Which Is It? Five Reasons Rock Is Dead; Five Reasons Rock Is Still Alive and Well

If rock is alive and kicking, Robin Thicke's recent failure is proof.
If rock is alive and kicking, Robin Thicke's recent failure is proof.
Steven Taylor

Sinead O’Connor believes that Kim Kardashian’s appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone represents the death of music.  Her provocative tweet last week blasted both the reality-TV star and the magazine and left bloggers split whether the Irish singer was telling it like it is or trolling to muster a bit of exposure. (She’s also taken to social media in recent years to rant about Miley Cyrus.)

It’s doubtful whether yet another image of Kim Kardashian’s cleavage represents the death of music, but the question O’Connor raises at least, is an interesting one. Is music really dead? Here are some arguments for and against…

If Rock Is Dead. Here's Proof:

1. MTV

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The complaint that MTV doesn’t play music videos anymore has been going on for longer than the channel actually did play music videos in the first place. The thing is, it’s not so much that MTV doesn’t play music videos; it’s that the channel has very little to do with music at all. Instead, we are greeted with a proliferation of tanned, sculpted vulgarians hosed down with booze or internet clips of overweight folk falling off diving boards. The VMAs, the annual awards gathering of teeth, tits, and ’tude, might as well be shown on Animal Planet.

2. Auto-Tune

Auto-Tune has ravished popular music like a plague-infested rat on 14th-century Europe. The technology that provides vocal perfection to a singer’s pitch has turned every other Billboard hit’s vocal into an angelic Stephen Hawking. Most damning of all, it has helped sustain acts such as T-Pain and Ke$ha, artists whose Auto-Tuned drone is best heard after chiseling out the prefrontal cortex of one's brain.

3. Coachella

The premier Californian music festival is less renowned for the bands that played than the grinning, vacuous, TMZ-fodder attendees, riding around in golf carts. Like an Epcot version of Woodstock, alcohol is consumed in tightly cordoned areas, there are branches of Sephora, H&M and To Die For Clothing everywhere, and festivalgoers are more interested in Instagramming or who Kyle Jenner is grooving to than listening to whatever act is performing.

4. EDM Has Whitewashed Electronic Music

While "EDM" has brought electronic music to the masses, it smacks of a term coined in a marketing boardroom to attract an American market (which had lagged behind Europe in embracing it). Club promoters and fans want to see their DJs living it large: spraying ravers with four-figure bottles of Champagne, throwing cakes into the mosh pit, and pressing the big button marked “Bass” when the pitch gets feverish. In essence, the whole "Vegas" culture of the genre could not be further from the scene it was born from if you tried – vapid, soulless, frat dance.

5. John Lydon Does Ads for Butter

Many were crying into their studded leather jackets that the former punk antihero did a TV commercial for butter. However, if there’s one thing the great nihilist of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd believes in, it’s that butter is awesome. To be fair, the ad is quite funny, and Lydon hasn’t been “Johnny Rotten” in more than 35 years… Joe Strummer would never have done it, though.

If Rock Is Still Rockin', Here's Proof:

1. The Album Is Alive and Well

Music streaming services, the shuffle button, and illegal downloading have led many to spout that “the album is dead.” Not so. Alabama Shakes, Courtney Barnett, Jamie xx, and Kendrick Lamar have already made 2015 a stellar year for album releases, proving that the format is not six feet under just yet. There's never going to be a band/album that comes along and unites everyone ever again. Music is simply too diverse and dispersed now. And that's a good thing.

2. There’s Lots of Good Music Journalism Around

Rolling Stone hasn’t really been on the cutting edge of music journalism since Grandfunk Railroad were in the charts. Sinead should really be looking elsewhere, and the interweb is probably the place to go, with a plethora of decent music sights but a Google search away… I mean, you’re reading this on the internet right now.

3. Look Beyond Mr. and Mrs. Kardashian

The narcissistic self-absorption that Kim n’ Kanye epitomize is not the be-all and end-all for representations of black America, women in 2015, or the state of modern music. While Kanye gets increasingly clownish, acts like Run the Jewels are releasing socially and politically relevant hip-hop to great acclaim. Lorde, Florence, Adele, even Rihanna and Taylor Swift seem to be constructing careers more on their own terms and represent alternate forms of femininity different from that represented by Kim and her caboose.

4. Ask Steve Albini…

During a music industry conference in Melbourne, Australia, last year, legendary rock music producer Steve Albini weighed in on the music-streaming debate in his keynote address. In contrast to those who believe that the internet has helped rob artists of royalties for their work, Albini believes it has dismantled the traditional profit centers of the music industry, removed barriers for exposure, and created “audience-driven music distribution.” It’s a thesis worth checking out. 

5. Robin Thicke’s Last Album Bombed

And faith in the human race is restored… Now, if only Nickleback could call it a day.

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