes aren’t Tame Impala. The new bands were influenced by older artists. For example glance The Last Shadow Puppets and Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner’s “What I’m Listening To” playlist on Spotify—the first track on the playlist is Leonard Cohen’s “Is This What You Wanted?” which The Last Shadow Puppets recently covered in their own way.
The aforementioned bands prove rock isn’t dead because they took a sound that they liked and then molded it into something new, still preserving elements that suit the rock genre, like distorted guitars and powerful vocals. Kind of familiar how the Beatles started out with the music that influenced them into finding their own original sound, and as the Rolling Stones did, too and just like many other bands.
I can see where Daltrey is coming from, as he once said that when the Who was the most creative they tried to avoid outside influences by not listening to anyone else’s music. Times have changed, though, and it is nearly impossible to avoid music. For Daltrey to say that rappers are the only artists that have a meaningful voice and that top stars don’t have a lasting effect is just disrespectful. Ultimately, it is his opinion and things are different for a man who has taken the stage in front of thousands many times—I disrespectfully disagree with Daltrey. Rock is evolving and always will be, perhaps now there are just more sounds accessible to listeners that make it more difficult to categorize one specific sound to “rock.” That is not to say the genre is dead, though.
Photo courtesy Ingrid Richter, Creative Commons