The last of a very fine breed

A thread on one of my music lists is currently flogging the subject I posted on earlier – to wit, what the fuck is up with the top-grossing artists list? It has been noted that Green Day is doing pretty well financially, selling discs by the crateload.

True dat, but let’s not confuse “exception” and “rule,” mmkay?

Green Day may ultimately be the last time we see a band that’s both commerically successful and critically worthy. Once upon a time there was nothing rare about the idea that a truly great band would sell lots of records, but these days? Seriously, look at your list of best bands in the world right now and weigh that against the bands that are making the best money. Hell, if you’re like me, some of the bands on your list have to work day jobs to pay the rent. And if those two lists overlap by more than two bands – and the margin of error here is one, so don’t push it – then you just need to flip over to the all-Pat-Boone-all-the-time station and shut the heck up before you embarrass your family any more than you already have.

I’m hard pressed to think of anybody besides Green Day right now that’s a serious threat to pop the daily double – best seller of the year and best CD of the year. It pains me to say this, given how I love U2 (innovative and critical greatness may be behind them for good) and a host of incredibly talented bands that almost nobody is ever going to hear of (Jeff Foster, Don Dixon, Jets Overhead, Paul Lewis, VAST, etc.)

If Green Day is the last of a breed, good on ’em. American Idiot was as brilliant as it was courageous. I hope people were taking notes….



24 thoughts on “The last of a very fine breed

  1. Maybe rock music is at an inflection point. Music was in the doldrums from 1950-1954 in the change from the big band era to rock. Then came Elvis. The next doldrum was around 1962-1963 pre British invasion. The Beatles, Dave Clark, and Stones took care of that. Rock had an incredible run from ’64-’75, producing some of the most incredible music of the time. After ’75 things got boring until 1977 when punk started to take hold (even though the roots of punk started much earlier with the Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop, John Cale, Lou Reed). Punk music/New Wave pushed music through until the debut of MTV, which carried it for a few more years. The mid ’80’s-early ’90’s had bands like REM and U2 to carry on the tradition. The doldrums returned until the grunge took hold in ’94. Personally, that was my favorite rock since the early 70’s.
    We’re in the doldrums again, waiting for the next great thing. The labels haven’t adjusted to the paradigm shift that’s occured since the file sharing has killed CD sales. They screwed the pooch by ignoring the potential of downloading, and just hoping the laws would prevent it. The labels also pissed off customers by going after them legally, which enraged many. The kids today really don’t buy CD’s. My son hasn’t bought a CD since he was 11 and it was a Weird Al CD. He does have his 60GB i-Pod filled to the brim, so there’s no shortage of music in his collection. You’re right 100% that the labels need to spend more $$$ in artist development, but the bean counters will not allow that to happen. I’m just hoping that something will come along that will be so big, it transcends everything(like the Beastles or Elvis).
    There is a chance that us adults might be suffering from a bit of delusion as far as rock is concerned. When I hear what’s on the teenagers playlists today, rock music falls way behind Rap. My son’s one of the better kids musically, and he still has probably 30% more rap music in his collection than rock. Many of the kids find rock music to be not relevant to today’s society. I hope that’s not the case.

  2. I’ve been waiting for that Next Big Thing to hit for awhile, but the thing that scares me is this – I’m not entirely sure but what it hasn’t hit. NBT is a function of the artistic and the marketing, but what happens when you get one without the other? If you look at the Nu Wave – bands like Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Interpol, etc. – we’re seeing a rock explosion that’s awfully darned interesting. But the marketing a media machines have not responded as they did in the past.
    As for rap, the kids have their iPods packed with it because – guess what – that’s where the marketing emphasis has been. But there’s ample reason to suspect that it’s illusory. When you look at things like concert attendance, something funny emerges – the biggest acts in the hip-hop industry are hitting the road, but they can’t halfway fill mid-sized venues. Literally – the biggest names in the business usually play to 50% or more empty seats.
    If kids thought hip-hop was as relevant as they say they do, there would be no empty seats. I wonder to what degree their attraction to the genre is a pose – it’s something they think they feel a lot more than they really do feel. Meanwhile, all these rock artists – there’s no connection to them because the industry has short-circuited the machinery by which those connections would be forged on a wide scale.
    I don’t know. I’m obviously speculating. We KNOW that they’re not going to the shows, and I’m trying to understand why…

  3. It’s my opinion that the kids aren’t going to the shows because they just can’t afford them. There are not too many kids that can afford to shell out $60/ticket to see $.50(50 cent or whatever his name is) or $100 to see Eminem…plus Ticketmaster surcharges. The concert prices have gone out of sight because the artists are making up for lost revenue from illegal file swapping. I noticed the concert prices really go up just as CD revenues were going down. Whenever we go to concerts, the halls are filled with people our age…..who can afford the tickets. When we were kids, we could get into concerts for $6. I paid $6.50 to see the Stones in ’72….and those were 20th. row seats.
    I don’t think the rock industry has been trying to develop artists and sell them to the kids, whereas the Rappers have been playing to their audience and spending money in artist development.
    A lot of kids listen to Rap because it pisses their parents off, much like rock pissed of many of our parents. I don’t find relevance in rap, and often ask my son why a middle class suburban white teenager would even find a connection with the ‘hood. That being said, there is a startling amount of good rap music out there. When I say good, I’m referring to “complete” in the musical sense. There’s also a lot of really horrible rap. I jump on a lot of parents when they say that they hate Rap. Chances are, they never really gave any of it a chance.
    I hope the next great thing comes along soon, or we’re doomed to listening to “Greatest Hits” for the rest of our lives. Speaking of that, I listened to the #1 rock station in our town and found that in an hour segment, 50% of the songs were at least 30 years old. We had a great “alternative rock” station, but they changed their format to hip hop. Now, I get my new music and artists from college radio stations.

