Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock 'n Roll)

I don't usually pay much heed to the music charts these days, but I was taken slightly aback today when I happened to peruse the list of Billboard's current top 20 albums:

1) 21 - Adele
2) Chief - Eric Church
3) Proud to Be Here - Trace Adkins
4) Young Love - Mat Kearney
5) Victorious Cast Album - Victorious Cast
6) My Kinda Party - Jason Aldean
7) Kidz Bop 20 - Kidz Bop Kids
8) 4 - Beyonce
9) Slow Grind - Various Artists
10) Red River Blue - Blake Shelton
11) Born This Way - Lady Gaga
12) King - O.A.R.
13) Here I Am - Kelly Rowland
14) Hell: The Sequel - Bad Meets Evil
15) When the Sun Goes Down - Selena Gomez & The Scene
16) Back to Black - Amy Winehouse
17) Now That’s What I Call Music 38 - Various Artists
18) Sigh No More - Mumford & Sons
19) Teenage Dream - Katy Perry
20) Torches - Foster The People

There isn't one album on that list that I have any interest in owning. I'm primarily (but not exclusively) a rock fan, and there's barely any rock in the top 20. Mumford & Sons and Foster The People have been getting a lot of alternative radio play, but neither band does anything for me. It's not a shocker that there's little rock at the top of the charts; just like the economy, rock music is definitely in a downward spiral. Sure, some bands still do well, like Foo Fighters and Green Day, but kids seem more interested in hip hop and pop these days. Which is okay. I always found it weird during the heyday of grunge in the early '90s when I'd be perusing the same CDs in a record store as an 8-year-old.

A post on the great Popblerd blog compared the current chart with the top 20 in 1975 and the differences were striking: it was littered with albums from the likes of the Isley Brothers, Jefferson Starship, Dylan and The Band, Elton John, Aerosmith, the Ohio Players, ZZ Top and Fleetwood Mac. Pop was well represented by Helen Reddy, the Bee Gees, Melissa Manchester and the Captain and Tennille.

I'm sure we're just going through a cycle and that rock will rebound at some point. And it's not like there isn't great rock music out there nowadays: we've already seen terrific albums released this year by Sloan, Yuck, The Twilight Singers, Beastie Boys, Buffalo Tom, Drive-By Truckers and more. Coming soon are new releases from Mastodon, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Johnny Foreigner and more. I still listen to a ton of new music and don't plan on slowing down any time soon.

The world is very different than it was in 1975, and not just in terms of technology. There are many ways to listen to music; back then, you had the radio or you bought records or cassettes. Albums aren't cherished as complete works as they once were, and bands aren't album to sell out the hockey arenas and stadiums they used to. But that doesn't seem to stem the tide of artists out there making music and touring the country, which is a good thing for those of us who still love rock. Rock n' roll's still vital; you just need to know where to look for it.

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