OP/ED: Rock Isn’t Popular Anymore, and That’s a Great Thing

Who listens to Imagine Dragons, anyway?


The next time you’re in a car, if you actually still listen to the radio, do me a favor and turn on whichever pop station you know, and listen to the music, man.

Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Drake and Bruno Mars. All make up the bulk of the artists you’d end up listening too. The Billboard Top 100, which measures the most popular tracks at the moment, doesn’t even see a band in the Top 10 — not until you get 11 will you see your first band, with Maroon 5’s “Memories.”

“Rock” as we know it is long lost in mainstream culture — R&B, Rap, Hip-Hop, all have taken over in terms of relevancy, and frankly, the talent on a mainstream level. No longer are the days of rock bands dominating the radio and mainstream media everywhere you look.

For the “rock crusaders” or to better phrase it, the oldheads, who claim that “music isn’t what it used to be anymore!” or “all these auto-tuned rappers have no talent!” may see this decline or rock’s influence as the end of all days. To them, the apocalypse has come, and it’s in the form of green hair and mumble rap, oh the humanity!

But, here’s the actual truth: the decline of rock’s mainstream popularity is not only a good thing, but it’s also arguably the best thing to ever happen to the genre.

My simple argument lies with the fact that pop-rock is absolute garbage. To me, there are two main parties that dominate the pop-rock scene:

  • The recycled band that won’t go away

This is going to really hurt the high school version of me, but bands like Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, or any pre-2000s band riding their one great wave of music that at one point revolutionized the genre are the same ones killing it now.

How many times do I need to hear the same rehashed stuff, Dave Grohl? How is it possible to have three guitarists but not produce anything interesting from it? And don’t even get me started on the Chili Peppers.

I’m not suggesting that these bands individually are responsible for the downfall of the genre’s mainstream popularity, but, they kind of are. Their continued popularity on being able to remake the same sounding music, knowing very well that their fanbase will eat it up regardless, has inspired a generation of uninspired bands that have infiltrated the mainstream scene with nothing but trash, which leads me to the other group of pop-rock bands.

  • The awful and unoriginal new bands

I’m going to sound like such a loser for a moment, but how the hell can pop-rock go from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Oasis, and so many incredible bands to the Imagine Dragons?

The quality of the pop-rock is so bad now that I don’t blame people for not wanting to listen to other stuff. Look at the rap scene: it’s innovative, progressive, interesting, and the music is actually tolerable. I’m not trying to exaggerate, but I’m sure I’d rather explode than have to listen to an Imagine Dragons album.

And some of these other bands too, like what the hell happened? Twenty-One Pilots, Panic! at the Disco, Maroon 5, this is the stuff we’re expecting the next generation of rock musicians to get inspired off of?

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Noel Gallagher of Oasis, one of my favorite bands ever, once said, regarding the meteoric rise of his band, “People never ever forget the way you make them feel.” That’s the beauty of music — it crafts creativity and molds inspiration, has anyone ever listened to an Imagine Dragons song and said: “I need to pick up a guitar right now so I can start a band!”

I hope not.

Okay, now that the little tangent is over, let me explain why the decline of pop-rock is a great thing at this point.

  • Every other rock scene is incredible

Remember how I questioned what happened to all of those kids who listened to ’90s and ’00s bands? Well, they exist, they’re just not getting paid millions to produce garbage music, they’re doing it undercover.

The rise of the internet has seen a D.I.Y scene emerge, where all it takes to make music is the desire, which is true. What’s also true is that there is more innovative and creative music being made in the pop-punk, punk, emo, hardcore, indie, or even alternative scene, then anything you’d hear on the radio.

I’m not sure I’d put it down to laziness on behalf of the “rock crusaders” who would rather wear AC/DC shirts and complain about how bad everything in music is the reason things got so bad, but it’s amazing to see how many great bands are emerging.

If you like whiny sad stuff, go listen to Tiny Moving Parts. If you like deadpan humor, go listen to Courtney Barnett. If you want to tear it up, go listen to Turnstile. My point being is the variety in the choices of music is greater than ever; it’s so easy to find exactly what you want, it just comes down to effort. 

Turnover, Title Fight, Oso Oso, Basement, The Story So Far, Real Friends, Movements, Citizen, Parquet Courts, Tigers Jaw, Snail Mail, Eat Your Heart Out, Knuckle Puck, Hot Mulligan, Future Teens, Keep Flying, Belmont, Jail Socks. Those are just a few, a smidgen, of the incredible bands and artists creating crazy stuff.

If you want to listen to ’70s bands for the rest of your life, be my guest, it’s great music, but to be a part of something that you can feel is special and unique is immeasurable in my eyes. 

To spend $12 and see four bands that you can dance to and then chill out with afterward that make interesting and clever music is better than paying $200 to see Imagine Dragons at Madison Square Garden, sit for two hours, then go home, essentially paying to hear a worse version of already terrible music (I really don’t like Imagine Dragons, if you do, please send a letter to The Impact and we’ll put it in the next issue, that’s a promise.)

This leads me to my second and favorite point:

  • Rock was never supposed to be mainstream

Rock originated with black jazz musicians turning it the hell up in the ’40s, then it became a massive part of American culture for young people in the ’50s. The Beatles were seen as the music of the devil during their rise to fame.

Counterculture and rock have a beautiful history with one another. Look at the punk, emo, new wave or grunge (I’m talking Mudhoney and The Melvins, not the big four) scenes, they weren’t being blasted on the radio with other pop artists of the time; they were being enjoyed by the underground communities of people who wanted something different, to feel a different way.

To me, even the term “rock” makes me cringe — we have whitewashed it to a point where whenever I hear the word used in an actual conversation, I just imagine a middle-aged dude wearing sketchers and a Led Zeppelin shirt. With the heart of the genre taking place from a counterculture perspective, to hear the bland and boring stuff played on “rock” stations today makes it so obvious on why people don’t care about it anymore – it’s boring and safe.

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Again, not to say that every song needs to be mosh-worthy, but my point is, how the hell did we get here?

I genuinely believe the same way that Nirvana rose from the ashes of a dead rock scene in the 80s (hair metal sucks) we’re amid that phase, where a Pax Romana of great pop-rock is coming soon, I hope (kind of.) 

What I can tell you is this: go check out your local music scene, even Mercy College has some excellent bands: Wess Meets West, The Everafter, and Imposters are some incredible bands that are Mercy/Westchester-based!

There are plenty of more that definitely deserves praise, but instead of paying your money to go see Nickelback Jr., give your money, time, and effort to an artist or band who deserve and need it. 

And you never know, you might just be able to be the person who saw the next legendary band before they became famous.


(I created a playlist featuring all the artists I mention throughout this piece, to help give a preview of just SOME of the stuff out there.)