  4. Going into my sophomore year in college I found myself without a roommate because my former roomie had pledged for a fraternity and I wasn’t into that kind of thing. So I got to school, picked up my room key, went upstairs and opened the door, only to discover my roommate (who was not in the room) had arrived first. A Streisand poster was hanging over his bed.
    And I thought to myself, “This is going to be some semester.” By midterm, we weren’t speaking to each other. Go figure.

  5. By midterm? Wouldn’t have taken me that long, I suspect. When I was in college my diplomacy skills were still undeveloped, so I’d probably have said all the things that came to mind….

  6. I like some rap, as well. I don’t toss it out the window just because it’s rap. But, at the same time, most of what’s out there seems to be 99% hype and 1% skill. When you buy a rap CD, you usually get the one or two decent songs that get played, and 8 songs that suck ass.
    There’s another part of rap music that seems to bug most music people. And, I suspect, concert goers. With rap, it’s less about the “artist” than about mixing and producing. A lot of what goes on in rap doesn’t really translate well to the stage. That’s probably why there’s so much fluff at rap concerts (dancers, props, etc) compared to rock/punk concerts (well, unless yer into bands like Kiss. heh).

  7. She definately has a voice. I just don’t like her style. The same could be said about Christina Aguilara (however you spell her name). The girl has a voice, but she picks some of the worst songs to sing.
    I’m not thrilled about Streisand’s politics, either, but that’s not really an issue when listening to a CD. šŸ™‚

  8. I really don’t care for Barbra, but as you note, it’s a style thing. As for my comment to Sam about what his beef was, I like to toss him softballs every once in a while and watch him tee off on them.

  9. That’s a good concise analysis.
    I agree with you on the 8 songs that suck ass, but I’ve also seen a lot of Beatles, Beach Boys, Stones, U2, and Police albums that had a lot of filler too.
    That’s why illegal downloading got so popular…..why buy an album with one good song and pay $14.99, when you could snag the song for free on Limewire.

  10. The ticket price issue is sorta real, but also not entirely the answer. From what I can tell, it looks like the “afforable” rap shows draw worth crap, too. Then again, maybe the issue there is that affordable by comparison is still above the threshhold – not sure.

  11. If the average kid makes $6.50/hour and works 15-20 hours a week, they’re lucky to net $95 after taxes. If they’re paying their car insurance and other incidentals, they’re lucky to be able to afford even a ticket to the movies, let alone a concert.
    The best rap show I ever saw was at a block party on last year’s MLK day, and it was amazing. Just homegrown artists with a lot of talent.

  12. I agree with you, but all of Brittney’s catalogue is filler. If you listen to some less popular beatles albums like the 65, The Second Album, Now and Then, Beatles VI, and Something New, the dogs outweigh the pearls by 2:1. I’m not trying to beat up the Beatles, as their work won’t ever be surpassed, at least in my lifetime. Their albums like Revolver, Sgt. Peppers, White, Abbey Road, and Let it Be are classics, and contain no filler at all.
    In spite of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys also had an incredible amount of dogs in their catalogue. They had more dogs in their catalogue than the Westminster Kennel Club Show. They also had an incredible number of gems.
    I’ve listened to a lot of Kinks over the years. It is my opinion that they had less filler in their albums than any other band, except for The Who.
    Brittney……is that even music?:)

  13. What illegal downloaders (and legal downloaders too) grabbing individual songs miss is those songs on the album that you never heard on the radio but turn out to be WAY better than the song you bought the album for.
    That’s one reason why I’m so annoyed with iTunes – you get 30 seconds of a song to preview it, and it’s usually the first 30 seconds. I know a LOT of songs I love that are radically different in the first 30 seconds than the they are in the rest of the song (Dark Side of the Moon, anyone?). As someone who enjoys epic rock and long-running industrial, techno, and goth music, most of which morphs pretty significantly throughout the 5-8 minutes per track. Even American Idiot has tracks that are effectively several different but tightly related songs in a single track. Music listeners who grab individual tracks based on 30 second snippets significantly limit their chances to discover cool new music.
    Although, I must admit, individual downloads also limit financial liablity when it comes to buying dogs.

  14. The Black Parade
    The only rock album that has come close to American Idiot for me is My Chemical Romance’s “The Black Parade”. Throw Queen, glam metal, and alt-rock into a blender and this album comes out. It should have been terrible, but every song is a keeper.
    As for everything else, “Stadium Arcadium” was pretty damn good this year. The Killers’ “Sam’s Town” had some good tracks and I liked the inventiveness of Panic! At the Disco. I like rap, but it’s got to have a great beat with a hook and lyrics that sound like someone put itme into them. So I like about 5% of the rap out there and most of that is taken up by Jay Z, Eminem, Dre, and the old school stuff. But I’m a rocker at my core and there has been damn little to get excited about lately. I guess we’ll just have to wait for the messiah of hard rock to return with the long awaited Chinese Democracy this March(?). As if the album has a chance of not sucking.

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