Blue Robot

What Happened to Rock and Roll?

Posted by Shamir Lee on 05/25 at 07:23 PM

“Let’s give it up for people lip-syncing under pre-recorded music!” Words from the very, ahem, wise Kid Rock this past Sunday May 19, at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards held in Las Vegas. I don’t usually watch music award shows. Actually, I don’t watch any award show that the entertainment industry puts out nowadays. They’re pretty much the entertainment industry celebrating itself. But anyway, I thought I should tune into the Billboard Music Awards this year, just to see what I’m not missing out on. I wasn’t able to watch it on Sunday night, so I found a link to a recorded version of the show, got me some popcorn, and proceeded to enjoy a two-hour event of pop singers, who call themselves “artists” and “musicians,” jumping around on stage. The popcorn was gone in the first five minutes, and I was left wondering how I would get through the rest of the show without it.

Kid Rock was right. Lip-syncing took the spotlight that night. Selena Gomez was obviously singing under a track that was purposely set at a volume where her true voice couldn’t be heard, so that at the end, you could hear her breathing heavily in order to make it seem like she had actually been singing live the whole time. But hey, maybe I’m wrong, and she was singing live the whole time. Justin Bieber attempted to sing with the track, but only a low, off-key noise came through the speakers. Chris Brown’s voice cracked more times than he did a Michael Jackson imitation: a lot. I guess we could blame it on the intense dancing, but I’m not going to let them off that easy. Just to prove to myself that lip-syncing isn’t necessary in a hard-core dance performance, I watched Sisqo (I know, I know, but he actually had some talent), Michael Jackson, and Prince performances from back in the day, and they were all able to pull it off. Prince even performed Sunday night, the only performance (in my opinion) worth watching. Real instruments! Real singing! Real music! Real rock ‘n’ roll!

Which brings me to my point. I’m not trying to give a review on the Billboard Awards. It pretty much speaks for itself. I’m wondering, where has the real music gone in mainstream music of today? And more importantly, where has rock music gone on the music charts? Not ONE of the performers featured were a rock act! The Billboard Awards, awards musicians who have the highest chart performance of the year. This shows that not one rock act had any kind of significant airplay on mainstream radio.

A part of me is happy about this. If anything makes it to mainstream radio, that’s evidence that it sucks, in my opinion. Okay, there are a few quality songs that make it to the top. But it’s a very, very rare accomplishment. I would be worried if I started hearing Avenged Sevenfold or Megadeth on the Top 100. But why should it be this way? Back in the 80s, the only thing metal had to worry about was having hair metal at the forefront of the rock scene. Now, the problem is getting rock music to play at all outside of rock stations. (Or should I say, rock playlists? Even though I’m 21, I’m still somewhat behind on how music is mainly listened to these days.) Just a few years ago, rock still had a prominent spot on the music charts. What happened?

Pop has completely dominated the charts. Even acts that claim to be rap are actually pop. Psy? Flo Rida? Pitbull? If anyone considers them actual rappers…I don’t even know what to say. Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with pop music. I enjoy corny 80s pop. I used to be obsessed with Madonna, Paula Abdul, and Janet Jackson. Nostalgia floods my body when I hear some of that 90s pop fluff. I even like some of Britney Spears’ earlier stuff (Yeah. I know.).

But remember the days when rock held the top spot? I don’t remember them either. But let’s pretend we were there during those decades. The 50s all the way through the 90s all had prominent rock acts and genres. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Nirvana, punk, darkwave, thrash, grunge, alternative, death metal, nu metal! It was everywhere! And that’s not all of it. Whether it fits a genre you like or not, it was still rock music. It still possessed the same attitude and passion, whether it was lighter or heavier. And real instruments were played! Lyrics actually had meaning! Well, not always, but I’m on a roll here! Rock shouldn’t have to hide from popularity. Most of it can actually call itself real music, real art. In no way am I implying that anything other than rock isn’t real music. There’s good rap out there, good R&B, good country, even good dance and pop music. But at least these genres get some kind of airplay on mainstream radio. Metal barely gets any attention. It has a strong following outside of mainstream pop culture, but don’t we want the children out there who are only subjected to Rihanna and Katy Perry to hear music that actually is music?

Knowing that there are so many people missing out on, what I like to call, modern-day classical music, saddens me. We need a rock revival. We need rock to be back at the forefront in popular music. And not popular in the crappy, over-produced, product-of-the-industry way. But in the “this-is-popular-because-it’s-amazing” way. I like being one of the few my age who know about The Smiths, Iron Maiden, and early Nina Hagen. But sometimes I want others to know about them, too. I have to admit, being in this little corner by myself listening to Hallowed Be Thy Name can get a little lonely.

For more information on the 2013 Billboard Awards, visit: http://www.billboard.com/photos/1562679/billboard-music-awards-the-show-and-performances?i=435096

If you’re interested in hearing more from the rock artists mentioned, click Nina Hagen, Iron Maiden, The Smiths, Avenged Sevenfold, Metallica, Megadeth.

{name} Author: Shamir Lee
Bio: Shamir Lee is a senior majoring in Advertising. She’s a writer for Penn State’s CRITIQUE, a student-run business magazine. Additionally, she has created ads and flyers for One Heart, an organization fighting against child sexual abuse. She’s interested in looking at cats, doing ballet, exercising, and ending animal cruelty. In her free time, she enjoys watching horror movies, some of her favorites being Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue and the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre ("sorry, I just really like the cinematography"). Music is a big part of her life, as she plays piano, a little bit of guitar, and used to play saxophone. Some of her favorite musicians are Jason Becker, BUCK-TICK, Megadeth, Aivi Tran, Missing Persons, Nina Hagen, Prince, and Koji Kondo.

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