In 2014, KISS frontman Gene Simmons controversially stated that "rock is dead," and perhaps he may have been onto something.
To wit, let's look at what's selling in the rock world. Billboard/MRC mid-year music report listed the top five rock albums so far this year, based on sales. See if you notice a trend:
- Queen’s Greatest Hits. (1981)
- Elton John’s Diamonds. (2017)
- Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Chronicle Vol. 1 (1976)
- Journey’s Greatest Hits. (1988)
- Fleetwood Mac’ Rumors(1977)
Do you see it? I think you do. It's dominated by legacy acts' greatest hits collections. Even worse, most of these greatest hits collections came out almost 30 years ago. Four of the five of the best selling rock albums are compilations of music released forty years ago, and at least thirty years old, most of which forty. Spotify and Apple Music weren't even a twinkle in a developer's eye when these songs came out.
The streaming numbers back up this data, as our monthly look at Spotify listeners constantly shows Queen, AC/DC and Guns N' Roses at the top of the charts. The youngest band on the list would be Linkin Park, who at this point, are over 20 years into their career.
Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor said in 2017 "I think rock bands are out of fashion generally these days, but I don’t give a shit."
One of the few acts to break through into the mainstream in recent years is Ghost. In a Loudwire interview in 2018, Forge gave his thoughts on if "rock is dead," saying the genre is far from dead, it might just need a kick in the ass in terms of motivation.
At the time, Forge said:
I can give two different answers. One is from a personal point of view where I am a big appreciator of many of these peoples' work and I, like most others, have spent, most of my life just taking them for granted, that they were going to be there forever. Now when it's clearly showing that might not be the case, I think that that stirs up a lot of angst in, at least speaking for myself, I'm saddened by knowing that obviously, these people have already passed, but just checking a festival poster and knowing that in ten years these guys will not be there.
From a professional point of view, I think it means that rock music needs to step up. We need to have new, bigger bands. Bands need to step up and try to fill these spots. I definitely don't think that rock is dead in any way. But I think that there has been a lack of new talent or new ambition. It’s hard to really put my finger on what has happened. But I think that rock, in general, has been extremely dominated by bands that are thirty, forty years old, which there's nothing wrong with it, but now as they are disappearing, you can truly tell that there's a big gap between the big bands and the ones underneath and the one on the bottom.
And that's alarming. I think that other music styles, other music genres have been better to fill their new, up and coming artists that get a lot of recognition. And, you know, I don't want to compare rock and hip-hop in any way. I'm a rock guy. I'm not a hip-hop guy in any way, but the hip-hop scene has been way better at bringing up new talent where, you know, artists and management that weren't around ten years ago, are now filling arenas and stadiums and are hugely successful.
I think that rock, if it's going to survive and if it's going to be a big thing, and I definitely think it's going to be a bigger thing again, but I don't think that the bands that are in the bills right now and the one has been waiting around for twenty years on the bill, on the middle part of the bill there, they are not the ones that's going to, you know, rise to the top part. I think it's going to be new bands that we don't know about right now. fifteen-year-olds that maybe are listening to this show right now. You are the ones that need to create these new bands. You are the ones that are going to be the big band ten years from now. So yeah, there you go. Again, you have to face the fact that things are changing and things are circulating.
So, is rock dead? Will it ever recover in the mainstream?
I think all it would take is one rock band to really catch on in the pop world with a mega hit, to help bring up all the excellent mid-range hard rock acts currently doing well. But where is this band? And would mainstream radio even support it?