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Friday, February 06, 2004
I'm currently listening to a sampler CD from BMI, the performing rights organization (motto: "Your Choice Matters," but only to us and to no one else anywhere ever). It's 22 selections from their artists/songwriters. And it's instructive. The tracks are divided into four categories--Rock, Adult Contemporary, Urban, and Country, plus one sad little Pop track which I'm going to conveniently ignore--with the various genres intermingling pretty freely, sequencing-wise. Three of the genres make sense and sound generally the same: the country songs sound like country songs, the Urban songs generally sound like R&B jams, and the AC songs sound like, well, crappy adult contemporary songs.

But the rock songs--sweet Lord almighty, it just sounds like they're throwing everything they can at the wall and hoping something sticks. Granted, rock is an old genre with a lot of offshoots, so it makes sense that there'd be a lot of variety, but the same is the case with the other genres named. With rock, though, there's just no sound, no sound at all. While certainly almost all of the tracks could be easily likened to some other band or track without a whole lot of effort, this isn't the point: those bands would be all over the map, and a lot of them wouldn't even be on the radio right now, they were on the radio three or eight or fourteen years ago.

And this is sort of a problem. Now that rap-metal's died, and garage and mall-punk and emo have all really failed to take off as ubiquitous genres, as far as I can tell, there's nothing to be done. Mall-punk sounds tired, partially because they've lost the way of good pop-punk, emo ascendancy is very hard to fabricate and even harder to sell on the radio, and garage, weird though it feels to say, is I think just too simple for most kids today. What else is there? You can't really replicate Evanescence's goth-metal-piano-ballad style, screamo's too harsh, indie refuses to come out of its shell, still, and rap-metal's passed the point of self-parody. It's not just that the record companies don't have a hot style to cynically copy: it's that despite all the different styles that everyone's trying in an organic grass-roots kinda way, nothing's catching on. Maybe this is simply the fracturing of the audience, or maybe it's rock's inability to find a new sound, but whatever it is, it's horrendously boring in many ways. Somebody needs to do something, and I'm not even going to pretend to know what.

Unless, of course, you just don't care that no one's been able to figure out a good pop-rock sound lately and are happy with your subgenre, in which case, hey, good for you.

(I am now taking the accursed CD out and putting in the new Walkmen CD because I can't deal with it anymore.)